"Please use some water and you will be rewarded with a rich complexity and balance"
(Photo from Whiskybase)
What difference does the alcohol percentage make on the experience? That tinkering with a teaspoon to drop a tiny bit of water aiming for the sweet spot. I must admit I never really cared for that sweet spot, too much fiddling around and most evenings my I drink my dram mostly just for pleasure. I guess there are true believers in the magic of a drop of water and their are the conservative ones that totally abstain the use of any colourless liquid in their holy dram. My feelings about within that discussion lie somewhere in the middle. Mostly I just try something based on the first sips of the undiluted liquid. However, I do recognise that sometimes water can really make a difference, in particular with cask strength whiskies that contain alcohol levels above 50% and feel a bit restrained in the nose and on the palate. I would say that todays subject is such an example where water does make a difference in experiencing the true depth of flavours.
Like walking into the Ikea (keeping 1.5 meter distance, obviously). A cloud of new wood, wood glue, and comforting plastic. It is assertive, but the alcohol is quite well hidden within the distillate’s character. Ginger-y spices, cardamon, white pepper and paprika powder take front stage, while sweet liquorice attempts to form a counterbalance (but fails). There might be a distant fruitiness (mostly cherries), but this is rather far-fetched. Also toffee, butterscotch and chocolate. It does not develop any further for now, but the high strength might afford some drops of water, although some time in the glass already shows a fair amount of development. Some floral honey appears with much more toffee, cookies, sultanas, a faint hint of cherries and this time also raspberries, and an armagnac-resembling wood glue. The woods remains strong, but it is certainly not unpleasant. A bit more apple juice, charred wood, and raisin cookies. It also gets more wine-y after a while.
Forceful with lots of taste, but I feel that the alcohol overshadows a richer depth. New wood, ginger and a hint of liquorice roots. The aftertaste provides in addition caramel, a variety of spices and more wood. Let us try some water. Here the water really makes a difference. Much more butter, oils and creaminess. Almost perfect mouthfeel. Apple slices with cinnamon, juicy pears with pepper, grape juice, barley and white pepper. This comes reasonably close to a good Scotch whisky, taste-wise, something like Clynelish or Springbank. Really good. It also feels closer to the ingredients (barley, yeast, wood, well you know the drill). The liquorice, which I find very typical of single pot still Irish whisky, comes through with much more power, and really entangles my tongue. The spices kick each times when the fruits or oils start to come forward, but their increased power can hold a better balance. Very spicy and much more fruits (when you add water), along with liquorice, barley sugar and toffee in a long satisfying aftertaste.
Although this clearly resembles the 12-year-old at 40%, the obvious force makes it slightly more difficult to tame. Water is obligatory to get rid of the overly woody scents and flavours. Once you managed to add the right amount it provides an exhilarating experience with plenty of complexity. I was slightly surprised how much it went back to the ingredients, in particular the raw barley. In fact more so than the 40% version, which is more influenced by the sherry. Expect some variety between batches, but I suspect they all will be mighty good.
A bottle of this was purchased from !
• these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •