You may have noticed, I write a good deal about booze. Perhaps you didn’t, in which case I’m shocked you’re literate. Congratulations on that literacy thing, by the way. So yes, I’ve written quite a lot about booze, which is kind of the point of this blog. But perhaps that makes me appear one dimensional to your eyes. Sure I wrote about poutine and debauchery recently in my Canadian Odyssey, but really, that had a lot to do with boozing and such as well. Recently I was approached with an opportunity to tangentially expand my horizons, and go beyond just whiskey swilling to my other favorite vice–caffeinating. You see, sometimes people actually read this blathering nonsense and enjoy it, and one such gentleman made me an offer I could not refuse. Accept rather than waking up with a horse’s head in my bed, I woke up with a message on my blog inviting me to try his product, a coffee.
You may be thinking to yourself, well, clearly this guy is a lush—but what qualifies him to pass judgement on coffee? Well, here are my qualifications.
- I drink a lot of coffee. Usually 5-6 “cups” a day, although when opportunity presents a cup may be a redeye or a double espresso or just a very large cup.
- I know that what you get at Starbucks is not a macchiato, it’s a sugar bloated botched abortion.
- I really enjoy my coffee, don’t we all have preferences or critiques on coffee anyways?
So, I may be under qualified. In this situation, however, I may be just the man for the job; see this is special coffee, whiskey barrel aged coffee. See what I mean by tangential? Let’s get to it.
Cooper’s Cask Coffee is a recent (very recent, like I may be drinking the first batch) start-up hitting the ground running out of Rhode Island. Which is a fine state, by the way. John and Jason, the fellas behind the company both had a shared passion for coffee (like many of us,) clearly some drive (like a lot fewer of us,) and a winning idea (like we all wish we did.) Whiskey barrel aging is booming the world over, a wide variety of products from wines, beers, and other whiskies to fish sauces (yes, really) and maple syrup. For John and Jason the wheels got turning, and Cooper’s Cask was born. The process is seemingly rather simple. Green (unroasted) coffee beans go into a whiskey barrel, are given some time to catch some of the magic therein, and then are roasted to coffee—voila! Well it is rather simple, although I gather a lot of trial and error went into finding the right beans, the right aging times and the proper roast to truly express the product. Also, I’ve been advised that the barrels used are smaller 10 gallon barrels with a heavy char that once held single malt from an undisclosed “independent distillery.” I’m making a hunch that the barrels come from Sons of Liberty Spirits Co., also out of Kingston, RI, but don’t fault me for making such unfounded and circumstantial assumptions. Anyways, sounds like a good idea—right? So what is the result of this experiment?
Before I even get to the brew, the first thing to note is the incredible aroma of these beans, which really opens up on the grinding. One of the first notes to hit me is a rich dark chocolate note, followed by a smokiness similar to a full-bodied cigar. From there the lighter flavors are able to escape with a distinct fruitiness—John had noted dried papaya, but I’m really catching mango and a touch of coconut. The final smell I get is something reminiscent of coffee ice cream, maybe a second wave of milkier chocolate and a touch of vanilla. I brewed the beans up in a French press, conveniently as recommended, and let settle about 5 minutes before pouring a cup for myself and one for my father. Once brewed the nose remains very similar with the tropical fruit elements being dominant and a touch of caramel and vanilla.
The flavors a rich, which a bit of molasses, a good deal of fruit and THERE it is! Booooze with toasty oak, vanilla and that strange in between note that is exactly like a shot of Jameson in a cup of coffee. That milk chocolate note is there as well, and all these wash through in a medium (perhaps should have used another scoop) body and a long but very light finish with vanilla whiskey notes predominating, rather than any bitterness or smokier notes.
This, my friends, is not your average cup of joe. On a blind tasting you’d find yourself wondering if this might be flavored, or perhaps just spiked—but you’d certainly find yourself wondering why the fuck anybody has every professed a love for Dunkin Donuts. If you aren’t already wondering that every day. While I do find myself wishing for a touch more bitterness—because that’s just who I am—I see a lot of potential to this, perhaps I’ll throw it in my espresso maker next. And knowing that there’s a bourbon barrel and a rum barrel version I can see any number of delicious iterations coming of this. With Cooper’s Cask Coffee, you may find yourself saying cheers first thing in the morning.