Review: Carpathian Romanian Single Malt Whisky – Romanian Wine Cask Feteasca Negara
If you still need proof that they’re making whisky just about everywhere in the world, check out Carpathian, which makes a range of single malts distilled, matured, and bottled in Romania. Carpathian launched in 2017 and made it to U.S. shores last year. All 100% single malt whiskies made with local grain and water, most of Carpathian’s products are finished in various types of wine casks. The whisky reviewed here is part of the Romanian Wine Cask Collection, having been initially aged in bourbon casks finished in local Feteasca Neagra wine barrels. I’ve never had wine made from this grape, but the description sounds akin to Syrah.
No age statements are offered, though the year of bottling and cask number is included on every label.
The Master Distiller of the Carpathian Single Malt is Allan Anderson, with both Scottish and Irish heritage, who has more than 30 years of experience in producing both Scotch whisky (Loch Lomond, White & Mackay, Aberargie) and Irish whiskey (The Great Northern Distillery). He also designed the distillery of Slane Castle Ireland.
“This whisky perfectly showcases our distillery terroir. The huge flavor impact of our malted barley, the pure sub-Carpathian water combined with the unique flavors of Romanian and Portuguese wine casks make Carpathian Single Malt an exquisite whisky, which without a doubt, will become one of the best in the world as it further matures. The maturation in warmer climate regions versus Scotland (+41°F on average) might explain the unique, milder character of this superb whisky,” said Allan Anderson. “Carpathian showcases this great potential and the clear quality advantage that we have versus other single malt whiskies of the same age, and we want to share our enthusiasm with whisky connoisseurs worldwide. The mash was double distilled in our distillery’s custom-made stills,” added Allan Anderson.
In tasting our first Carpathian bottling, the whisky’s youth and its use of wine cask for finishing are both on ample display. To start with, the whisky has a clear sweetness to it, much more than I’d expect from a red wine cask-finished product. Elements of lightly roasted grains, barrel char, and a slightly weedy greenness are all evident on the nose, offering a somewhat muddy, scattered opening. The palate takes all of that and just runs with it, full bore. Heavily sweet, almost syrupy, the character here kicks off with notes of buttery shortbread and overripe apples before the heaviness of the wine finish comes into fuller focus. The oxidized character recalls Fino sherry, muddled with lemongrass, ginger, and sesame oil. There’s still plenty of char in the mix, giving the finish a slightly ashy, petrol-driven quality. The experience turns quite gummy as it lingers on the palate.
Given the wholesale uniqueness of this bottling, I’m inclined to give it a little leeway and breathing room. That said, at this point in time, it stands mainly as a novelty — “But have you ever had Romanian whisky?” — and something to keep an eye on to see where the future takes it.
92 proof. Reviewed: Cask #3235, vintage 2022.
B / $55 (700ml) / carpathian-singlemalt.com
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