Whisky Advent Calendar day 2 : Yoichi NAS

Day 2 is here ! And it is a dram I am quite acquainted with that I discovered behind the small glass : the Yoichi NAS that I already reviewed here.

But that’s actually ok, since I liked it quite much. I’ll nevertheless review it again to see if my nose / palate evolved since my first review (ever !).

Let’s go !

Name: Yoichi NAS
Owner: Nikka
Distillery: Yoichi
Region: Japan
Type: Single Malt
Age: No age statement
ABV: 43%
Bottle size: 3cl

Colour: Gold (did my colour perception change ? :-/ )

Nose: Light. Starts on fresh pears and apples mainly (but I guess there is more orchard fruits in that), followed by some nice milk chocolate, honey and a tad of cinnamon. Faintly in the background we get some vanilla flavored toffee. Quite gourmand, I like it !

Palate: Creamy. Same as the nose, but much richer and intense. So yeah, a load of orchard fruits, but this time more concentrated on yellow ones (peaches, apricots) instead of the pears / apples. Spices are also boosted a bit with the cinnamon and some pepper on the end palate that I didn't detect in the nose.

Finish: Quite long ! Some bitter orange peel and lemon peel appears, as well as yellow fruits again spiced up a bit by some pepper.

Overall: My... it seems my palate is quite responsive, maybe because it's still quite early in the morning ? Anyway, time for a check-up with my old review... well, where is the peat ? Did I dream it back then ? Apart from that, I'm not too far from it. I actually think I liked it better than back then though, so given a bigger sample I'd probably score it a bit higher. Same conclusion : good and very good value !

Whisky Advent Calendar day 1 : Glenfarclas 25 years old

And here we are, day 1 of the Advent calendar !

And to celebrate this, what’s better than the Whisky Advent Calendar from Drinks By The Dram / Master of Malt ?

And what a promising start ! The calendar opens up on the “famous” (among the whisky geeks at least) Glenfarclas 25 years old, which I believe has acquired quite a reputation.

Anyway, here is my quick review of it. And by the way, I’ll try to do one for each dram / day of the Advent calendar, so stay tuned !

Name: Glenfarclas 25 years old
Owner: J&G Grant
Distillery: Glenfarclas
Region: Speyside
Type: Single Malt
Age: 25
ABV: 43%

Colour: Copper

Nose: Gourmand, balanced and subtle. It starts on chocolate and then continue on dried fruits and light fresh citrus fruits in the background. Perfectly integrated spices along a slight toffee flavor. Wonderful nose.

Palate: Balance personified. Lots of dried fruits as an "encore" of the nose, accompanied by a background of spices. Then, plums and apricots follows suit with some creamy butterscotch. The palate shifts towards dark chocolate and maybe coffee on the end.

Finish: My... quite long ! More fruity than the rest I think, and it tends towards "dark" notes (dark chocolate again, but more than that).

Overall: Awesome ! What a start for this advent calendar ! And I believe this is only my second Glenfarclas (I'll have to find a solution to fix this ;-).

Whisky review : Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish

And here is the infamous Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish ! I had the chance to get a small sample from a friend who knows a friend who knows a friend…. well the important thing is that I got one ! o/

For those who haven’t heard of this expression, this is some Bowmore that has been partially aged in a cask made from Mizunara, which is a oak tree growing in Japan that has the reputation of being particularly flavorful and that brings some unusual and different notes to the whisky.

From what I could gather by reading a very insightful comment on whiskynotes.be, this is apparently 20 years old Bowmore that has been filled and matured for 3 years in Mizunara cask which once contained some Yamazaki 12 years old. This makes the approximate age for this release to be 22~23 years old.

Oh and yeah, the price is supposed to be around 1000€ (but I see it being sold out at 880€ on Master of Malt).

Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish

Name: Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish
Owner: Suntory
Distillery: Bowmore
Region: Islay
Type: Single malt
Age: 22~23 years old (see intro)
Cask: Mizunara for the last 3 years, the rest I don't know
ABV: 53,9%
Bottle size: 3mL

Colour: Amber

Nose: Start on a bit of dark chocolate and wood smoke. It then continue on incense, waxed leather and licorice. On the fruits side, there is a big peachy presence, along with pears, orange marmalade, prunes and figs. The peat is quite light and delivers iode and a salty feeling.

Palate: Big fruits starting the battle : pears, peaches, prunes. Really rich. Cinnamon on the spices side as well as leather and fainter licorice and cloves . The peat is a lot more present than in the nose. It delivers smoked fish, salted iode, burned wood smoke.

Finish: Long and dry on bitter lemon, rose blossoms, leather and salty campfire ashes delivered by the peat.

Overall: Well it was quite difficult to evaluate due to the limited quantity. Nevertheless, as much as I would like to hate it considering the prohibitive price, it have to say it's very good. Now, maybe not very good at 1000€. Very good balance, good peat integration (not too strong, not too faint) and plenty of fruits. I can't say which flavors came out of the mizunara wood though since I don't have enough experience with both mizunara casks and Bowmore. Maybe the rose blossoms ? First time having those, and they were quite nice.

Rating: 91 / 100

Whisky review : Yellow Spot

Here I name the Yellow Spot, the big brother of the Green Spot that I reviewed a while ago.

I also discovered it at the Whisky Live Paris 2013, and loved it instantely. Time to do a review !

Yellow Spot - narrow

Name: Yellow Spot
Bottler: Mitchell & Son
Region: Ireland
Type: Single Pot Still
Cask: Ex-bourbon, Sherry and Malaga.
ABV: 46%
Bottle size: 700mL (tasting from 6cl sample)

Colour: Amber

Nose: Wonderful typical Irish nose. Heavier, rounder and richer than its younger brother. Big banana and yellow fruits presence with quite some vanilla, pepper and toffee. Really gorgeous. You also get honey and rich flowery and green tea small, as if you were sitting in a garden near a bee hive. There might be some cloves too, but I'm not sure about that.

Palate: Really warm and creamy, as in creamy vanilla cake along with banana, milk chocolate and butterscotch. This really brings out a wonderful gourmand side, with some bitter lemon in the background. Sharing the same space are quite some spices such as cloves, licorice and black pepper. In the background of all this, you get some coffee notes with unmalted barley. Really tasty.

Finish: Medium length. There is licorice, cloves and pepper on the background. Sweetness (not overwhelming) provided by the barley on the front.

Overall: A really rich and warm dram. In my opinion, this is a step up above the Green Spot (and I liked this one quite much !). More powerful and more complex too (in short : more my style), though less fresh for those that that loves this kind of things. Damn good stuff.

Rating: 89 / 100

Whisky review : Laphroaig 18 years old

After the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, the Laphroaig 18 years old !

Laphroaig 18

Name: Laphroaig 18
Owner: Beam Suntory
Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Type: Single Malt
Age: 18 years old
ABV: 48%
Bottle size: 700mL

Colour: Light copper

Nose: Surprisingly, it starts on a rich fruits and sweetness tide reminding me of some irish whiskey. Smells really good. Big bourbon cask influence giving lots of juicy tropical fruits and a bit of vanilla. On the spices side you get lots of pepper. This nose is not too strong and is between fresh (peat) and heavy (tropical fruits). Good balance, I have to say that I was a bit reluctant to drink Laphroaig after the PX cask which I found IMO totally wrecked because of the PX sweetness. The peat is very "forest" like, with moss, roots and earth smell after the rain. Acidic citrus provides linking between both sides.

Palate: Smooth and quite round. The sweetness detected in the nose get mixed up in the center of a floral peat flow, now more present than ever. This is really rich and delicious. Neither parts gives of terrain and this is a good follow up of the nose. Light pineapple and creamy bitter lemon, with a peppery background that gains strenght as time goes by. A bit of licorice and honey behind the pineapple.

Finish: Long. Fresh mint and flowers with still some pineapple in the background. Beach fireplace with iode and salt gives of a really dry end.

Overall: Balance and elegance. The unexpected freshness provided by the peat and the unexpected tropical fruits tide really makes me love this. Quite a different style than the quarter cask IMO. Excellent.

Rating: 90 / 100

Whisky review : Glendronach 15 Revival

Here is an expression from Glendronach. This particular one had apparently disappeared in 1990, to reappear once more after the distillery purchase by Benriach in 2008 (thus the “Revival” I guess…).

I have heard a lot of good things about it, so let’s go !

Glendronach 15 years old Revival

Name: Glendronach 15 Revival
Owner: The Benriach Distillery Company Ltd.
Distillery: Glendronach
Region: Speyside
Type: Single malt
Age: 15 years old
Cask: Oloroso sherry cask
ABV: 46%
Bottle size: 700mL

Colour: my father's honey (amber tending on dark amber)

Nose: Starts on intense vanilla and toffee, followed by big milk chocolate. The sherry is really speaking here, we can even guess it's sourness. We get a lot of tropical and yellow fruits, i.e. baked peaches, pineapples, bananas, and is that some fruit de la passion ? Have you ever tasted orange stuffed black chocolate ? Yes, there is that too (alright, I know, it's written on the label. But I completely agree with it !)

Palate: Oh... This is gourmand... Really gourmand... Maybe a tad too much though, this baby needs more balance and dryness. Overripe banana with cinnamon on the front. Oranges thrives for balance but has trouble achieving it. Alright, it does seems to achieve it along with cocoa after a bit of time in the glass... Actually, the whole spirit wakes up after a few minutes, be it the nose or the palate, and we have much more fruits now along with well integrated spices. This is rich stuff. Tasty ! Just keep calm and take your time. So of course, I didn't mention it but the toffee is still present, but it got melded in vanilla crème pâtissière.

Finish: Long. I would say on bitter chocolate mainly, but there is quite some stuff going on such as vanilla, oranges, butter caramel.

Overall: If you're looking for balance, I think it's better to be patient and let it open up a bit in the glass (15 minutes~ish). It's a really rich and "gourmand" whisky. Very good, but again, do not look for balance and dryness.

Rating: 88 / 100

Food pairing suggestion: Chocolate and creamy dessert.

Whisky review : Bunnahabhain 1988 – Signatory Vintage

And now, here is the second whisky from my birth year that I tried, the first one being the Blair Athol 1988 Artist #4.

It also has been bottled by Signatory vintage for La Maison du Whisky (I suspect someone there has also been born in 1988…). 175 bottles have been extracted from the bourbon hogshead number 1874.

No more info to give on this, let’s finish that bottle :-P

Bunnahabhain 1988 - Signatory Vintage

Name: Bunnahabhain 1988
Owner: Burn Stewart Distillers
Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Bottler: Signatory Vintage
Region: Islay
Type: Single malt
Age: 26 years
Cask: Bourbon Hogshead
ABV: 48.6% (Cask Strenght)
Bottle size: 700mL

Colour: Amber gold

Nose: It starts on wonderful colza honey and then develops on spiced ripe orchard fruits. For the spices, there are cinnamon and cloves (as usual in my reviews if you've been reading them), but keep in mind this this really faint. In fact, this is a very light nose in term of power, but it manages to offer a whole bunch of aromas and balance, and this isn't the best part. The best part would be IMO the way it blends all along a mouth-watering light peat that links all the other flavours perfectly. Damn now I so much want to drink this. Let's get to it.

Palate: Heavier and richier notes than the nose, but it's still easily manageable and a perfect example of balance. While remaining non-extravagant, the peat is more on the front side of the game now, and it is the other flavours that are providing the background and harmony of the spirit. The honey is still there, but with more darker notes. It would now be more like pine / cloves honey I guess since those are also getting a boost, while the cinnamon is on the retreat. A few tropical fruits have joined the fun, but have died prematurely with the others on a barbecue (poor fruits ! :'( ). This gives them a slighty burnt and agreable feeling along with a fresh coffee and licorice taste. All in all, this is a good follow-up on the nose.

Finish: Long. Strong cloves and licorice presence. It seems they kept getting power from the nose up to the finish. Bitter grapefruits along a retreating peat delivers a warm feeling. The others fruits are now far behind.

Overall: Very good. It makes me think a bit of the Kavalan Peated cask and the way the light peat manage to complement an already rich mouth perfectly. Unfortunately, even though this is cask strenght, I find it a bit lacking in power (but someone told me it's actually Bunna style, so can't complain too much). Well all in all, even though this is not my favored style, it's still an excellent dram. Just don't look for intensity in that ;-)

Rating: 91 / 100

Whisky review : Green Spot

Another day, another nice summer dram. Here I name Green Spot, a pure Pot Still from Mitchells & Sons, composed of a vatting of pot still whisky matured in (mostly) sherry and bourbon cask, varying between 7 and 10 years old of age.

I discovered this at whisky live Paris 2013, along with the Yellow Spot (review coming “soon”), and the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy. I have to say I was very much impressed with the quality of those, especially the two spots as their price range then was quite reasonable. I think it as increased a bit since, but it’s still a good value IMO.

Enough chattering, let’s start !

Green Spot

Name: Green Spot
Bottler: Mitchell & Son
Region: Ireland
Type: Single Pot Still
Age: Apparently between 7 and 10 years old
Cask: Mostly sherry and then bourbon
ABV: 40%
Bottle size: 700mL (tasting from 6cl sample)

Colour: Gold

Nose: Fresh pears and green apple. You can almost feel the rough texture of the pear flesh (with the nose, mind you). A whole lot more of fruits actually, as in a fruit salad in orange juice. The nose is light and very well balanced, with just a faint amount of spices in the background that is perfectly dosed to avoid overwhelming those light fruits. Take a glass of the dram, and go sit in your garden / orchard on a summer evening, and you won't feel out of place.

Palate: Very creamy and warm, the mouth is dominated by poached fruits (pears and apples again) topped with a bit of liquid toffee / butter caramel and honey. Spices are still present, with mostly cinnamon and another one that I unfortunately can't manage to put a name on it. On the background, you get a bit of barley and a drop of vanilla (light). Finally you get some fresh plants in the background after a while, giving a slight fresh mint feeling (very slight, might be my imagination). I honestly couldn't have say this is sherry influenced if this was tasted blind.

Finish: Medium length and straightforward, on fruits and cinnamon.

Overall: As with the Compass Box Juveniles, a really good summer (and others seasons too !) dram. Perfectly balanced, with a nice complexity that is not uninteresting (ie. : this is definitely not a flat whisky), it brings a tide of freshness that isn't unwelcome in hot weather. The finish is simpler, but well done. An excellent value, I definitely recommend it.

Rating: 87 / 100

Whisky review : Blair Athol 1988 – Artist #4

Here is the first whisky from my birth year that I ever tasted, and also the first (and only for the moment) Blair Athol that I tried.

It has been bottled by Signatory vintage for La Maison du Whisky as part of their “Artist #3″ collection. That awesome label picture has been apparently drawed by Albane Simon, please go and look at his equally awesome portfolio ! :-) Here is the link : Albane Simon portfolio

I don’t really know what “Over” 25 years means (probably that they forgot the cask somewhere and it wasn’t labeled precisely :-P), but it’s quite old.

Let’s get to it !

Blair Athol 1988 - Artist #4

Name: Blair Athol 1988 - Artist #4
Owner: Diageo
Distillery: Blair Athol
Bottler: Signatory Vintage
Region: Highlands, Scotland
Type: Single malt
Age: "Over 25 years"
Cask: First fill sherry
ABV: 59.5%
Bottle size: 700mL

Colour: Rust

Nose: Damp forest ground with fresh green moss. There is that smell you get in a library when opening an old book with yellow pages. Nice, very nice. Seems to take quite some time to open up tough. I should change glass. Ok, let's change glass to have a more concentrated nose (I quite like Chef & Sommelier "open up" warm glass for that). Much better ! Ouch this is a heavy nose though, brace yourself. I now get winey notes, along with polished old leather, heavy honey (pine) and licorice. Fruits are much better revealed with red fruits and burned caramelized overripe pineapple (I know, that's quite a statement). You also get orange marmalade with its bittersweet side. This is REALLY complex and balanced. And powerful. Complex but balanced and powerful. Well, you got the idea. With water, the heaviness is a broken a bit and everything is more manageable.

Palate: Ok. This is very, very expressive. Big read fruits presence along with big leather. You still get that ground feeling, now more intertwined with heavily roasted coffee. On the spices side, you get quite your fill of pepper and cloves, especially at the end. After a time, overripe mirabelle and again oranges in a bitter marmalade style. With water : Wow, this is definitely an improvement ! The fruits side open up and the leather is kept well at bay in the background. Yummy. So yeah, fruits. Think overripe burned pineapples (I always seems to get those ones recently, the hot weather might have something to do with it), heavy caramelized peaches and every fruits announced so far, but more distinct.

Finish: Long. The leather with shoe wax keep it living for a while and the mosses appears yet again, along with green tea leaves. Burned caramel again, and oranges are here at the end.

Overall: This is excellent stuff, but not for the faint of heart. It is really powerful, and thus difficult to apprehend. Think refined late night whisky, very complex with lots of personality, but remaining balanced in his power. For advices, I suggest you put a bit of water in it and that you let it open ten minutes in the glass. In spite of everything, it isn't as marked in the glass as I would expect compared to others first fill sherry out there. In the right circumstances, one of the whisky I enjoyed the most. Brace yourself.

Rating: 93 / 100

Food pairing suggestion: Difficult question... it'll be difficult to overtake this one. Dark chocolate (again).

Whisky review : Mars Revival 2011 – “Komagatake”

Here is a malt from Shinsho Mars distillery !

If you don’t know about it, it’s not a distillery located on the Mars planet, but in Japan, Kagoshima prefecture. It was created in 1985, but stopped distilling in 1992 due to a lack of demand.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to taste some expression from the pre-closing era, because it seems they are very well appreciated.

Thankfully the distillery reopened theirs doors (and their stills) in February 2011, and here is the first european commercially available expression in my hands. It is elaborared from peated malted barley at 8 ppm, and has been matured in ex-bourbon casks.

Labeled “Revival 2011″, let’s see if this is truly one or if the distillery still has a foot in the grave.

Mars Revival 2011

Name: The Revival 2011 - "Komagatake"
Owner: Hombo Shuzo Co ltd.
Distillery: Shinshu Mars
Region: Kagoshima prefecture, Japan
Type: Single Malt
Age: 3 years old
Cask: Bourbon
ABV: 58%
Bottle size: 700mL

Colour: Light straw

Nose: Really dry nose. It starts on malted barley and is dominated by it all along as the nose evolve on almonds, bananas and butterscotch. The whole is envelloped by a shy, but present, floral smoke and a bit of lemon peel bitterness. I might detect some pear behind all this. This nose is powerful and isn't here to fool around as it delivers, sharp and precise, its tide of rich malted and cerealed flavours. Really nice. Water just seems to balance the flavours out for me.

Palate: REALLY powerful. Sweetness coming in with the almonds, or in this case this would be better described as frangipane. There is still a lot of malted barley and others cereals, but this time it shares its presence with some pepper and the floral peat that isn't so shy anymore, but still balanced. More to the backside, we can smell some vanilla, grapefruits and lemon. Again, this is quite dry (not that it bothers me). Water develops the vanilla and the fruits side (more lemon, more pear), but the barley isn't left on the side of the road, it's just more balance with the rest. This is sweet !

Finish: Very long on bitter lemon zest, pepper and plants. Sweetness develops with the addition of water.

Overall: A powerful dram with character, you can feel it youth. It knows where its going, and never strays from the path. Maybe a bit peculiar, but very good nontheless (especially for 3 years old), and this may be a good indicator of where Shinshu Mars distillery is going. The style is quite different from Chichibu the first (which I prefered), so don't buy it expecting something similar as it's not. And it's for the better actually, because who wants clones ? The more the merrier. Cheers.

Rating: 90 / 100

Food pairing suggestion: Almond paste