Grays, perhaps better known as “New Grove” is our last distillery of S.B.S’ Experimental Cask Series. The main difference here is that we aren’t dealing with the same distillate this time. Instead, we have three different vintages and four different finishes, after the Rums have spent some time in French Oak casks already.
S.B.S Grays 2010 10YO “Port Cask” (46%): Fortified wine again. We already know that Grays and Port can work extremely well, but that was also at a considerably higher strength. Nose: Quite sweet with a mix of berries (blue-, rasp- and brambleberries, currants as well), plums, wood, some herbal notes here and there, sadly some sulphur that’s a bit misplaced, alcohol-soaked cherries, tobacco and a few spices. Not too bad but not as balanced as the Rum linked above. Palate: Very sweet and slightly sharp with many syrupy notes, those fruits from the nose, still a bit of the sulphur, raisins and a pleasant oaky bitterness. It is nice, but nothing out of the ordinary. Finish: Relatively short with the berries, wood and a few spices. It’s an easy sipper that’s a bit too much on the sweet side for me but at the same time one that only works just because of the finish I’d say. (79/100)
S.B.S Grays 2010 10YO “Moscatel Cask” (52%): Things are getting more exotic. Nose: Yes, it sounds stupid to say this but we do get quite a few “Brandy-notes” with this one. Apricot, peaches, wood, ripe grapes, raisins, chocolate, vanilla, a whiff of coffee and licorice. I kinda like this one, even though the finish could have been even more dominat for my liking – or maybe it already is!? Palate: A good mix between distillate, initial barrel and the finish I think. We get the typical Grays profile, but also those Brandyesque notes. Banana, peach, chocolate, raisin, coffee, some herbal notes, wood and spices as well as the grapes are my main impressions and I must say that it works considerably well. Finish: More of the same, with a few dark berries (brambleberries mostly) on top. A highly layered Grays that really covers the best of both worlds. (84/100)
S.B.S Grays 2009 11YO “Chestnut Wood Cask” (54%): And we are getting even more exotic yet again. Not sure if we’ve ever had anything matured in chestnut wood. Nose: The driest expression of the session. Wood and spices are my first associations, followed by peaches, apricots and strawberries. It is not very complex, but I like how subtle but noticeable the spices are. Palate: Shaped by the wood. And for quite a few seconds, there is not much more. This might also be an extremely old Rhum Agricole, but then we get cherries, almonds and hazelnuts, coffee and a few spices. This is good, but not very interesting, i.e. I love sipping my sample, but wouldn’t want to have an entire bottle of this. Finish: Wood, a mix of nuts (walnuts, almonds and indeed, chestnut), spices (barks) and orange bitters. A really good one, even though it doesn’t have much to do with Grays anymore. (86/100)
S.B.S Grays 2008 12YO “Port Cask” (54%): Another Port cask, but at a higher age and abv. Nose: Much more mature and settled than the 2010 Port Cask. It is not as sweet and direct, even though overripe fruits (cherries, plums, berries) dominate the profile. Behind that almonds and marzipan, wood and Baklava. Palate: Sweet and much more bitter than the nose suggested. While the flavour profile is nice (think dark stone fruits and berries, almond paste), something is wrong here. The barrel definitely added too much wood and too many bitter notes; it makes me wonder if this might have been a very small one. Going back to the nose, you can now imagine that these same rather odd nuances can be found there as well. Not my fave. Finish: Medium long, bitter and woody with peach, raisins and dark cherries. Probably still the best part of the Rum. As I said, something didn’t go as planned here I think, but it is interesting that the characteristic peaches pop up in the finish. (75/100)