This new expression of Lot 40 came out last year - I believe it is the same recipe as the standard, except it is matured twice: first in new oak barrels with No. 2 char, then finished in new oak barrels with No. 4 char. Bottled at 48%.
The colour is a deep caramel. Earthy spices on the nose with clove, cinnamon and nutmeg - to the point that it almost seems to have a sherry or wine finish. Big rye spice as well. Marmalade. Dark chocolate. Italian parsley. Musty. Massive wood smoke - so much so that it almost seems off, as if it's sulphurous (of course, it's not). Water adds fresh pencil shavings. Rich and inviting but it's just too much oak.
On the palate that dominant oak carries through, but this time it is simply clove that takes over - other, more complex rye spices bite the dust. Earthy and musky, with some blood orange and apricot to balance it out. Rum-raisin. Dark caramel and vanilla pods. Water adds spice which helps tame the wood. More successful than the nose but sorry, still too much oak!
The finish is, um..... oaky. Bit of pepper and clove but it's pretty much burnt wood all the way. It's great to have a new iteration of the standard Lot 40 but this time it just went off in the wrong direction. Let's see how it stands next to the standard (43%): in every measure - nose, palate, complexity - the standard expression wins. I've always loved Lot 40 because it balances an unmistakable rye profile with good maturation; the Dark Oak expression loses the rye profile to a certain degree in favour of a heavier, oakier style. But what do I know? Dark Oak won World's Best Rye in the 2021 World Whiskies Awards (which I am a judge on! I would love to know what I scored it, but it's all blind and we never find out later...)