I'm very late with this wrap-up (March), but we recently had yet another Scotch tasting a couple of weeks ago, so I have to catch up before sharing the results (and catching up entirely on the whisky front as far as this blog is concerned anyway)
Proceeding from clarity to increasing blurriness and from lightness to full on Island flavor, eere are my thoughts on each of the expressions we tasted in March.
12 year-old Suntory "Yamakazi" – Japan
While not what someone would consider a Scotch whisky since it hails from Japan, this expression is still a single-malt whisky, which qualifies it according to admittedly flexible rules. In fact, most participants were pretty excited to try this (must be the Lost in Translation effect), and since the local package store has recently begun carrying it stock, I quickly grabbed a bottle for the festivities. When I opened the bottle though, I discovered a huge warning sign. The bottle had a plastic screw cap instead of the traditional cork. I know that great advances have been made in this area, and that some good wines now use screw caps, but it was still unsettling. That didn't stop it from being poured though.
Once the Suntory had poured, it had a slightly sweet smell, with hints of sherry and fruit. The first taste matched the initial nose, as it was slightly sweet and fruity taste. Once water had been added to "Baptize" the whisky, an oak finish became apparent. Overall, everyone agreed that this expression was remarkably one-dimensional and that it didn't linger as much as anyone would like.
12-year old Tormore - Speyside
The bottle calls it "the Pearl of Speyside." Who could resist marketing like that? After the Suntory, it was nice to move on to a proper scotch. It had a nice dark color and a very oaky nose (someone even thought of maple syrup). Upon the first taste, the whisky was quite smooth, with hardly any bite at all, and the oakiness gave the impression of syrup all the way through.
Once a bit of water had been added, the full flavor of the whisky really came out, bringing out hints of saltiness and a very smooth and round flavor: "Nutty with a honeyish sweetness". The taste was consistent throughout.
Ledaig Sherry Finish - Island, No age given
All the literature indicated that the age of this Ledaig was less than 10 years. No wonder it's not placed on the label since age probably means more marketability. A whisky's relative youth has never held us back before though.
The nose on this expression was very oaky--almost green oak in fact. Upon first taste, the most immediate note was the smoke. This was followed with a smoky, woody finish. The peat taste didn't fully emerge until after some water was added. One thing we noticed, it gets smokier the longer you drink it. All in all a nice scotch, even it could be considered Laguvalin Light.
12 year-old Caol Isla - Islay
Islay scotches, especially those that we have not yet tried, always are eagerly anticipated. Once the scotch was poured though, I thought someone was pulling my leg. The color was very light--lighter than any Islay scotch I have ever seen. The nose, however, belied its island origins, smelling as one participant called it, "candied peat." Overall the smell was a lovely mix of smoke and peat, and the oak from the cask smell almost like hickory.
Upon tasting, the Caol Isla is a very easy to drink expression. Most of the flavors explode toward the finish, and they then linger nicely. This is one of the few scotches we've tasted that water does very little to improve.
12 year-old Bunahabhain - Islay
Two Islay's in a row. Happy, happy. This one smelled more like a typical Islay (and looked the part too). As for taste (and my notes are getting much here), it had a slightly medicine taste to go along with a mild peatiness. It's a lighter-drinking expression than most Islay scotches.
Adding water really brought out the peat and a bit of saltiness, which is to be expected due to its origin. Even though the taste could be a bit mediciny at times, it had a very long finish. Disconcertingly, however, the nose and taste were a bit inconguent.
Note to self, taste this one earlier in the festivities at some point in the future. Extra points go the website, which is one of the more sophisticated experiences I've seen from a distillery.
10 - 15 year-old Aberlour a'Bunadh Cask Strength - Speyside
This was the last (and strongest) expression tasted. This scotch had a very rich, peppery nose. The first taste was overwhelming (as is usually the case with a cask strength), but with a lot of spicy overtones. Once the water was added (more than usual), honey moving toward spiciness toward the finish, all th while being smooth, buttery, and nutty. Funny, my notes stop just there. Maybe I'd had a bit too much? Nah.
Aberlour is always a favorite, and this one was no different. But a cask strength is not the one to drink at the end of a long day of drinking.
Look out next week for the results of the most recent tasting.
NP: "Mile End" -Pulp