F1 Racing Driver Jenson Button Debuts Coachbuilt Whisky

Jenson Button and his Coachbuilt Whisky. 

Photo provided

Jenson Button and Coachbuilt Whisky

Jenson Button and his Coachbuilt Whisky. 

Photo provided

Coachbuilt is a spirited collaboration between Somerset-born Formula One racing driver, Jenson Button, and Greek-Scottish whisky expert, George Koutsakis. Encompassing whiskies drawn from “dozens of distilleries” across all five whisky regions of Scotland, Koutsakis says the first release is intended to “showcase what a blended Scotch can be at a time when blends are still under appreciated.”

Although the exact recipe isn't disclosed, Koutsakis does reveal that components from Highlands and Speyside dominate the blend, which ranges from five to nine years old, married in Sherry casks.

Virtual blending

Despite having been introduced by a mutual friend two years ago, Button and Koutsakis met in person for the first time at the London launch at the start of spring. Until that point, all dealings, including tastings, occurred virtually, meaning a fifteen-hour time difference between Taiwan and Hong Kong, where Koutsakis is based, and Button’s home in Beverly Hills, had to be navigated.

“I was lucky enough to practise blending, a really cool experience where I got to taste all of the different whiskies which go into the Sherry cask,” said Button, who holds an honorary doctorate in engineering from the University of Bath.

Racing car references

Prior to being engaged in the project, Button already had an interest in Scotch, being drawn to peatier whiskies including Lagavulin. However, since undertaking tastings for Coachbuilt, he now finds such a style, “too aggressive.”

The design of the covetable bottle references struts and wheel nuts of racing cars from the 1950s and 60s, notes Jenson, who is “deep into the coachbuilding world” via his company, Radford, whereby 3D-printed components join a Lotus chassis. “Once George and I got chatting, we saw tonnes of parallels between coachbuilding and whisky making,” he said. “In the 1940s and 50s, when buying a car, they gave you the chassis and engine then it was off to the coachbuilder to bring in expertise to make one beautiful automobile.”

Coachbuilt Whisky

The new Coachbuilt Whisky by Jenson Button. 

Photo provided

Competitive pricing

The competitive price has drawn raised eyebrows from more than one credible whisky commentator. As Koutsakis notes, “people who have seen it said, ‘shit, that’s cheap, then wow, that’s really cheap’ after they’ve tasted it.” Button concurs. “Price point is always tricky, though George and I did look at each other and say, ‘we’ve got the price wrong.’ But we want the masses to taste it.”

Precision is key

Asked which was smoother, his racetrack driving or the whisky, Button answered, “precision has always been key in my racing career.”

While the blend appeared in a take on the Paloma cocktail at launch, there does seem to be sufficient torque and complexity within Coachbuilt to celebrate it neat.

Over time, expect releases of older, pricier incarnations, demonstrating the effects of using different casks, be they ex-rum or even ex-Tequila - “fun things” as Koutsakis puts it. He also hinted at collaborations beyond potables with other brands of crafted goods.

TASTING NOTES

92 POINTS

Coachbuilt Whisky

A hint of lightly roasted coffee, cocoa powder, elm woodsmoke, pear then plum on the nose, followed by a subtle, smoky thread running the course of the entire palate, which also includes Scottish tablet, ripe lemon, a brush of heather, and finally, brine, all bound within an oily mouthfeel. More orchard fruits develop when a drop of water is added. More complex than the price would suggest. Elegant. 750ml, 46% ABV, £42/$55

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