Friday, November 13, 2015

Vive la France!


Going to enjoy some Cognac this evening in honor of our French brothers and sisters...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Springbank 19 Year Single Cask: Whisky Live Tokyo 2015 Exclusive Bottling

This one was a bit pricey at around $250 US, but being a lover of Cask Strength Springbanks, and having heard very good things about this one, I decided to pick up what was likely the last available bottle. Remember, though, I buy these bottles for my pub, so I can usually at least make my money back on them; I would be a bit more discerning if they were for my private collection.

Facts

Name: Springbank 19 Single Cask (Whisky Live Tokyo 2015 Exclusive)
Outturn: 390 bottles
ABV: 55.9%
Distilled: May 1995
Bottled: April 2015
Cask: Refill Sherry

Appearance:
Honey amber

Nose:
Unusually soft for a Springbank, oaky, sandalwood, tobacco and leather, slightly sweet, musty air of a room closed off for months, missing the buttery peat.

Palate:
Instant impact, sweet and numbing, cinnamon, bitter chocolate, lemons and grapes.

Finish:
Longish, pleasing warmth and slightly smoky, mouth-coating chocolate sweetness, dried fruits.

Conclusion: Love everything but the nose. It's a bit too weak for me, and I'm afraid my knowledge is too minimal to explain why this whisky turned out this way. My only guess is that it has something to do with this one being a single-cask whisky; not having been blended with other Springbanks, it's likely that this one is an outlier in the collection of all Springbank whiskies, falling far away from the average.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Always Searching for CS Springbanks

If there's any one whisky maker I love over all others, at least at this point in my whisky experience, it's definitely Springbank. I particularly have a thing for their 12-Year Cask Strength expression.

In Tokyo, you can always get your hands on a bottle of 10, 15, and 18-Year aged Springbanks, but the 12-Year, being produced in quite limited quantities every year, tends to be elusive. There are even a few bottles of the 2015 version of the 21-year-old expression and a 25-year old from 2014 floating around, but I spent half of this year dreading the day when a customer at the bar ordered the last shot in the only bottle of 12-Year C.S. I had. And, two weeks ago, the bottle finally got down to its last dram. Knowing I was unlikely to get a replacement bottle to avoid completely running out, my heart grew heavy. However, I resolved to visit the only bottle shop in town I knew of that had gotten in any Springbank 12 this year.

Imagine my relief (and surprise) when I got there and saw not only two bottles of 12-Year C.S., but also two bottles of a Springbank I'd never seen before, Vintage 1997. A quick online check (we live in an amazing age, I tells ya - smartphones aren't just for zombies) and I knew I had to have those bottles. And, to make the whole discovery even sweeter, they were selling for the same price they had sold at when they hit the market seven years ago, which is about half of what they go for online, being out-of-production bottles. The shopkeeper said they had been languishing on the shelves of one of their stores in a rural area, and since they hadn't sold, they were shipped back to Tokyo. And, I was Johnny on the Spot that day...

Facts

Name: Springbank Vintage 1997, Batch No. 2
Bottled in: 2008
Age: 10 years
ABV: 54. 9%

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Deep, dark-honey gold.

Nose:
A whiff of smoke, charred oak, leather, honey, tobacco, classic Springbank, tires on hot asphalt, a little coastal tang, peat comes out after a few minutes.

Palate:
Big delivery, sweet and stinging, bitter and slightly astringent (in a pleasing way), enveloping, chocolate marshmallow smoke, orange peel, buttery, but not as much as Springbank 12 CS. Lovely!!

Finish:
Long, big warmth, spices and creamy bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Though the nose is a bit different than other Springbank expressions, less buttery baby vomit and a bit smokier, the full-bodied flavor made such a huge impact on me that I went back to the store the next day and bought the only remaining bottle.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I picked up the 12-Year C.S. expression too, and got a surprise with that one as well; it was shipped back to Tokyo along with the Vintage 1997 and wasn't the 2015 version as I had been thinking, but actually the 2011 version, which was bottled at 55.3% (The 2015 version was bottled at 53.2%).

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

No Phoenix From the Ashes


The Nikka Shock earlier this year left those of us who had received early word of the impending death of Miyagikyo and Yoichi aged single malts scrambling for any of the remaining available bottles we could get our greedy hands on. By August 1st, a full month before the announced final shipment from the distilleries to stores, there wasn't even a hope of finding any of these gems left.

On September 1st, the prices of Taketsuru 17 and 21 were nearly doubled and Nikka had released their new NAS versions of Miyagikyo and Yoichi. During summer vacation, I found an original NAS Yoichi at a 7-11 in a rural area. These NAS Nikka whiskies were the only Nikka single malts you were ever going to find at a convenience store, and as long as the aged versions were available for stupid-cheap prices, what whisky lover was going to fork over 2000 yen for a 500-ml bottle of NAS Yoichi when a 700-ml bottle of 10-Year Yoichi could still be gotten for around 4000 yen? But now, even those original NAS bottles are collectors items.

Made more so by the fact that the new NAS Miyagikyo and Yoichi expressions, selling for around 4000 yen as of this writing, are absolute shit. I always say that there are no bad whiskies, just ones I won't dance with again, but in this case I'm willing to say that someone needs to be killed for this insult to humanity.

Summary: New NAS Miyagikyo and Yoichi single malts from Nikka are as awful as a malt going for their price can get. The old NAS Yoichi single malt usually found at convenience stores that we used to ignore is a huge step up from these new NAS malt offerings.