What a powerhouse. I’ve given a score of nine so far this year to three out of over a hundred pours. Two of these ratings are from pulling an insane three month Octomore Train (choo choo all aboard), which Ryan and I will start publishing soon. Lets kick off number three. Meet Le Freche 1989 Cask 121.
Damn, this cask is a serious contender for a heavyweight oak monster bourbonite championship title. This is my third night double checking my rating. Each pour, I expect to bring it back down to an 8. And I almost do… and probably should … but then that luscious fruit… and the big strapping oak… and those powerful spices… blend together and daaaaammmmnnn. I want to put a ring on it. So I went out and bought 6 bottles. Following my own rating system, “9: Stash as Many as You Can Afford. Tell No One. My Precious“, writing this article kind of goes against the rules… but I got my six. So suck eggs stupid rule. I can tell who I want now.
And yes, the label on this sample is totally fucked up and it just makes me love it more. Someone at L’Encantada was definitely playing pour one for me and one for Shane.
Bow Before The Might Oak
My son was the smallest baby born in the county in 2014. Just over 1.3kg. His diaper was the size of a small band-aid. He came so freaking early that we hadn’t picked out a name. Then we were entirely overwhelmed, and it was the last thing on our mind. We just called him baby boy. Turns out, they won’t let you leave the hospital until you do, and my proposal of Tiny but Mighty wasn’t gaining traction.
I went on a walk with Peter, my business partner and best friend. We’re so close that Julie sometimes refers to him as “the other wife”. We walked out of the hospital and into the national park that ran directly alongside the NICU. Tall redwood and oak trees lined the meandering creeks, dappled with rays of sunlight. Hidden nooks with the funky smell of moss and mushroom. And we talked about the meaning of words.
I like names which provide a guidepost for character. We named our daughter Serenity, because if genetics held true from my wife and I, she was going to need the reminder to calm the freak down her entire life. She promptly renamed herself to Sassy by the time she could talk, so point for dad, the name should serve her well.
Language is nuanced and I love word play more than any other art on earth. The french have elevated the pun to artform. It not uncommon for a word to have multiple meanings, but French really commits. My name is phonetically identical to oak (Chêne), a chain and tv channel (chaîne). So when Peter pointed out that the Oak is a symbol of resilience and strength, my eyes lit up. We named our son Sojourn Du Chêne. The journey of the oak… that someday he will sink his roots and become mighty. That it also phonetically works as of the Shane is privately delightful, technically true… and kinda funny.
L’Encantada Du Chêne
Enchantment of the Oak. Or less poetically, for some people, this bottle is going to be on oakerload. It’s oaker the top. A cellulose overdose. But if you are like me, then this aint all oak and mirrors. It’s another Paul Oakenfeld grammy nominee.
Every palate has its own secret combination and I easily gravitate towards the drying tannins, chewy leathery and earthy mustiness of an oaken kiss. I love Elijah Craig 23, Lost Prophet, Parkers Heritage 24, and a lot of those big old beasties most people call over-oaked.
Le Freche 1989 #121 won’t be a good fit for the traditional brandy drinker. It is loud, too bright and you won’t find that subtle rancio which normally makes me love Le Freche. It is not that kind of complex, but those are some hella good notes. Want something super different and interesting, check out Le Freche cask #44!
Leave cask 121 on the shelf my picky French friends, this is perfect for those sweet tooth oakzilla tater Americans.
A Le Freche with a Lous Pibous Finish
L’Encantada uses the final cak number at the time of bottling. According to Borger, who got this from Vincent, Le Freche were mostly low numbers between 1-100 and the Lous Pibous were high numbers between 120-200. With the occasional oddball like Lous Pibous cask #13, which I assume has been finished in an Le Freche cask? That means this Le Freche 121 was actually finish is a Lous Pibous cask 121 before being released. Orlando Whisky Society’s bottle has it labeled as L121, while the french bottle keeps it to the number. I assume they are the same… but who knows.
When I bought this from L’Encantada, it was listed as Le Freche Cask 19 on the invoice but the bottle says cask 121 on the label. I can’t tell if the 19 is the pre-finishing cask number, a clerical error, or maybe it is correct and I got the wrong label on the two bottles and my sample. Mystery abounds. I’m sure they will let me know eventually but no reply on that question yet.
The Lous Pibous finish has definitely got me curious now, and I am looking forward to opening the Le Freche 1989 cask #120 pick I got from Blake’s crew in Norway.
A heady, rich and robust aroma. Rhubarb pie topped with candied walnuts. Baked apples dusted with cinnamon. Bourbon soaked cherries. A hint of funk in that sweetness – like some brilliantly horrific gorgonzola cheese cake concoction. It is not just a pretty face. There is depth. Not like the kraken cask #44 full metal depth, but way better integrated.
This bottle bring such a powerful concentrated sweet fruit goodness. Ripe figs and quality tonic. Homemade orange cranberry relish Julie’s mom would cook on Thanksgiving. Then into the pantry for a dusting of cloves which then shifts into old timey root beer barrel candy.
We live in a small island that claims Spain as its alma mater. This harkens to a truly world class sangria. The tannins of the wine, the tang of citrus layered into a bold sweetness. Then, BAM, oak. Oak for days, without clobbering everything else. A bourbon lover’s oak.
Tasted blind, my money would have been on a top shelf bourbon with some razzle. While it is not as complex as many of my favorite Le Freche Casks (duuude – 1980 cask #40 review up next), every note is just freaking delicious. This is the American’s bourbon-drinkers Armagnac. And while not all of our crew fell out of their chair like I did, some definitely agree. Bottles like this are what keeps bringing Armagnac to the new world and then break my bank account.