Category Archives: Taste of the…

Hibiki 12 Year Old

Hibiki 12 Year Old Blended Japanese Whisky
43% ABV
$65
Available in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

What the Distillery Says:
Malt whiskies matured 12 years or longer are perfectly matched with mellow grain whiskies of the same age to create this HIBIKI offering. Also included is some whisky from casks formerly used in long-term aging of Japanese plum liqueur, which helps bring out the sweet floral notes on the nose and palate that Suntory whisky is known for. Adding venerable malt aged more than 30 years further brings out the bouquet and adds body to the palate. At a turning point marking the 20th anniversary of HIBIKI, this new offering brings together all of Suntory’s whisky making expertise and blending craftsmanship for whisky enthusiasts around the world.

Tasting Notes
Brilliant amber in color. A fruity bouquet, followed by sweet honey and custard cream. On the palate, a soft and mellow sweetness makes this a whisky one can also enjoy straight. A long finish, with subtle tartness and a spicy bouquet.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Perfume and wild flowers with notes of ripe plums and nectarines. Water opens up the nose. I don’t get anything new but everything is more pronounced.
Palate: Not as sweet on the palate as the nose would suggest. There aren’t any flavors that jump out but instead all flow together seamlessly. Not a dram for water, it flattens it out.
Finish: The finish is velvety and leave only hints of the palate. Very clean. Water make the finish all but disappear.
Comments: This is what a blend should taste like. Everything marries very well and plays off each other. This is a very balanced and easy to drink whisky. It’s dangerously easy to drink. This is the kind of whisky you could got through half a bottle and not even realize it until you tried to stand up. I don’t have as much experience with Japanese blends but if they come like this then bring on more!
Rating: Stands out

What Matt Says:
Nose: Bubblegum (more like the flavored fluoride at the dentist’s office than the real thing) and grain spirit (like moonshine).
Palate: Sweet without being too caramel-like, bubbly and viscous, wickedly smooth.  So balanced that individual flavors are hard to define.
Finish: Like oiled silk.
Comments: Water does nothing for or against this whisky.  I love the plum wine influence.  Redefines smooth.  Plus, the packaging is beautiful.  I’m with Richard, more Japanese blends please.
Rating: Stands Out

Overall Rating: Stands Out

Yamazaki 12 Year Old

Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky
43% ABV
$40
Available in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

What the Distillery Says:
This is a medium-bodied whisky with the aromas of dried fruits and honey. It has a delicate, mellow taste with a lingering, woody, dry finish.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Initial agitation brings floral-fruity sweetness. As the whisky settles the nose becomes a little more wooded but still mellow and pleasant. Water seems to dull the nose.
Palate: Very light and aperitif-like initially but the smokiness comes in on the palate before the finish. Crisp and lightly sweet, it is reminiscent of scotch while being something else entirely. Water makes the palate flow more continuously but it also takes out some of the flavors.
Finish: The finish is my least favorite component. It’s a little too oaky and peppery. However, the cure for that is to drink more.
Comments: This was my first foray into Japanese a few years ago. Japanese whisky is a spectacular group that is amazingly diverse and shows great ingenuity. The 12 Year Old is not my favorite but it makes a good transition malt for scotch drinkers.
Rating: Stands out, Best Buy

What Matt Says:
Nose: Green apples, pears, and wild flowers. With water burnt sugar also comes out.
Palate: Warming and viscous, cherry cough drops, German chocolate cake, and oak resin. With water the apples and pears also come out.
Finish: Not too long, not too short. I get more from the sherry influence than expected with rich dark berry flavors.
Comments: This easily stands out against Glenlivet and Glenfiddich 12 and it’s more approachable than Glenmorangie Original.
Rating: Stands Out

Overall Rating: Stands Out

Redbreast 12 Year Old

Redbreast Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey Aged 12 Years
$40 – $50
40% ABV/ 80 Proof
Widely available

What the Distillery Says:
Unique among Whiskeys, Redbreast is a ‘single’, unblended, Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey which has been Triple Distilled and Matured in Oak Casks for not less than Twelve Years. The uncompromising dedication to authenticity and Quality gives Redbreast a traditional smooth Mellow Character and a Taste which is Full Flavored and assertive but over Robust.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Fresh cut grass, wildflowers, orange blossom, citrus zest, and toffee.
Palate: Delicate and flavorful. Modest sweetness that quickly fades to delicate woody notes. Very well balanced and pleasant.
Finish: Smooth and oily with hints of oak and floral sweetness.
Comments: This is Irish whiskey at it’s finest. Redbreast has long been my personal favorite for Irish. It marries triple distillation smoothness with the unique character of pure pot stilled whiskey. This is Irish whiskey in the classic traditional sense and what other Irish should aspire to. On top of all that it is a solid value for any whiskey drinker.
Rating: Must Buy, Great Value

What Matt Says:
Nose: Fresh cut grass, orange zest, caramel, seasoned oak, and vaguely floral notes dominate
Palate: Lightly sweet, woody and grassy. If other whiskeys were cow cheese, this would be goat cheese. There are also some green apple notes. This dram is somehow crisp and soft at the same time.
Finish: Smooth as oiled silk.
Comments: What makes a pure pot still whiskey unique is that the mash bill is created of both malted and unmalted barley. This gives the whiskey a very fresh and lively character. After all these years, this is still my favorite Irish whiskey. I return to it often. When I started drinking Redbreast, it was not available in the US. Now, you can get it just about anywhere. I’m afraid, with the prices in New York ($55 or more), I can’t recommend this as a “Great Value” anymore. That’s not saying that it’s not worth price, just that it’s not a secret steal anymore.
Rating: Must Buy

Overall Rating: Must Buy

William Larue Weller (2008 Release)

William Larue Weller 2008 Release
62.65% ABV/125.3 Proof
$65
Limited availability of annual releases

What the Distillery Says:
The combination of exceptional aging and the use of wheat in the mash bill produce a whiskey with a very mature, rich and exotic aroma. Its flavor has been described as full, evolving and sophisticated, with notes of vanilla, teaberry, and cinnamon.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Without water the nose is difficult to discern due the exceptionally high alcohol content. With water the nose opens up but it is crazy busy. There are so many different things flying through the nose that it’s still hard to nail them down. The nose on this is very pleasant but is very challenging for me. The only things I can isolate are oranges and honey.
Palate: Without water it’s oily and peppery, most likely coming from the alcohol. Vanilla and cinnamon are the first things that come through with a good measure of water added. It’s also kind of grainy. Cinnamon topped oatmeal maybe.
Finish: The finish is dry and woody without water. Much smoother than I would expect from the bottling proof. With water this goes down like butter. Who says bourbon has to burn? It does leave a very oaky aftertaste.
Comments: I really like this bourbon. I think it’s a good example of what wheated bourbon can be. It’s not as smooth at bottling proof as George T. Stagg but with the right water ratio I think it really shines.
Rating: Must Try

What Matt Says:
Nose: Without water, I get palm sugar and orange shellac. With water, it’s like a carnival (without the carny b.o.); cotton candy, candied green apples and fried dough. Really lovely.
Palate: You certainly know it’s high proof. Warming and dry with dark fruits and palm sugar. It’s not as sweet or complex as the nose suggests. There are a lot of cereal notes, like a hot multigrain breakfast cereal.
Finish: Fire and fresh cut oak.
Comments: Perennially the weak spot in the antique collection, this is still a fine whiskey. Be judicious with the water. While this will never be as smooth as George T. Stagg, trying to make it so will kill the flavor long before yo get it down to regular bottle proof (40-45% ABV). This one will always burn you. Just like that carny with the ring toss game.
Rating: Must Try

Overall Rating: Must Try

Penderyn Welsh Whisky

Penderyn Aur Cymru Single Malt Welsh Whisky (March 09)
46% ABV/92 Proof
Around $65
Available in select markets

What the Distillery Says:
At premium strength (46%) Penderyn has an exceptionally balanced taste with an aroma of cream toffee and fleetingly of fresh new leather. Then, as the initial sensations fade, the finishing notes of tropical fruits, raisins and vanilla emerge strongly and are long lasting.

Like Welsh Gold (Aur Cymru) this malt whisky is rare and precious. Handcrafted and Madeira Finished.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Ripe fruits, floral sweetness, aged and polished wooden furniture, and well worn leather. Very brandy-like. Cognac in the 10 to 20 Year Old range more than anything else.
Palate: Macerated orchard fruit but not citrus. It’s more like peaches and apricot but not sweet at all. Vegetal under currents. A good bit of heat and spice that seems to be coming from the youth of the whisky and alcohol more than the inherent flavor profile.
Finish: It leaves the lips numb. More woody on the finish. Those vegetal notes show up more pronounced on the finish than the palate.
Comments: This is definitely an interesting whisky. The nose alone makes it stand out. I love the nose. The palate is pleasant and should develop with some more years on it.
Rating: Stands Out

What Matt Says:
Nose: At the back there is a distinct “whisky-ness” about it (an echo of smoke, caramel and crème brulee that reminds me of Springbank). The predominant scents are more akin to sour fruit candies. When I was in the UK, I got addicted to these Starburst Jellybeans. They were a lot better than the ones we get over here (actual fruit juice and different flavors). The two flavors that really grabbed me were the pink grapefruit and black currant flavors. This smells exactly like those tasted.
Palate: Cantaloupe, barley malt, green wood and sap. More oak than the nose suggests.
Finish: Slight burn with lingering oak.
Comments: This is a very nice dram. Its easy to drink. Its not all that complex, so you can drink a lot of it. It easily holds it’s own with other entry-level drams from the rest of the UK. However, for the price point, I want a little more complexity. I love Wales and there is nothing else like this out there, so I would buy a bottle of it for the novelty. I would drink it all and not necessarily buy another bottle based on this bottling. I’ve enjoyed past bottlings much more and look forward to future bottlings.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average