Saturday, December 26, 2020

Aberlour, Auchroisk, Dailuaine, MacDuff, Nikka Yoichi

While I’m totally procrastinating doing more sample reviews that I want/need to do, let’s go over some of currently un-reviewered bottles on the shelf.

Aberlour Casg Annamh Batch 0004
Translated as “rare cask” this is a triple cask blend of ex-sherry and two types of american oak casks. The full details on age and composition are actually not disclosed. This is batch 0004 (yes, with the zeroes) and bottled at 96 proof. Clearly a Speyside malt, it balances sweet, nutty, and oaky flavors well. Frankly, it’s great representation of a Speyside style. Sherry is there, but it’s not syrupy or too sweet, it complements the nutty and oakey profile well. The proof isn’t too high as to upset casual drinkers (looking at you delicious-but-fiery A’bunadh) yet still high enough where this isn’t pulling its punches. Tiny wisps of smoke or char is on the very back of the long aftertaste. The whole triple cask is truly a fitting description here, if I were to mix good 1st fill with few good ex-bourbon malts I’d imagine I’ll get something similar. Interestingly enough, the other malt that I’m aware of that officially states all three casks is Auchentoshan Three Wood but it trends towards cognac/brandy palate instead. Casg Annamh heavily leans towards a very tasty refill sherry that’s toned down instead. Honestly this is very good, complex and highly drinkable, it may not be as mind blowing as older vintages or single casks are, but at the price and availability it’s hard to find comparable bottles that are substantially better. If you enjoy sherried, yet balanced, Speyside malts, stock a bottle and you won’t regret it.
Score: B+

Auchroisk 24, Old Malt Cask, K&L SP, Bottled in 2018
A wonderful refill (refill) ex-bourbon that happens to be oldest on my shelf at 24 year old. The cask type is refill hogshead (bourbon) so color and texture are reminiscent of chardonnay wine. Bottled at 106.8 proof this is a single cask… so disclaimer; disclaimer… Intensely malty on the nose with citrus, white pepper, lighter flowers and some vanilla oak notes. It really does remind me of chardonnay if it was a whiskey (and not terrible like most chards are, but I’m getting ahead of myself). Texture is actually quite thin, suggesting older wood that’s a lot less active, as is not uncommon with Old Malt Casks line. Palate is caramelized apples, lots of white peppercorns, vanilla, and savoury bits. It is notably not sweet and the profile is reminiscent of unsweetened pepper and vanilla custard. The aftertaste is long, sweeter than the plate and slowly fading into slight pepperiness. Overall, I like it, though I tend to like most single malt. It’s not overly complex, yet what flavors are there are done extremely well. For fans of pure malt this is likely going to be a treat that vanilla and pepper flavors hit it out of the park. For those that are looking for more nutty sweet flavors this will be a disappointment. I personally wish it had some sherry in it to be a true winner but it’d be probably distillery bottling then or much more expensive.
Score: B

Macduff 14, Trader Joe’s SP, Alexander Murray Bottling
I imagine some sort of a miracle has happened and Trader Joe’s got into full proof bottlings of single cask scotch. Win for connoisseurs, maybe? This is a single cask number 900036 ex-bourbon as 57.9% abv and one of 576 bottles distilled in 2003. Also, this was $69.99 in Trader Joe’s. As a side note, I have found it’s sister cask of 900035, ex sherry, in Total Wine for $99.99. The nose is somewhat disappointing, whiffs of smoke like from an old house fire, notes of iodine, bourbon nuttiness but the alcohol is strong and tries to overpower. On the palate, no smoke but still charry or bbq bits, malt, very distinct ex-bourbon spices, and distinct oak character from the cask, nearly bitter at full proof. It’s coffee notes! The aftertaste is pleasant malt and mostly carries over from the palate. Almost chewy in its consistency. So far so good, but… let’s add few drops of water and things really get interesting once alcohol is toned down a bit. The nose is mostly the same, but all of a sudden there’s so much coffee everywhere on the palate and aftertaste. I don’t mean high acidity but instead the toasted/roasted/nutty coffee flavors. Still a malty beast, yet very delicious, especially if you’re into coffee drinking. A little more pepperiness comes through in the long malty aftertaste too. Let’s summarize: This is single cask, full proof, full flavor single malt in ex-bourbon for $59? Yah, this is also a no-brainer on value. Well worth picking up and very flavorful offering that may not be everyone’s drink. This would likely not please those that like mellower and lower proofed spirit. I like it but I also like my coffee flavor which this provides once proofed down a few points. It is still a little ‘rough’ around the edges even then. “Try Before Buy” distinction makes this hard to grade, certainly unique and enjoyable for me, I wouldn’t recommend this as a 1st choice for most.
Score: C+
Addendum: It’s not supposed to be peated, but yet it has some whiffs of smoke, especially on the aftertaste. Very confusing bottling and quite unique for this distillery. Could be grade “B” for those that really enjoy the barely noticeable peat with ex-bourbon casks style of malt.

Dailuaine 12 K&L SP, Old Particular
A somewhat unique bottling from 2019, a 12 year old Dailuaine from a 1st fill sherry butt, bottled at 57.6%. Unique in a sense that while this is a 1st fill, the color and palate are surprisingly tame for this sort of bottling. What are the contributing factors for that? I have not the foggiest clue, though it could be any sort of combination of colder warehouse corner, different type of sherry, or a dryer cask. At least visually, I’d never have guessed it’s a 1st fill. But I also trust K&L folks and if the say it is what it is they certainly know better. The nose is red fruits, cherries, plums, cologne, and bits of alcoholic varnish. Palate is cocoa-forward with dark raisins galore and some dried fig preserves coming in on the back as expected from sherry. Not too sweet, this balances spices, sweetness, and savory flavors well with neither being overwhelming. Aftertaste is woody spices, more raisins and sherry notes. It is surprisingly tame and about medium length, likely because the spirit itself isn’t syrupy as is often the case with 1st fills. Fantastic, mellower 1st fill Speysider that I’m finding hard to fault. Since this is a review so I feel the need to decry this somewhat, in such that this feels more of a refill or a sherry finish rather than a first fill bottling. With only being 12 years old there’s not been enough time for more complex layers of flavor to develop in the spirit either and it has to fall onto sherry notes. Few more years in the cask and it would have been spectacular, as it is, I’ll settle for ‘great’ and well worth trying.
Score: B+

Nikka Single Malt Yoichi Whiskey (NAS) 45% abv
Japanese whiskey. Its relationship with Scotch is both complicated and simple. Plenty of others have written about it (for example, here: https://www.whiskysh … y-of-japanese-whisky), but the short version that in the 1930s it was essentially a perfect clone of scotch production methods and manufacture at the time and have matured and somewhat evolved since then while staying true to its 1930s roots in a very Japanese-like aspiration of continuous gradual ‘improvement’. All that effort have paid off with Japanese malts routinely collecting numerous awards for the last decade or so as well as huge jump in demand for quality Japanese malt. It is no wonder that so many copycats have sprung up that masquerade as Japanese whiskey, while being actually scotch that’s been shipped and then bottled in Japan… Though that’s another story for another day. What we have here, is a No Age Statement (NAS) Single Malt Yoichi whiskey from Nikka distillery, which I can only assume to be at a lower end of the range, as I’ve seen both 15 and 20 year age-stated versions, though I’ll assume those are expensive. Bottled at 45% abv this is a true Japanese malt, distilled, aged and bottled in Japan. Also, it is named after the town of Yoichi where Nikka distillery was founded at and still operates.
Nose is intense malt with some nuts and light wisps of wooden campfire smoke, almost like the clothing would smell after camping but not actual campfire itself. Little more smoke and savory on the palate, balancing nutty maltiness. This is certainly on the lighter side of the wood influence. Razor-edged balance that swings back and forth between light smoke and malt, finally fading into the distance as something in-between as it picks up some light pepper notes. While there is certainly some peat in the malt, it is there for layered flavor instead of prominence. This ends up tasting similar to lightly smoked popcorn or macadamia nuts. The downside of NAS label is unfortunately thin texture of the drink. I find myself comparing this to the others malts in this review and the viscosity of Yoichi is very watery for comparison. I would imagine that older version fix that shortcoming and are well worth trying but without samples of those I’m not in a position to make a judgement. This is enjoyable, tasty and reasonably ‘light’ malt that I can see myself visiting and enjoying occasionally, even if I won’t restock a bottle for home.
Score: B-

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown