Hakushu 12yr

So writing a weekly weekly blog is more than a past time. This new transition is an adventure and a growing passion for flavours and experiences. I have been blessed with a pretty solid starter pack…imagethat varies from light and smooth to deep and peaty smoky. This stock pile has reached it’s nadir.

This post is brought to you by a kind and thoughtful reader, and again this review is a reprisal from the tasting from 2 weeks ago.

So let’s give this tipple it’s due.

Hakushu 12yr, a Suntory staple; represents a different offering from your average Japanese whisky. It seems to try to embody a narrative that is more akin to the Islay island scotches. Straight off  the bat the perfume that hits the nose is loaded with evergreen and sliced apples. The back end reveals a citrusy medicinal quality.

Once on the palate the Japanese style hems through…It’s a clear dram; notes develop imageclearly independent of each other. The medicinal citrusy notes start on the front of the palate with the body coming from the oak barrel. And on the first sip this seems to be the whole story however with subsequent tastes a clear hidden taste of smokiness reveals itself, but only as long as it lingers in the mouth. The mouthfeel is complimented with a clear film that dissipates once you swallow.

The finish is lacking staying power. It’s there and then it’s gone. But it’s enough to warrant going back for more.

Maintaining this weekly production is a pleasure, however the well is starting to run dry. So when my friend said she would drop of a bottle so that is could get another chance to better make observations I thought it would be a dram on the go. Instead:

an interesting option, certainly more economical option, also it’s really cute.

Sainte mhath

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Balvinie Single Barrel First Fill 12yr

imageBalvinie Single Barrel First Fill second look. Although I have previously mentioned this particular bottle before however I did not give it the time and description it deserves. So I took the time to delve into this expression.

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Things to note about this expression, the specifications written on the bottle: single barrel  first fill refer to fact that this is a small batch production. Meaning. Each bottle is taken from a single cask (approx 250-300 bottles per cask) and numbered by hand this is cask 5821bottle #44.

 

The second thing to note on the bottle is “first fill”, and this has a major influence on the taste. Balvinie and many other distillers use ex-bourbon barrels to imbue additional complexity to the nose and palate. This practice adds the strong fruitiness, corn sugars, and eventual vanilla and caramel layers [Aside: as I write my blogs in a Starbucks it strikes me that describing whisky could be mistaken for ordering a really pretentious macchiato]. And because it’s a first fill this batch benefits from all the transition of purpose from ex-bourbon cask to whisky.

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The nose springs to step with a lively evergreen freshness, and the more you dig your nose into it the more it develops additional hues. Moments of crisp granny smith apple and mellow vanilla languish around and urge you to get on with it and taste.

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The palate tingles as you sip the dram, and that’s because there is a solid 47.8%ABV behind it. As it mellows on your tongue the spicy tingle rolls over to honey sweet and a creamy mouthfeel. Left long enough on the palate and notes of the apple return with a vanilla denouement.

The finish is long and sweet trailing along with notes of the vanilla whispering to take another dram.

This is a great bottle that takes a time to develop when tasting, the patience is rewarded with those added complexities. The oak presence is there but really it’s just a supporting character to the other party guests. The first fill is a young tasting whisky, but reveals a real drinkable journey.

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Slainte Mhath

Saturday Night Tasting

(A quick aside for this post, I will not be giving full tasting notes on the bottles sampled. This is in part because the evening was such a social success,that as much as I tried, I could not break away from the conversation and picture taking…That being said,please enjoy my musings on hosting my first tasting)

 

Hosting my first tasting was a wonderful endeavor not however without trepidation. Things to consider when you will be hosting, that are not initially about the expressions. Things that go with whisky,well food is the obvious and tasty answer. But what kind of food is appropriate and conducive to compliment the star of the night.

 

I chose to make a flank steak with a cinnamon and cocoa rub; slow cooked for an hour and a half, making almost a brisket. The rub was meant as a compliment and highlight to the flavours of the Scotch, the sides were a mushroom medley and lightly salted rice balls. In addition my guests brought prosciutto and and brie. All this food had relatively light flavour profile. The idea behind the food to is to compliment not overpower the Scotch /whisky.

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The next thing to consider and really is the function of the night…what should I chose as  a good Scotch and the answer is is simple, there is no bad Scotch. But it helps to have a theme; geographic,flavour profile, age statement etc.

For this tasting I chose a “light” flavour profile; Balvinie Single barrel first fill 12 yr, Glenmorangie 18yr, Aberfeldy 12 yr.  All relatively mild and delicious.  My guests brought with them : Hakushu 12 yr, a Nikka and a Glenlivet 12 yr. All around more than enough whisky for the night. The Japanesse whisky was a good compliment to my offerings.Wisky_tasting-125

So we were set. We had our food, whisky, glasses and a passion for taking pictures of food and drink. We plated, poured and instagramed. The tasting was on.

We stWisky_tasting-113arted with what I thought would be the lightest fare, the Balvinie Single Barrel First Fill. It presented as a light but complex first tasting, with our paletes fresh people starting proclaiming their results. Some found it plain and unremarkable, lacking a boldness they found in there particular favorite. I tried to delve deeper into its profile and was able to pick up on an early evergreen note in the nose that mellowed to a honey oak in the palate, and left with a long finish.

Quietly the attention shifted from the tasting to the picture taking and this was a great way to give time to wash out the tasting glasses and ready them for the next expression.

The Hakushu 12yr was a new bottle to me and I was looking forward to it giving it the time give it a caring evaluation. The nose was a classic fresh and floral Japanese crispness with a hint of smokiness that was pointed out to me by the owner of the of the bottle; and indeed that hint of smokiness was something that I had glossed over.  This is the fuimagen part of tasting with others, you’re exposed to other people’s palate as well. As I tried to concentrate on the finish of this whisky the attention in the room moved to how best backlight the a bottle that was being shot, the answer two cell phone flashlights. In the interim a small dram of the Nikka Taketsuru was poured while the photography continued. We simply enjoyed the Nikka and I did not take any notes (sorry).

At this point we were arriving at our fourth dram and attention fatigue was setting in. Ideas for pictures were flattening and palates were starting to be over-saturated by Wisky_tasting-150similarity and it was getting late in the evening, So finally we poured the the Glenlivet 12yr and to my surprise it had a strong balanced presence, matching smoothness with an assertive mouthfeel. I stood up to the long night of tasting and to me deserves a revisit. As did the others  but thanks to the primary/recency effect this is what stood out in my mind these days latter as I write (hence, always take notes).

The tasting was a resounding social success, whisky was had, people had new experiences, conversations and photography were had.

I can’t thank my friends enough for their participation in my first tasting. I have learnt much and hope to do this again. I might change a few things but not the spirit of the night. That we got spot on.

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-I don’t offer a master class, I’m just a friend that like whisky maybe a little more than you-

 

Slainte Mhath