This is pretty awesome. John at Cooper’s contacted me to see if we’d be interested in giving whisky cask aged coffee a taste. It’s one of those happy coincidences that Dan is a coffeehouse manager and a competitive barista to boot. So we said hell yes.
The parcel arrived from Rhode Island with that bag of whole beans and a note from John. The technical details are that this is a single source coffee aged in charred oak barrels that previously held a single malt stout mash whiskey from an independent distillery, done as a medium roast. From what I can gather, given this sample is part of Batch #1 and roasted on March 17th 2015, the aging occurs before roasting and not the other way around. I looked it up and this would have to be the way – green coffee beans can be stored 2-3 years easily, while roast coffee has a shelf life of months. From looking at their website, I think these are Sumatran Lintong beans, but I’m not sure.
I would assume the exact recipe of beans, time, cask source and roast profile is a closely guarded, evolving secret. And good, because this is an amazing coffee. In a different country or universe, we’d open a coffee shop/whisky bar with big leather chairs and back room where you could smoke. And this coffee would be showcased there. Our only issue is the price – while completely justified given the process, it would be hard to swing as your daily cup of Joe. But as a premier bean at an upscale coffee shop, or as a crowd pleaser with your whisky friends, this is perfect.
In John’s letter he recommends a french press and espresso, so that’s what we tried. Our intention was to be thorough; here’s what we thought:
whole beans nose
Dan – sweetness, cherry
Simon – wood, cafe atmosphere, slight vegetation, eggnog
Julia – really good, warm
Dan – n/a
Simon – beautiful, good crema
Julia – looks really good
Dan – tobacco, cherry, molasses, thick sweetness
Simon – nutty, brown, smoke, smoked coffee
Julia – almost salty
Dan – fennel, almost wood, honey
Simon – still slight veg, smoke, small fruit, savory
Julia – cherry
with steamed milk
Dan – smoke gone, just sweet, good for traditional cappuccino
Simon – very light but still complex
Julia – so good, no bitter, almost buttery
Dan – sweeter, irish cream
Simon – oak, veg, light
Julia – umami, savoury, lighter version of espresso, mild
Dan – very sweet, thin texture, nutty mouthfeel
Simon – nuttier, light, sweet with tiny bitter aftertaste
Julia – wood, nuts. could drink black
Dan – like a very high quality irish cream coffee
Simon – don’t find it blends flavours with the cream. not better
Julia – very nice!
In the final analysis, despite the price, we all agreed that this could be our daily morning coffee, it’s that good. In terms of preparation, the traditional cappuccino was by far the best method; for second place, Dan and I liked the espresso better and Julia liked the presspot better.
Try it? Hell yes! Buy it! Yes.