A Shot with a Beer Back: The Balvenie Caribbean Cask & Panil Barriquée Sour

Each weekday this week, I’ll be posting a pair of mini-reviews covering selections from the latest additions to the LCBO’s Whisky Shop premium whisky program, and the products in the LCBO’s Spring 2011 Specialty Beer promotion. Today’s picks are a sweet whisky and a sour beer.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask (LCBO 221200 – $99.95/750 mL)

The newest permanent addition to the Balvenie line-up – although only available temporarily in Ontario – this is a 14-year-old expression of the whisky that’s been finished in rum casks. As you’d expect, this layers the aroma and flavour notes you’d find in rum – dark sugar, toffee, vanilla, spices – on top of the soft honey, fruit, heather and oak notes typical of Balvenie. The result is a spirit that is quite sweet, but never cloying, as all of the notes find just the right balance. (It’s also a treat to try this side-by-side with other Balvenie offerings, which I recently had the chance to do – a write-up on that is coming soon.)

Panil Barriquée Sour (LCBO 210591 – $14.00/750 mL)

Aside from the frequently infected beers from a local brewery who shall remain nameless, sour beers are not often seen at the LCBO, so for those of us who are still pining for the days when Rodenbach Grand Cru was (briefly) available in Ontario, the inclusion of this Italian delicacy in the Spring beer release is a godsend. Intentionally soured with lactobacillus bacteria and triple fermented – 15 days in iron, 90 days in cognac and bordeaux barrels, and 30 days in the bottle – Panil Barriquée Sour is a hazy ruby brew with a tart and funky aroma holding notes of sour cherry, cranberry and wood. The flavour is a wonder that seems to change with every sip – I picked up lemon, cranberry, sour cherry and other overripe berries, grape must, yeast, cheese, wood and leather. The finish is dry and dusty and quite acidic, leaving the palate craving more. It is, as the cliche goes, an acquired taste – but once you’ve acquired it, you’ll be saddened by the reality that this beauty will only be available in Ontario for a limited time.

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