Location: Vizovice, Czech Republic
By: Leoš Vašek
Let me tell you the story about the resurrection of a whisky-brand from the Czech Republic. It’s history, the past, present and future of Gold Cock whisky from Rudolf Jelínek Distillery.
|Rudolf Jelínek distillery in Vizovice|
Czech Republic (or former Czechoslovakia if you wish) isn’t really a whisky-producing country. The south part of the republic are growing grapes and producing wine, and the east is famous for its fruit brandies, especially the pure plum spirit “slivovice”. The rest of the county is beer paradise, and there are only few things that fit better with the word “Czech” than “beer”, but back to the whisky world.
In the late 60’s it was quite difficult to buy high-quality whisky in Czechoslovakia. The Soviet military had occupied our country in 1968, making it almost impossible to bring goods from the Western countries through the iron curtain. Blended Whiskies like Ballantines, J&B and Black&White was the brands that where dominating the Czechoslovakia whisky-market at the time, so the desire to create something new and unique in Czechoslovakia, led people to start producing whisky. As I wrote above, we are well experienced with malting barley due to our brewery tradition and distilled spirits are also a part of our heritage, thanks to Slivovice and other distilled fruit spirits. Last but not least, being a wine producing country means that our coopers are very skillful. So, it really shouldn’t be any problem to start making whisky.
Back in 1969, the production of a 100% pure Czech whisky called Gold Cock started in a former brewery for Dolany Distillery, near city Olomouc. Only basic raw materials from the Czech Republic, including barley, peat and European winter oak (Quercus petraea) casks were used in the production. The Dolany Distillery produced a whisky that became quite popular locally, until the fall of the communist regime in 1989, although the quality probably wasn’t very high – whisky back then was labeled as “cut whisky” (a mixture of malt spirit and pure ethanol).
|Gold Cock whisky from former Dolany distillery (about 2000)|
After the iron curtain fall, “the privatization of state property process” started, which sadly had a rather negative outcome for the Dolany Distillery. In 2000 the distillery tried to rebrand itself, and started to produce three new versions of their Gold Cock whisky; A 3yo Blended malt (Red Feathers) a 6yo single malt (Black Feathers) and a 12yo single malt (Green Feathers), but even so, the Dolany distillery went bankrupt after 2000, and so ended the first era of The Gold Cock whisky brand.
The new era of Gold Cock whisky started in 2006 when Moravian distillery Rudolf Jelinek - well known for their fruit - especially plum – brandies, bought The Gold Cock whisky brand, the distillery inventory and stock surplus. Among its stock where a12yo single malt whisky stored in a stainless steel tank, numbers of blended whiskies and an unknown numbers of interesting casks filled with whisky. Rudolf Jelinek sold the old stills to Distillate pear Williams brandy in South America, and started to re-sell the 12yo and blended whiskies, but left the remaining casks for further maturation.
|Warehouse. Rudolf Jelínek Distillery|
The real potential of these casks were discovered back in 2014, when Czech whisky enthusiasts were invited to the distillery, to help creating a new company strategy. This meeting led to the discovery of a 22 years old single malt whisky that simply was too good for blending and should be released as a vintage single malt bottling. The product of their efforts, a first edition 1992 vintage Gold Cock Single Malt Whisky, was released the year after. The bottle was released as a non-chill filtered/natural colour edition, bottled at the same abv. (49,2%) as the latitude of Rudolf Jelínek distillery. This whisky was inspired by Talisker’s 57° North edition, where Talisker also bottled their whisky at the same abv. as their latitude. Another version of Gold Cock Whisky was released as a 61,5% Cask Strength edition for The Czech whisky-festival. This whisky was evaluated in Jim Murray’s 2016 edition of his Whisky Bible, and given 97 points, which is only 0,5 points below Jim’s best score.
|New bottles of Gold Cock whisky|
Again in 2015, two new expressions of Gold Cock Whisky were bottled. These two 1995 vintage single malts were bottled as a 49,2% and as a 61,5% abv edition, both non-chill filtered/natural colour. Sadly these bottles weren’t as well rated as the 1992 vintage edition.
The strategy from 2014 and the release of the vintage expressions was a huge success and it started a tradition, which has continued so far. Every November equals “whisky-harvesting” where the casks for next year’s limited editions of Gold Cock Whisky are chosen.
Last year, three experimental casks where chosen. Because Rudolf Jelinek distillery is famous for their fruit spirits, they decided to mature they’re 1992 Vintage Single Malt for six additional months in casks that previously had been used for 20yo golden slivovitz and for Moravian apple brandy. This 1992 Slivovitz cask matured whisky (limited 350 bottles release) and the two 1992 Moravian apple brandy cask matured whiskies (limited 700 bottles release) became very popular among Czech whisky collectors and are now sold out.
2017 was a real breakthrough for the Gold Cock Whisky brand, when Rudolf Jelínek released their new 8yo Single Malt, distilled at Rudolf Jelinek distillery in 2008, independent from their previously stock releases from the bankrupted Dolany distillery. The 8yo single malt is a blend of three winter oak cask types; refilled cask, restored/re-charred cask and virgin casks.
|Distillery sales-manager Miroslav Motyčka|
Two other whiskies were chosen as limited editions in 2017 during “whisky-harvesting”. A Single Grain whisky bottled at 49,2% and a cask strength edition bottled at 61,5% Furthermore a 2008 Virgin Oak Single Cask bottled at 61,5% All of them, per tradition; non-chill filtered/natural colour editions. These whiskies are also remarkably rated in the brand new 2018 edition of the Whisky Bible (8yo – 93p; Single Grain – 87p; Virgin Oak – 96p).
What will the future hold for Gold Cock Whisky?
The distillery’s main target is to change its current 8yo Single Malt Whisky into a 10yo which will become the future core of the whisky brand. Other interesting projects are also in progress, like Gold Cock’s new apricot brandy cask finished whisky, which will be introduced at the beginning of November 2017 at the Czech whisky festival - Whisky Life! Prague. Another exiting release is the heavily peated whisky that the distillery laid down for maturation in 2016, but we have to wait a few more years, before we are able to taste that one. Rumors have it, that the distillery is working on other projects as well, but those are still distillery secrets.
Although Gold Cock whisky isn’t a well-known whisky brand and its whiskies aren’t widely available, they are defiantly worth seeking out.
It is hand crafted whisky in its true definition. It is made in very small batches and crafted with love and care, and it clearly shows and presents itself in the taste.
Single Malt Czech Whisky
Non coloured/Non chill-filtered
Colour: Old Gold
Casks: European winter oak – combination of virgin, refill and re-charred casks.
Not a “typical” single malt. Lot of dried fruit, especially plums and apples. Noticeable fruit brandy spirit. Malt and meadow herbs (thyme). Something like, slightly perfumed nail polish known from bourbons.
Easy sipper - maybe too easy - Sweet and malty like young grain whiskies. Influence of fruit brandy again. Boiled plums and only a slightly hint of oakiness.
Medium long. Fruity and oaky. Sweet, a bit sour, tart and slightly bitter at the same time. Young spruce needles.
Typical Gold Cock style. Maybe a bit simple and “flatter” than previous releases, which I believe are caused by the combination of the whiskies young age and the refill casks. If taken into consideration, that the 8yo is Gold Cock’s base whisky, priced at $30, it is an absolutely fine and tasty whisky.
Vintage 1992 - Slivovitz Finish
Single Malt Czech Whisky
Single Cask Bottling - Cask Strength
Non coloured/Non chill-filtered
Price: $55 (limited version of 348 bottles - sold out)
Colour: Russet musca
Casks: European winter oak for over 23 years, then 6 months in oak cask used for over 20yo slivovitz
Strong, rich and sharp. No doubt its cask strength. Intensive fruitiness. Juicy plums, dry raisins in sugar. Slightly burned caramel, brandy and mint candy at the back.
Intensively sweet, very strong even for cask strength. Few drops of water are suitable. The significant influence of slivovitz and winter spice (star anise, clove). A little bit of something synthetic as rubber or polish.
Long, strong and warming, even diluted with water. Sweet and fruity. Interesting note of oak, cinnamon bitterness, and mint.
Definitely not your usual whisky. You may never have guessed it is, in fact, a single malt. The taste of plums is very typical for Gold Cock, and here it’s even more highlighted due to the slivovitz cask finishing. It’s maybe too strong and over-perfumed for some, but it’s still a great and intensive dram, suitable for anyone wanting to explore and expand their palate to world whisky.
To learn more about Rudolf Jelínek Distillery, check out their website here
Article By: Leoš Vašek
Photos By: Leoš Vašek, Karel Pinka & Jan Hátle.
Graphic Art By: Seth Brown
Graphic Art By: Seth Brown
(SOWC has kindly been granted permission to use the photos in the article)
Hi, my name is Leoš Vašek. I’m 34 and I live in the east part of the Czech Republic near the Czech-Slovak borders, in the city of Zlín. I’m a typical millennial guy, who loves trying new things and gather as many information and stories as possible, about the things I like.
I felt in love with whiskey in 2015, as a result of the things I just mentioned, and because of its wide range of different brands, flavors and stories. The Whisky World is a great playground for a grown child like me. I don’t prefer any specific type of whisky. Depending on my current mood, I enjoy young American rye’s or medicinal Islay whisky with the same enthusiasm. My favorite distillery and the one I always return to is Talisker.
My second love (besides my family) is traveling, and I finally found a way to connect my passions for traveling and whisky on Instagram. You can find the results of my travel and drinking adventures on my Instagram account @whiskymoravia
Make sure to check back in tomorrow, where we are heading to Domaine des Hautes Glaces in Grenoble, France
with Nicolas Läderach
Want to read our previously distillery visits? Click the links below!