Monday, May 31, 2021

Aberfeldy, Hibiki, Puny, Balcones, Old Pulteney Minis

A quick run through several of small malt samples I gathered over last few months. They are minis because most are 1 oz rather than 2 oz samples thus my opinions may be somewhat limited due to not having a larger sample base.

Aberfeldy 15, Exceptional (Sherry) Cask, 43%
Aberfeldy is a distillery I’ve wanted to try for a while as their packaging is a very pretty gold letters on black satin colored letterhead, and they’re not too expensive. Well their exceptional cask series is a sherry finished version at a disappointingly low 43% abv with reasonably respectable 15 year old age statement. The nose has solid apple underlay with some sherry on top with perhaps a touch of honey, without the honey sweetness. The palate is woody sherry, not too sweet and quite… watery. More light sherry notes come forth in the aftertaste with a little bit of ex-bourbon spice and wood. Nothing quite exciting, I’m disappointed here. The proof level being this low is an absolute shame as it could have been so much more interesting. At about 50%+ this could have been ‘exceptional’; at 43% it’s mediocre sherry finished malt.
Score: C

Hibiki, Blender’s Choice, 43%
An (inadequate) pseudo replacement for the fantastic 2010s 12 year old, which used Ume wine casks which are rare and hard to get. This is the other (and quite expensive, with MSRP ~$200) option to the Japanese Harmony which is technically is the current replacement to 12 in the core range. Regardless, this Hibiki NAS with (supposedly) higher percentage of sherry in the blend. See my overall Suntory tasting notes for some fine points about Japanese single malt here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210503-204441. Rather alcohol forward on the nose with a lot of malt and spice character with a bit of sherry. It is quite lovely in the sniffly-sniff department. Smooth as silk and practically loaded with pepper and malt flavors. Sherry is surprisingly subdued and only shows up in the very back of the palate to balance out the peppery notes so that they don’t take over. The aftertaste is unfortunately on the shorter side which is a shame after that nose and palate. Blindly, I’d have given this easily a 46% abv; so the blender did a fantastic job here. Well worth having, trying, and drinking at rich friend’s place, though I struggle to recommend this NAS bottling knowing the MSRP. Still, a very flavorful proposition that should please pretty much every scotch drinker except hardened peat-heads.
Score: B

Puni Gold, Italian Whiskey, 43%
Apparently first ever Italian single malt whiskey distilled and aged in Italy. This is a “triple malt” whiskey aged 5 years in ex-bourbon. Distilled from a 100% malted combination of barley, wheat, and rye. Something unique indeed. Apples, pears and a bit of rye spice on the nose. Surprisingly soft and mellow on the palate with more apple and pear flavors but overall the feeling is more subdued vs the nose. With such subtle palate, the aftertaste that lasts a surprisingly long time and is quite tasty though yet again subtle vanilla apple with very small amount of varming spice in the very back. A little mouth-watering and overall rather enjoyable. Buuuuuut… It’s not actually that cheap for the age, with K&L having it on sale for $67 (from $90). One to watch as it needs some more time in the cask to flesh out that palate but the overall profile is enjoyable and seems to be on the right track. Very faint metallic notes float up with repeated sips and it is unfortunately a little too young to be of true interest. Exceptionally good early effort by a young and unique distillery. I would be looking forward to eventual port and sherry casks of this…
Score: B-

Balcones, Lineage Single Malt, 47%
A regular malt release from Balcones Texas distillery. Light cinnamon and malt on the nose. Mellow cream soda, toffee and some candied orange peel on the palate. Musty, slightly wet wood and a little bit of spice on the aftertaste. Fairly long light malt notes. Inoffensive but honestly? Why bother with this when their full proof french oak is so much better. Too young to be interesting, too ‘different’ for scotch drinkers. Reasonably tame American Malt whiskey that is perhaps a gateway into bigger, bolder, more interesting full proof versions from this distillery… But honestly skip it and go straight to the good stuff if you really want Balcones. https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210127-170948 . Considering that MSRP for this is a little over $40… this gets my begrudgingly small nod of approval on the value and would be fantastic @work for it’s easy drinking, mellow, and inoffensive profile while still having a sizeable proof and decent flavor combination.
Score: B-

Old Pulteney 21, 46%
Ex-bourbon and Ex-oloroso maturation. An unfortunately small sample came across my desk with some luck (and perhaps begging). Red berries, spice and alcohol on the nose dominate here, some hints of oloroso varnish do appear too. Luxurious sherry finished profile though drinks much higher than it’s proof. Slightly metallic due to salinity and a bit of peat without too much sherry sweetness to carry peat forward. Extremely complex to say the least. Starts sweet, but immediately becomes slightly salty. The finish is mostly downhill on the flavor scale, Long and malty, slightly metallic and salty but nothing really comes up as whiskey just sort of disappears into the palate. As with most older Islay bottles the aftertaste lasts for a very very long time but this is so subtle it is nearly lost almost immediately, though my mouth continues to salivate for a while due to residue all around. This starts amazing and… fizzles. A very hard one to quantify but frankly I am not enjoying this as much as I was expecting. At ~$170 MSRP this would be a huge disappointment for me on value. A solid malt that’s worth trying but I’m not chasing it down anytime soon.
Score: B

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

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The 300th review… Let’s get fancy! Laddie, Glenfarclas, Glendronach, Highland Park

… And for my next trick… I have some number of reasonably old and fancy samples that I was going to review so may as well do it now to commemorate the occasion.

I’ve been writing down some sort of feedback for whiskey on this site for about two years now with first review published on 2019-01-05 https://www.aerin.or … y:entry190105-080208. One of the below entries will cross the 300th score I’ve given. A number of early reviews doesn’t have actual grades, but instead I’ve retroactively scored them as ‘N/A’ since I wasn’t doing scoring system at the time.

Bruichladdich 23, 1993, Cadenhead SiB, Ex-Bourbon, 48.9%
My experience with Cadenhead bottlings hasn’t been great so far… https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210108-212720 But fingers crossed? Anyways, onto this… Color is white straw… really light even for ex-bourbon and such age. On the other hand, the nose… is luxurious (I’m expecting I’ll be using a lot of ‘luxurious’ in this post overall) vanilla, cereal, malt notes with lots of green apples opening up over time. Not even a whiff of smoke either. The palate got a surprising amount of ‘green wood’, a bunch of apples, vanilla, and surprisingly thin consistency for its age. In the aftertaste some spice finally comes out but it really fades fast and nothing particularly interesting is in there, leaving little bit of woody aftertaste in the mouth. Considering this is a Laddie… it tastes nothing like other Bruichladdich product I’ve ever tried. Really, this is something I’ve have expected out of Old Malt Cask and even then, OMCs of this age have been much more interesting. Yet another Cadenhead’s ‘dud’, IMHO. Oh, it’s prenty tasty and very drinkable but this isn’t anywhere near what I expected it to be based on distillery name. Thin consistency, spiced apple, vanilla and cereal mix this could be anything generic in there. It is certainly enjoyable on the palate but with the distillery and the age this is an awful value/performance ratio. Tough one to score, but settling on ‘purely taste-based’ score, as scarcity and value pushes it easily into C’s. Don’t bother chasing it down; to say that I’m disappointed would be correct. With Cadenhead proclaiming themselves experts at IB’s they can and shoud do much better than that.
https://www.whiskyba … ruichladdich-1993-ca
Score: B-

Glenfarclas 24, K&L SP, 1st fill Oloroso, 50%
1990 vintage. 1st fill oloroso. Something special? Yes indeed! A treat! Nose is just luxurious old wood, slightly sweet and nutty varnish backed by alcohol, baking spices, some stewed fruits. My gosh, I can spend hours with my nose in the glass. It’s that good. The palate… Tobacco and leather in the back; party in the front. Incredibly intense, dark and rich with flavors. Not too sweet, it could be considered just a tad too woody… Yet… So good. Dark bitter caramel and nuts are in play all over together with vanilla and woodyness. Minor nit at the very back of the long aftertaste as it becomes a little bit too charred and woody and it’s really crying out for a just a tiny dollop of sweetness there. It mostly fades with repeated tastes and few drops of water, which are both needed and not necessary depending on the preference. Super delicious nonetheless and for Oloroso fans this is incredible. Not too spicy, not too bitter, not too sweet, yet still amazing overall. Deliciously balanced treat bottled nearly a decade ago from an era of affordable quality that’s long gone by now. This easily matches some of the best from Glendronach on enjoyment.
Score: A+

Highland Park 27, Sherry, 52.6%
No other information provided. Gotta go on guesses. Varnish on the nose suggests oloroso and the color suggests 1st fill. Very intense sherry notes, fruit compote, little bit of sea salt and lots of baking spices. Another one I can spend a long time with my nose stuck in the glass. There seems to be a pattern btw, 20+ year old sherry casks do that to me. Just on the nose alone… Incredible! Creamy consistency on the palate, sherry, woody and spices dominate yet not unbalanced. Perhaps a touch of smoke somewhere in there, but hard to be found under everything and as with a lot of old peated whiskeys the actual peat usually binds to sherry to create more complex molecules rather than staying a dumpster fire, but I digress. Lots of coffee and some leather on the aftertaste, yet again with wood and spices. The overall experience isn’t sweet but stays well balanced. Yet again, lots of wood influences in this one but as would be expected out of sherry single cask with such age. Old, dark, thick, slightly smoky, with the smells of mothballed smokehouse, dusty sherry cask? Yes please! This is extremely complex multi layered experience going on in the glass here. Yet again, I’ll use the uninhabited island analogy on whether or not I’d be left with supply of this there… and the answer is very much a ‘yes’. Complexity and flavor like these don’t come around very often. This also takes few drops of water like a champ and arguably becomes the better for it, with slightly sweeter palate as alcohol takes a step back. An easy score here.
It is unclear if that’s the same bottle, but it’s the only one that matches on Whiskey Base: https://www.whiskyba … ighland-park-1988-ca
Score: A+

Glendronach 26, PX Puncheon #5963, 55%
To cap this lineup… We got my personal favorite distillery Glendronach! The nose screams “Hello PX”, aka stewed fig compote. There’s so much dessert sweetness on the nose. On the palate it’s everything I want. It’s sweet yet woody, bitter yet spicy and balanced. So oaky as to be nearly charry with bbq smoke this evokes some sweeter Texas smoke notes to me, yet totally unpeated. The aftertaste is a bit of a letdown, quite woody sliding from sweet into spicy and slightly charry bitterness. But it lasts a heck of a long time. Short version, this is really really good, but not quite amazing. Unfortunately, it’s got too much wood influence going on in there that’s not quite as balanced as I would have truly preferred. Good? Absolutely, with plenty of wow factor. Amazing overall? Not quite.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/175347
Score: A-

A small retrospective is in order. As evidenced by a number of high grades above… I am a big fan of sherried 20+ year old single casks so my opinions are certainly biased and subjective. Please make up your own mind and palate based on your own preferences, mine are truly my own.

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

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Whistle Pig

To the tune of Baby Shark: “Whistle Pig, doo doo doo doo doo doo”!

Whistle Pig (WP) does almost exclusively rye whiskey so it’s going to be rye rye rye this review. Others did better job at summarizing the distillery in plenty of google-able places… like this one for example: https://www.thespruc … hiskey-review-761532. I’m going to skip re-treading their steps and concentrate on what I got. Also, I’ve had written down a WP sample prior, here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200810-152436 but there must have been something off with that one. Another note to be had is that WP sources their rye either from Canada or US depending on the bottle. I believe most of mine are sourced from Canada though. Also as most reviews below will be for single cask releases the big bold “Single Cask Disclaimer” applies. As a side note, I’m very picky at my rye whiskey choices so my opinion is as always my own.

Whistle Pig 17.5 SiB, K&L SP. Swine Merchants #20201, 56.3%
Well this is a fun start and it comes with a story:

On rare occasions funny things happen in whiskey warehouses. Barrels are overlooked or just never find the right distillery release to be blended in. Maybe they’re too tucked away and never get sampled? It’s not clear what happened to this lot of 4 barrels, but word from the distillery is that they were tagged for the 10 year single barrel program ages ago. Like at least 7 long years ago. Somehow we managed to get a sample lineup of four barrels numbered 20200, 20201, 20209, 20212. They were all filled on the same day from the same batch of distillate - February 28th, 2003. They were rolled away and there they sat. It wasn’t until October 28th, 2020 that they were pulled out to be bottle exclusively for K&L. Officially labeled as the “10 Year Old Single Barrel” these are distillery confirmed distillation and bottle dates but do not appear on the bottle.

So what do we get? Color is dark but it’s not too viscous in the glass, contrary to the expected age. Nose meanders between subdued and overwhelming with alcohol and sweet rye and is rather menthol and eucalyptus forward. The palate is sweet menthol eucalyptus with healthy dollop of wood mixed in. The aftertaste is woody, spicy and not too sweet (or my palate is totally overwhelmed). A bit of water cuts back the bitterness and brings back woody and decently balanced eucalyptus for some relief. Overall I do quite enjoy it, I feel it may be just on the edge of being over-barreled due to the delicate original spirit flavor and blindly I would never guess it to be anywhere near 17 years of age. Is it worth trying? Resounding yes! Is it worth buying? Also probably a ‘yes’, depending on how much one likes or dislikes rye. Though for me a few drops of water will go a long way with it. It won’t break anyone’s mind (or wallet at $90) but it’s a solid value proposition with a reasonably unique offering.
Score: B

Whistle Pig 17.5 SiB, K&L SP. Swine Merchants #20209, 56%
Sister cask to one above. Read the story there. :) Same deal. Nose is roughly same as 201 above too, alcohol, menthol, eucalyptus, wood. Palate feels little bit better balanced and thus slightly more interesting it still meanders between eucalyptus wood, spices, and sweetness. Aftertaste is tiny bit sweeter and less bitter, but… It could be because it’s a freshly opened bottle, or could be better balance in this cask. Provisionally, I prefer this cask a little bit more vs the other one, though they are fairly close to each other. Very much worth trying out though don’t spend money on secondary for it, plenty of other bottles in the sea.
Score: B+

Whistle Pig 14, Single Cask Nation, Rum & Vermouth Finish, 50%
A Single Cask Nation bottle of Whistle Pig rye, finished in Rum and Vermouth casks. Looks like this is MGP rye. Color me excited. https://www.cellartr … ne.asp?iWine=3748358. Nose is rye spice, eucalyptus, some mint, herbs. I can keep my nose in there for quite a while. Amazing complexity of flavors. Wow! Just wow! Sweet fruit followed by herbal ball of flavor followed up by.. more sweet fruit? Aftertaste herbal, sweet, little bit of mgp spice coming through with slight wood notes following up at the very tail-end. Mellow and amazing, though I wish the aftertaste was a touch longer. My only real complaint here is that it really needs to be a 10-15 proof points higher.
Across the board this is straight up amazing stuff. Dessert-like herbal rye? This is up my wheelhouse, surprisingly. But then again… Old Potrero did a solid on me. This joins the very VERY short list of amazing lower proofed stuff that I’d heavily consider shelling out for. Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece being the other one: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201212-193013, and perhaps Shenks 2020. Solid score with a very reluctant minus for shorter aftertaste and lower proof; and I guess price/availability this being a single cask bottling that’s unlikely to be repeated.
Score: A-

Whistle Pig 14, Single Cask Nation, Tokaji Finish, 57.7%
The other face of the two Single Cask Nation Whistle Pig bottles. This one finished in Tokaji wine cask. Tokaji wines are from Hungarian Tokaj region, with large number of them being of a sweet variety. Whether or not this particular bottling was in sweet or dry wine casks is unknown to me. Nose is *very* oak and rye forward. Somewhat reminds me of Masterson’s Hungarian Oak finished rye. Some alcohol, really pleasant overall though with oak, rye, and alcohol balancing each other. Palate, oh boy this is rye and red wine. Quite drying on the palate the red berries and european red orchard fruits are quite prominent. Blackberries, currants, cherries, plums, what a mouthful of flavor!!! In the long aftertaste some rye comes forward but the red wine and oak mostly dominates here. Yet again well balanced and really enjoyable making me want more. Now… To grade this is difficult… since one really much like red wine AND rye to truly enjoy it. Overall I do like it but it’s not what I would have expected out of a rye bottling, similarly to the one above. The two bottlings couldn’t be more different in their flavors, yet staying together like different sides of the same coin. Thoroughly enjoyable overall.
Score: A-

Whistle Pig 15, Bitters & Bottles Pick, 114.9 proof
Super quick blurb since I lost my previous ramblings by forgetting to save. Plenty of pine resin and rye notes come forward on the nose and palate. Aftertaste gets more mint, sweetness, rye and yet again pine. Delicious, full of flavor and quite balanced. I like this particular bottle overall. It does go slightly bitter in the glass after sitting open for a while. I wish it didn’t; thus a minus.
Score: B+

Whistle Pig 13, K&L Pick, 59.2%
A 13 year WP single cask… I wonder how it compares to the others… Rye and light dill on the nose that’s a little bit alcohol forward. Personally, the nose isn’t too well balanced so far. That palate is very alcohol forward, though once the alcohol fades the flavors are reasonably tasty and balanced. Creamy mouthfeel with sugar, rye bread and some more dill, but oooh that first sip is rough. Slight lack of secondary flavors on the palate is noticeable, especially once the aftertaste starts coming up in a wave and that middle dip is very obvious. I really like the aftertaste on this one with more warming alcohol, rye, dill and vanilla caramel. Light sweet mint in the back of the throat lasts for a while too. Wood is felt throughout, but doesn’t overwhelm as may be the case with the 17’s above. Overall… for a rye drinker I think this would be quite incredible cask proof. For me… It’s okay drinker, I’m not wow’ed nor am I offended. Water cuts the alcohol somewhat allowing other flavors to shine. Praise where praise is due… It doesn’t evoke the wow factor from me , yet this is one of the better light regular rye whiskeys I’ve had. Considering that I highly prefer malted or finished ryes for my own palate that’s really high praise. Essentially this is great example of what light rye should be. Well worth having for a rye-loving drinker, or trying for a general whiskey drinker, if one can find this… Considering this is long gone… Good luck.
Score: B+

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

Friday, May 7, 2021

Royal Brackla 11 , Mortlach 13 (ex-bourbon), Glenfiddich 23, Redbreast SB, Amrut 6

Another day, another entry of the endless review cycle.

Royal Brackla 2007, 11 years old. Signatory Vintage, 43%
A bottle I picked up on a whim from a liquor store. This is a Signatory Vintage line of bottling from Royal Brackla highland distillery. Distilled in 2007 and bottled in 2019 this is nearly 12 years old (while the box says 11). Single cask refill sherry butt. Color is super dark, so dark that it doesn’t feel like a refill but a first fill instead. Nose is oloroso sherry with varnish, earthy musky notes, some cloves perhaps. The palate is very much lightly smoked dried plums with number of other dark fruit compote little woody and not too sweet bordering on well toasted bitterness. Aftertaste is drying leather, some tobacco, more spices. Fans of leathery non-sweet sherry bombs need to apply. An interesting proposition to be sure. My primary problems with it is reasonably low proof and somewhat of a lack of flavors outside of sherry cask. If you wanted to know what’s it would feel like licking a sherry and whiskey soaked piece of charcoal… you can taste it right here. Also, I am mostly enjoying it, soooooo… It’s worth trying being somewhat of a rarity of a dry sherry bomb profile…
Score: B-

Mortlach 13, Hepburn’s Choice, 54.5%
Another Hepburn’s Choice spooned Single cask distilled in 2007. This one is called “Below Bhainidh”. The other nickname for Mortlach is “The beast of Dufftown”, a Speyside scotch aged in a refill hogshead. I’ll leave note here, that most Mortlachs are sherry-aged or got some sherry in them at least, so this younger refill bourbon cask definitely has little to hide in there. The nose is intense, vanilla, some alcohol, apples and *-berry notes. Honestly, a little overwhelmingly strong. Palate is quite a concentrated ball of malt, vanilla and spices, though not too sweet. Aftertaste is more spices and vanilla with cereal grains. That spice really goes through the entire experience. Water is highly recommended with it. Dark rich flavors come out with water in so much that they can in something the color of pale straw but I actually enjoy with water quite a bit. Bitter Dark chocolate and toasted nuts. Tasted blindly I would guess some sort of a much darker-colored liquid with first fill something in there. Water is strongly advised as it goes from workable but ‘typical’ to ‘very interesting’. With the price there’s no question about value though I’ll personally not going to be buying another bottle, as one is plenty for me. This would please those looking for a spicy, flavorful malt without any sherry in it, but it’s also not the easiest one to drink either due to sheer amount of spiciness in the glass.
Score: C+ (B /w Water)

Glenfiddich 23, Hepburn’s Choice, 53.8%
Hepburn’s Choice spooned single cask distilled in 1997 called Hector Macbeth. Notably, in refill sherry butt. Nose is perfumed orange zest/oil. Deeply nutty, slightly sweet yet well balanced vs spice palate. Aftertaste sees, spices fall off quickly in sherry like sweetness then come back once sweetness fades for a long and very pleasant finish. Lots of orange infusion on the palate too like a spiced orange zest pie. Overall fantastic stuff. Water makes it slightly spicier and woodier though cutting back on the sweet balance. I really like it as it’s right up my wheelhouse. So much that I got another bottle of it. A very minor downside of this overall great bottling are slightly metallic notes present in the background, though that may be the oranges. Not too sweet, not too bitter, not too sherried. It’s great and delicious.
Score: A-

Redbreast Small Batch. early 2021, 58%
One of the tree very slightly different Redbreast Small Batch series from early 2021 is here. I don’t have info which batch it is though. An Irish whiskey too. Boy this one is strong on vanilla and alcohol notes on the nose. Interestingly, smells more like a grain whiskey than malt. Onto the palate… It’s hot, and seems like a mix between malt and grain whiskey with bunch of different casks in the mix. Which I suspect it really is that a blend of grain and malt whiskeys from different casks. Little hot on the palate, high vanilla, and bit of wood notes, quite sweet. Aftertaste is mostly cooling off from the high that is the palate, this is really reminding me of whiskey version of vanilla extract with some wood involved. Takes water like a champ, being 58% abv to start with, with darker woodier notes coming to the fore after alcohol becomes little less fiery. Well worth trying, especially for those that enjoy irish and sweet whiskeys. I can certainly see myself enjoying this, though perhaps not an entire bottle of it. It’s dessert-like (nearly too much) sweet and slightly spicy, grainy-malty goodness.
Score: B-

Amrut 6, Oloroso, Chris Hart Private Bottling. 60%
Rounding off this review cycle is a Chris Hart special bottling of ex-Oloroso-sherry aged Amrut from India aged 6 years. This is a sample from a private bottling so I’m expecting it to be quite unique. The nose is quite unapologetically wanders between sherry, some metal notes, and alcohol and is quite prominent. The palate is nutty, full of oloroso sherry and nearly overwhelming with alcohol. It starts sweet and then switches to being woody/tannic and spicy nearly to the point of being bitter. Aftertaste is reasonably pleasant and long with drying bitterness, spices and nuts as well as a little bit of sweetness from the sherry. With water, this becomes slightly more drinkable but the balance of sweet/sherry/bitter stays for the most part. I guess if one likes that woody/sweet almost bourbon-like combination this may be a single malt for you. Honestly I’m not finding much ‘malt’ in it for myself. It may as well be oloroso finished bourbon or a rum if tasted blindly, actually I can totally see this being a Foursquare rum product if I didn’t know better.
Score: B

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

Monday, May 3, 2021

House of Suntory Tasting

I’ve touched on Japanese whiskey before this write up here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201226-170937… And most of the facts stay true. Few interesting factoids did come out of this Suntory tasting.

  • Japanese distill their grain alcohol from corn instead of wheat due to price reasons. Very very old grain may still be wheat but it’s been corn since 1970s or so
  • Japanese distilleries do NOT trade with each other. Frankly they hate each other. It’s complicated and also very Japanese.
  • To make any kind of purely Japanese blend, any distillery needs to distill every kind and type of cask and flavor themselves.
  • Any Japanese blended whiskey components are produced by the same company, see above.
  • Not all Japanese whiskey is Japanese due to lax regulations. This will be changing soon due to 2021 agreements.
  • Hibiki 12 is gone forever due to Ume casks used. Hibiki Blender’s Choice is a good substitute being sherry and bourbon casks.

Chita Heavy Grain, 43%
Very corny, since distilled from corn. Somewhat available as a travel shop exclusive. Though Chita 12 is much MUCH better but not available in US.
Nose: Alcohol forward as expected of young-ish grain.
Palate: Initial tiny lick brought ice-cream like palate experience. Light but sweet vanilla. Creme brulee custard. Creme soda! Thin mouthfeel, it wants to be gone rather than to stick around.
Aftertaste: More vanilla up and down. Surprisingly long-lasting aftertaste. Almost like thin vanilla extract. No negatives here but also almost too sweet and not even remotely complicated. Just a vanilla creamer in a whiskey form.
Score: D

Hakushu White Oak Cask, 43%
This is not a regular release but something closer to a limited run few years back. The regular is much more peated!!!
Nose: Here comes the malt! Spicy malty oaky (vanilla), somewhat woody, goodness! So much orchard fruits, nearly overwhelming. Green apples for days. Pears, green peach, melons.
Palate: Almost a letdown after the glorious nose. Very slightly peated in the back with the residual still or cask smoke, this is a quite tasty ex-bourbon malt. Most of the notes from the nose apply as well as solid woody spicy core, again in the style of refill-refill casks. Old malt cask series comes to mind here.
Aftertaste: Somewhat reasonable old malt cask malt. The white pepper in the very back is welcome and overall this is very pleasant, though somewhat young and super mellow. The outstanding quality here is the nose. Saying frankly, it’s ‘boring’ in a same way that a clean canvas is even if this is a high quality blank. I would be okay drinking it, yet it offers nearly nothing of interest.
Score: C+

Yamazaki Spanish Oak Cask (Sherry Cask), 43%
… Yes the ~$5k bottle. … le+malt+whisky+japan. Named Best in the World by the Whiskey Bible few years back the price of this bottling have skyrocketed since. Is it worth anywhere near $5000? Not at all. Will someone with more money than brains pay it? Yes. Is the supply smaller than the number of folks willing to pay the price? Likely.
A unique note, and a very Japanese specific. The casks for this are specially selected and commissioned in Spain by the master blender in person by picking specific trees they want to make into casks.
Nose: Very gentle oloroso sherry. This isn’t varnish. This is super delicate varnish for royal halls. Dark stewed fruits, baked apples, nuts for days, notably not sweet. Sign me up for having my nose in this forever if I can.
Palate: Still not sweet, perfectly balanced. Slightly smoky, perhaps just from sherry. More nuts, fruits and malt in the mix. Little bit of dark leather and dry wood come up in the secondary flavors and there are plenty of layers and layers here.
Aftertaste: More sherry, gently fading from the palate. Yet again balanced to perfection and lasts for quite a while with bit of tannin nuttiness (walnuts) lingering.
Overall: I feel like i should put my thoughts down as a separate line. This is hands down excellent, yet I don’t love it. I think Glendronach 25+ is easily as good if not better, at 10x less in price and fairly easily available comparably. Yes this is good, yet the low proof is a major downside and for my tastes it could do with being a tiny bit sweeter to balance. Price and availability isn’t even worth mentioning here… actually these are just sitting on the shelves because of the over-inflated valuation. Consider a heavy ‘buyer beware’ disclaimer here. Will I drink this? Yes, anytime and any day! Will I pay for it? Not in any foreseeable situation!
Score: A

Toki, 43%
A blend of the above in some sort of proportion. Mostly the Chita grain and Hakushu oak. Used a lot in highball drinks.
Nose: Green pears and apples from the orchard
Palate: Mint and green apples. Quite light and refreshing. Slight sweetness in the secondary flavors that are subtle yet complex.
Aftertaste: Enjoyable but really missing that maltiness. More mint and perhaps some garden herbs showing up. Little bit of wood and spice at the tail-end with a whisper of smoke lingering. A well-crafted blend with nothing outstanding and clearly aimed at highballs rather than neat. Still, quite drinkable as a summer drink without regrets if choices are limited.
Score: C+

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