I have frequently discussed Two Stacks and their unrelenting quest for uniqueness in their releases, exemplified with the likes of their Smoke and Mirrors Maple Syrup Cask and Cherry Brandy cask. So, it caught me off guard to discover the unassuming PX finished whiskey they released under Irishmalts. Don’t misunderstand me; I wholeheartedly appreciate a PX finished whiskey. However, I believe that to stand out with such a widely used whiskey maturation technique, you must execute it exceptionally well and bring a fresh perspective to the table.
Two Stacks have also been no stranger to single-cask releases. Their Stories and Sips Single Grain and 6-year-old single malt Irish whiskey bottled exclusively for Christy’s Bar have certainly left other bottlers, retailers, and pubs inquisitive. Irishmalts also hold quite the reputation for procuring casks to sell as their own; therefore, this does seem like a match made in whiskey-soaked heaven.
PX (Pedro Ximénez) finished whiskey has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its unique flavour profile. This type of whiskey is finished in barrels that previously held Pedro Ximénez sherry, a sweet dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. The use of PX sherry barrels for finishing whiskey imparts distinct flavours of raisins, figs, dates, and other dried fruits, as well as a rich, sweet profile with a hint of oak. This combination of flavours has proven popular among whiskey enthusiasts and has been embraced by many whiskey distillers around the world. Furthermore, the global demand for PX sherry has decreased over the years, leading to an abundance of used barrels available for whiskey ageing. The affordability and abundance of these barrels have made them an attractive option for whiskey makers, hence their commonality. There is certainly an attraction to this type of cask. Its use can be challenging though, with many blenders opting to ‘rinse’ sherry casks before filling due to the potential overpowering of the sherry. Therefore, it’s problematic, but worth the strife if done correctly.
Aside from their single-cask collaborations, Two Stacks is currently involved in a myriad of intriguing projects, one of which involves commissioning a heritage mash bill from the early 1800s in the northwest of Ireland. This particular project is particularly exciting as the Ardara distillery in Donegal has revived an old peated mash bill consisting of 70% peated malt and 30% unmalted barley. Following this, the mash will undergo maturation in a variety of casks, including fresh bourbon, blackstrap rum, ice wine, Moscato, and Apricot Brandy, representing a departure from the traditional PX cask finish.
So, the whiskey itself was selected from the ageing single malt section of Two Stacks’ bonded warehouse and spent over 6 years in a single Bourbon cask before being transferred over to a fresh PX sherry cask for up to 6 months finishing, finally being bottled in February 2023. The whiskey has been double distilled, which I feel is important and for me ticks that ‘little bit different’ box as it is unfairly seen as an ‘un-Irish’ way of distilling. As we are aware already, Two Stacks is a bottler and a blender, and therefore their whiskey is not their own and is instead sourced externally, which it proudly adorns on their bottle: in this case, the spirit is of Great Northern Distillery origin. Additionally, as you already know with Two Stacks, chill filtering and added colouring are taboo, so you get neither, again transparently specified on the bottle.
Price: £70.50 available direct through the IrishMalts website. The cask has yielded 350 bottles of which I reviewed bottle number 6.
Nose: Lots of stoned fruit with my first impressions; syrupy prunes and tinned peaches being prominent. It has a very sweet and fruity aroma, with hints of dried fruit, raisins, and a subtle nuttiness from the sherry cask finish; it’s complex and inviting. There’s a dried cranberry note coming through too, with some nutmeg sprinkled over.
Palate: Initially there’s a dried fruit note alongside a light caramel note, but it’s quickly surpassed by the spice that comes through in abundance. Lots of cinnamon, a dash of clove and some chilli dark chocolate give it quite the warmth but also add an interesting dimension and flavour profile to this whiskey.
Finish: Long and warming, very pleasant on the tongue. Again, a little more chilli spice with some Trebor peppermint, lack of further sweetness but with dominant spice.
Bottom line up front; this a nice whiskey, not an exceptional whiskey, and certainly not the worst PX whiskey I have tried. For me, Dunville’s have set the benchmark with their PX cask strength whiskey as part of their Dark series. Whilst this whiskey certainly has a lot of promise on the nose, I felt that the palate didn’t quite hit the heights of that. In my opinion, there’s a lack of balance on the palate. I would prefer the dried fruit and stoned fruit type notes to come through a lot more, however, the spice is a little dominant for me, and that just carries on onto the finish.
Although there may be a slight hiccup in the shortened finishing time of the sherry cask, everything else about this single cask whiskey works exceptionally well. With a relatively reasonable price range, it stands up admirably to Dunville’s PX cask strength whiskey, even with six years less of maturation. It’s possible that given a little more time in the cask, additional depth notes could have opened up, or perhaps it’s simply a cask issue. Regardless, it remains another great release from Two Stacks, further cementing their reputation as a highly respected bottler.
This year will prove massive for Two Stacks, with some massive releases on the way: Polaris 1.3, pineapple brandy and a dry red Tokaji wine cask finished whiskey certainly paving the way for undoubted successes
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