A few weeks back, John from Cooper’s Cask Coffee got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing their Whiskey Barrel Aged beans in light of my appreciation for scotch. Coffee beans aged in a whisky barrel, you say? Sold. A few emails back and forth and the beans were on their way. Staying true to the form of a scotch tasting, I decided this coffee tasting would feature the Whiskey Barrel Aged beans and my everyday go-to beans, Grizzly Claw, from Kicking Horse Coffee. I chose espresso as the method of brewing, used Glencairn glasses, and took note of the nose of the beans when freshly ground, the nose when fresh in the cup, the flavours, the palate, and the finish.
Kicking Horse – Grizzly Claw
Nose (freshly ground) – Dark and woody, it’s pleasant and not overpowering.
Nose (espresso) – The dark and woody smell continues from the grounds and you get a hint of sweetness.
Taste – The first sip is bitter. As you let it sit on your tongue, you taste dark chocolate and the woody coffee flavours develop rich and full.
Palate – The crema is nice and thick. The word that springs to mind to describe the way it sits on your tongue is “robust.”
Finish – A medium-length finish, the coffee leaves traces of bitterness and woody notes.
Cooper’s Cask – Whiskey Barrel Aged
Nose (freshly ground) – Immediately you notice a strong earthy smell which is accompanied by wet tobacco. This coffee is definitely going to be something out of the ordinary!
Nose (espresso) – The earthiness and tobacco continue in the nose, a bit milder than the freshly ground beans, and you get a strange scent of old wood.
Taste – The taste explodes in bold earthiness and intense wet tobacco. There’s a wet wood note in there as well and I found it hard to pick up on the whisky taste given the other flavours being so front-and-center.
Palate – The crema isn’t very thick but it’s not too thin. The liquid is well-balanced, sitting “medium” on your tongue.
Finish – This has a much longer finish with strong tobacco presence and a mild smoke note.
Given the strength of the earthiness and wet tobacco taste, I wanted to see if I could get more of the whisky taste as an Americano. Unfortunately I didn’t find much difference. The nose was certainly milder, the flavours were softer but I still didn’t find the whisky, and the finish was of a light tobacco without the smoke. Interestingly, I did pick up on a hint of green coffee beans as an Americano.
I found the Whiskey Barrel Aged coffee beans to be disappointing. The earthy and wet tobacco smells and flavours simply overpowered everything. I was hoping to find vanilla, caramel, or even peaty notes that you get in a scotch like Bowmore’s Darkest 15. To give myself one more point of comparison, I opened my bottle of Dalmore Cigar Malt and nosed about. The subtlety of the leather and tobacco found in the nose and taste of that scotch is what I would have loved to see in the beans from Cooper’s Cask.
For now, I’ll keep the Grizzly Claw for my everyday espresso but that doesn’t mean it’ll stay the same forever. I’ve tried enough different beans over the years that I’m bound to come across others that I like just as much (or more).
My heartfelt thanks to John from Cooper’s Cask for reaching out and providing me with a sample of the Whiskey Barrel Aged coffee beans. You showed me something I’d never have considered, delivered a unique experience, and gave me the opportunity to provide my thoughts on a subject I enjoy. I truly appreciate it!