Cooper’s Cask Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee
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I must admit that I love coffee just as much as any of the fine spirits that I get the privilege of reviewing. I think I even spent more time at the local coffee shop than I did at my apartment in college! My dependence on coffee is so great that if I don’t get my coffee within a half an hour of waking up, I get a bad caffeine headache, as Isaac can attest to. When Isaac told me about reviewing Cooper’s Cask Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee, I was not going to turn down a tasty way of getting my coffee fix! That is why I was extremely excited to review Cooper’s Cask Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee. Then to hear they found a way to combine both coffee and whiskey, I’m just mad I didn’t think of this before Cooper’s Cask did!
Cooper’s Cask Coffee is a brand new company, established this year (2015). They were kind enough to send us at SOTR a sample bag of their Sumatra Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee. It seems as if anything food or beverage related has been experimenting with barrel aging their product. There is everything from barrel aged tea to mustard to vanilla to soy sauce. While some of these products don’t seem to make much sense, barrel aged coffee seems to be a perfect marriage, and Cooper’s Cask is one of the very first to implement this method.
To start off, Cooper’s Cask chose single-origin coffee beans from the Sumatra region. Single-origin is roughly the single malt equivalent of the coffee world. Instead of blending coffee from different regions, they only select coffee from a single region. I have found that this is without question my preferred type of coffee. Just like you can taste the differences in the geographical region of certain whiskeys, such as the brininess of an Islay Scotch, you can also tell the differences in coffee regions.
Also, like the different coffee regions can have an impact on the taste of the coffee, the process of harvesting and drying the coffee beans can also have an effect on the flavor. Similarly, whiskey distilling processes can impart different flavor profiles on the finished product. You only have to look at the peated whiskeys of Scotland or the charcoal filtered Tennessee Whiskeys to know how much the process can affect the finished product. Obviously, barrel aging in whiskey barrels (or any spirit barrels) will impart flavors that you can’t get naturally in coffee. Cooper’s Cask puts the single-origin green (unroasted) coffee beans in ex-single malt whiskey barrels to age before they roast them.
Coffee Brewing Process:
Before I get into the aroma and taste, I want to go over how I make coffee. To get the most out of your coffee, it is important to go through a few extra steps that make a huge difference. First of all, coffee beans don’t keep on the shelf or your counter for longer than 7-10 days after it was roasted before it starts to become stale, so it’s best to only buy an amount that you will be using for that time period. Also, once coffee is ground, the process of becoming stale speeds up dramatically, so whole bean coffee is the only way to go! Because of this, it is a good idea to invest in a quality grinder, namely a burr grinder. An even grind on your coffee beans plays a big part in the quality and a burr grinder helps achieve that.
There are many different methods of brewing coffee out there. Although Cooper’s Cask suggested preparing the coffee in a French Press, I chose my preferred method which is a V60 pour-over. It is a simple and extremely cost effective method of brewing coffee while still making a high-quality cup of coffee. Because of that, it is my everyday method of making coffee.
From the moment you open the bag, there is no doubt that this coffee has been aged in whiskey barrels! This is most noticeable right after you grind the coffee beans. That familiar smell of whiskey immediately hits you. After brewing, you still get that distinct whiskey smell, but there are other aromas that balance it out such as cocoa, oak, and a little vanilla. You can make out the malt note in the nose that was more distinct brewed than the general whiskey aroma in the beans. The nose reminded me so much of one of my favorite beers, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Coffee Stout. That obviously makes sense because it is a bourbon barrel aged coffee stout. There really was a remarkable similarity in the aroma of that beer and the Cooper’s Cask Coffee.
While the nose on this coffee had a strong whiskey note, the coffee was well-rounded. I got flavors that I didn’t get in the nose. Right off the bat, there was a wonderful caramel flavor that turned into more of a butterscotch note. There was also a bit of vanilla and charred oak that reminded me of toasted marshmallows. There were also hints of tropical fruit and a bit of tobacco. The coffee rounded out with some earthy notes and the oak from the barrel.
I have to say, I really enjoyed sampling this coffee. As evidenced by the popularity of the Irish coffee, whiskey and coffee really complement each other. This is by no means an Irish coffee or whiskey flavored coffee, but rather a coffee that has been enhanced by being aged in whiskey barrels. Granted, at this price point it’s a tough sell for everyday use, but as a special treat now and then it would do just fine. I can’t imagine a better coffee for drinking after dinner out on the back deck on a nice cool night!