Nose: A crunch sugared note is the first I notice, think sugared martini glasses and Hubba Bubba strawberry gum, it’s mouth-wateringly sweet, made sweeter still by notes of orange sherbet and fresh satsumas, tinned peaches and dried apricots and fresh cantaloupe melons. There are effervescent notes being carried to the fore with lots of lime zest. The fruitiness of the nose just swirls round and round, the fruits ducking and diving taking centre stage before being rudely pushed aside. Given a little while longer, there is a waxiness, akin to crayons held in the pudgy, warm, chocolate coated hands of a small child, waxy, yet still sweet. Given yet more time still those crayons become more grown up, it’s less crayon wax and now definitively beeswax being rubbed into an antique pine dresser. As this still continues to open up in the glass the orange notes return but softer this time, more orange water and orange barley sugars. There is a delicious fudge like quality to it, artisan fudge drizzled in white chocolate, creamy and sweet. There’s a rich vanilla note, think Farley’s rusks dipped into warm milk, comforting and inviting, the familiarity of childhood scents drawing you in, demanding you take a sip.
Palate: There is an initial rush of sweetness that the nose suggested, the orange note breaks away from the more gentle, soft, orange barley sugars becomes more concentrated and astringent, comparable more to a chewable vitamin C tablet or drinking the dregs of a Berocca tablet. It’s tangy and sour. There is drying bitterness rushing on the to the tongue and instantly taking away any hint of the tangy, zesty orange. The interplay between the oak and the spirit has imparted a heavy touch of wood spice, both dusty and brittle, evoking memories of Autumn forest walks with fallen oak trees littering the forest floor like sleeping giants. There is a savoury note on the palate in complete contrast to the fruity gentleness of the nose. Think Cajun spice rub, heavy on the mace, rubbed into well aged steaks cooked on a hot griddle pan over a fire of charred, dry, old oak branches. Occasionally, through the abundance of rich, dark wood spices, and prickly cracked black and green peppercorn heat there are fleeting hints of sun ripened orchards, with ripening apples and fruit laden pear trees. The scent of honeysuckle and pollen heavy in the air, with fluffy bumblebees buzzing lazily around the flowering fruit trees. This gives this rather rich, bitter dram a much-welcomed lift.
Finish: Long, very, very long indeed. Initially starting out very dry, with all of the damp oak notes, and heat from mace, cracked black and green peppercorns and savoury steak rub which featured so prominently on the palate, however as these notes start to slowly recede the orchard fruits, quietly and subtly appear bringing an much needed influx of sweetness before fading out leaving a creamy yet spicy mouthfeel to the very end.
Conclusion: This is a very interesting whisky indeed. One that you just cannot figure out. The nose is so very different to the palate, a complete opposite if you will. This demands you spend time on it, almost as though it were a small child shouting continually to its parents to watch it. One of the great qualities about whisky, for me, is just how different they can be, not just to one another, but also from person to person. Notes that I may love, you may hate, or vice versa. Some whiskies are gentle, soft, a crowd pleaser, others come along and are decisive, like Marmite, you may love it or you may hate it but you are never going to describe it as merely ok.
This, I feel, is going to be one of those expression. This will divide opinion, split households, split families and have you fighting to the death….too far? Ok, it may not be quite that decisive, but this is definitely the dram that gets you talking. If you love this, then you will love it entirely. If it is not for you, then it does not matter how much someone may extol the virtues of the cask interplay, or of how much this expression show cases the excellent cask used, it will quite simply not be for you. There will also be those who can appreciate the difference, the complexity and enjoy the surprise of a palate and nose, that are just so different. That is where I sit.
I absolutely adored the nose, I could nose this for hours, it is everything I think of, when I think pot still whisky. There is a gentle sweetness, the orchard fruits abound, the peaches and honeysuckle are mouth wateringly inviting. There are creamy fudge notes, white chocolate and that delicious waxiness. I could not wait to dive into this. The I hit the palate, and I was so surprised, where oh where were those fruits I was so looking forward to, where had the waxiness gone? Left in its wake was oak. Lots of rich, dark, damp, brooding oak. Without a doubt this highlights outstanding casks, but for me there was just a little too much cask influence, a touch too much spice. The fruits from the nose do make themselves known, however it is very fleeting, it no less pleasant, and does raise the dram a little, but not quite enough for my personal taste. Then we move on to the finish and it is so very long, its spicy yet toned down a little. The heat becomes more akin to a sweet chilli jam and the wood spice is muted somewhat. The orchard fruits come back and are juicy and sweet, its cheek coating velveteen in its softness as it tails off. Quite simply the finish is delicious.
So, there you have it, a real dram of two halves. There are elements I really enjoyed and ones that are not as much to my palate. It is a grown up, complex, complete Chameleon of a whiskey and that makes it interesting.
Love it or hate it, its really will have you talking. It is one you will want to give to all your friends to try to see what they think and to start the debate. For those reasons alone it really is one you will want to try. Find out whether or not it is the dram for you, or one you are not so sure on. There are some really spectacular casks married together, and Brian Nation has left a curio of a whiskey as his parting gift.
Give it a go, you will find something along the journey that you really love, and it will be a whiskey that you remember for quite some time.
Available from select retailers priced at approx. €180