Back in May Maverick Drinks announced the launch of Darkness! – ‘a range of exceedingly dark single malt and single grain whiskies with an enormously punchy, unashamedly brazen character’.
I take a look at five of them below, but before I do, here’s a little more info…
These so-called “sherry monsters” are sourced from Scotland’s top distilleries and are gloriously dark in colour thanks to the use of small, specially crafted sherry casks for finishing. The range is the first of its kind.
The casks used to make Darkness! previously held some of Spain’s top sherries, including Pedro Ximénez – the sticky, sweet dessert sherry, and Oloroso – the semi-dry, nutty delicacy. These casks bring a deep colour as well as wonderful sherry flavours such as Christmas Cake, rich spice, prunes, raisins and dates. The small size of the casks allows more wood contact with the whisky, increasing both dark colour and rich flavour dramatically.
The Darkness! range includes spirit from Scotland’s most prestigious distilleries. Notable bottlings include the delectable 21-year-old Ardbeg, finished in Oloroso sherry casks, a 16-year-old Clynelish, and a sublime Macallan finished in a Pedro Ximénez cask.
The range doesn’t aim for sophistication, but instead is made up of big, bold “sherry monsters”.
Right… let’s take a look at five of the range… Two are Benrinnes, one Oloroso and one PX, so that’ll be interesting to compare…. but the takeaway message is that the range was really popular, all but two bottles (which I’m not reviewing here) have already sold out, but these reviews at least let you know roughly what to expect when the range is refilled with new batches! (Also there’s still various 3cl bottles left if you fancy a taste of some of the range)…
Benrinnes – 15yo PX – 53.3% ABV
Colour: Dark amber.
Nose: Very upfront, almost sharp, full of alcohol nip and wood. Packed with spicy sherry tones, dates and raisins, malt follows on.
Palate: Easier than the nose, packed with heavy dry fruits and spices with raisins coming through in a big way. Herbal quality.
Finish: Long, thick and very sweet with winter fruits and warmth.
Thoughts: Amazingly good stuff, really yummy and moreish.
Benrinnes – 15yo Oloroso – 52.9% ABV
Colour: Dark amber.
Nose: Easier and smoother than the PX version. More gentle fruits and nuts. Grassy malt at the back, touch of citrus.
Palate: Smooth and easy at this highish ABV. It’s full, thick and oily with autumn and winter fruits. Slightly dry feel.
Finish: Really thick and sweet, sherry notes coming forward.
Thoughts: Wonderful and relaxed, Benrinnes always seems to take sharry finishes well.
Clynelish – 16yo Oloroso 54.9% ABV
Colour: Medium dark amber.
Nose: Although sherried it’s richly fresh with grass and hay. Candied peel and fudge with Jaffa orange and maltey dough.
Palate: Smooth, sweet, malt and autumn fruits with liquorice.
Finish: Grassy malt and sweet autumn fruits.
Thoughts: Very impressive, sherry bomb maybe, but restrained so that it’s not in your face. Clynelish should be like this all the time!
Macallan – 15yo PX – 52.3% ABV
Colour: Golden amber.
Nose: Big and relaxed, deep malt, autumn fruits and milk chocolate. Fig rolls. Honeydew melon.
Palate: Thick and easy, oak and malt with sweet gentle fruits.
Finish: Gently sweet and long, slight puffs of smoke and a background tarriness giving a good depth.
Thoughts: Macallan is known for its sherryness. This is definitely a tangent on a theme, let’s call it a tourist route that you should follow rather than taking the standard path.
Ardbeg – 21yo PX – 40.1% ABV
Colour: Bright golden.
Nose: Islay through and through, there’s a good amount of peat still left in this whisky, sweet fruity muddy moss comes forward.
Palate: Ashy, mossy, gently sweet. Yellow melon. Peat fire embers
Finish: Surprisingly malty and fresh, sweet with puffs of peat.
Thoughts: Awesome. No point in saying more really… an obviously first class whisky, only improved upon here.
Overall Thoughts: It’s interesting to compare the two Benrinnes, both excellent, both similar… it’s very hard to pick a winner for the two, but the Oloroso is possibly the more more easily accessible of the two. The message from this little review is that although they’re sold out, they were amazingly good quality, so keep an eye out for the next batch and don’t hesitate to buy them if you’re into heavily sherried whiskies!
Thanks to Maverick Drinks / Master Of Malt / Darkness! for the samples.