September 2010 Archives

BotB - Round 1, Part 1

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Match 1

JBvsBallantines.JPG    

Vote 5-2: Winner J&B

Though J&B carried the day, it's number one seeding doesn't seem like it will stand the tests ahead. The clear expectation was that Ballantine's would be unanimously trounced under the weight of the heavy favorite and it simply didn't hold true.

The nose on J&B snapped our heads back, the most pleasing element being a stiff peaty musk, while Ballantines sported a less offensive, but even less definable nose. J&B's palate held some harshness, saved by sweet and sour tones, and the peat drives it home through the brief finish. Ballantine's showed glimmers of promise with hints of cocoa and sherry, but ultimately fell short on finding a true character of its own. With its muddled, somewhat acidic and hot alcoholic taste, Ballantine's failed to impress and it showed at the polls.

In the end, those who voted for J&B agreed that it was the easier whisky to come back to after the first sip.

 

Match 2

 CattosvsGrMacnish.JPG

Vote 6-1: Winner Grand MacNish

Each had a harsh nose, with Catto's chemical scent overpowering the expected scents; a hint of nuttiness is drowned out by a varnish remover or solvent quality. The Grand Macnish, with its slightly more complex nose with hints of wood provided a better bouquet, although a touch of chlorine & sour citrus were hard on the nostrils. On the palate, the Grand Macnish was sweet and hot, which was amplified by notes of coarsely ground pepper that quickly dissolved into the finish. Catto's was characterized by lingering heat, sweet synthetic cherry leading to an unpleasant "grapey" taste before ending with a seemingly "tacked-on"cherry/cocoa finish. At the end of the battle, we found that the Catto's unpleasant nose & finish were too much to handle, leading Grand Macnish to the easy win.

Last night Matt and I paid a long overdue visit to our mutual friend Jer who, having recently returned from Japan, kindly invited us to taste a Suntory sample kit containing the Yamazaki 12 yr single malt and the blended Hibiki 17yr. 

We decided to try the Yamazaki 12 first, neat of course, before moving on to the Hibiki 17.

yamazaki12y_exp.jpgNose: All three of us were struck by the strong medicinal aroma backed by a perfume-y synthetic cherry smell. Buried beneath the cherry was the distinctive smell of old musty wood.

Palate: Dry, light-bodied, hot, with a focused cherry dominating the woody palate which seemed to race to the finish. 

Finish: Persistant heat eventually setting into amaretto sweetness.

Overall: A splash of water helps to dampen the heat although it tends to flatten out some of the liveliness of the palate. However, water did make it more enjoyable to nose. 

An interesting dram which led us to ponder the maturation process of the Yamazaki. Turns out that it's exposed to American, Spanish and Japanese oak which may account for both the floral/woody aspects and that unique cherry/amaretto dimension. It was nice to try, however I wouldn't actively seek it out. Perhaps it may shine with an appropriate food pairing. 

Next up we tried the Hibiki 17yr, a 2009 Gold Medal Winner and 2010 Silver Medal Winner at the International Spirits Challenge. All three of us were surprised at the high quality of this blended whiskey.

hibiki17.jpg

Nose: An enchanting and complex bouquet of citrus zest, cocoa, spice box, candied fruits, amaretto, and floral notes.

Palate: Highly aromatic and brief. Upon sipping, a spectre of vanilla emerges before giving way almost immediately to cocoa, orange zest, and nutty sherry wood.

Finish: Brief, dry and pleasant. An intriguing hint of amaretto and cocoa reveal themselves in the gentle finish.

Overall: No water needed here at all. In fact, a splash ruined the aromatic complexity of the blend. The nose is tremendous and I would highly recommend sampling this offering from Suntory. A terrific blend of flavour and aromas leading to an "eminently quaffable" dram! 

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