After our rather interesting evening exploring Rampur from India, Royal Lochnagar 12 year and the remarkable aged grain Girvan 28 year…. we had an opportunity to pick anything from our hosts floor to ceiling whisky cupboard…
Nose – Cheese, lemon miringue pie, light peaches or crisp apples, simple
Palate – Exceedingly smooth, very drinkable, think custard, hint of ginger, light citrus, fresh and clean
Finish – Short, sweet, a little spicy, simple yet pleasing
Our immediate reaction is this would pair well with a cheese and fruit platter – think a nice range of old cheddar and applies. Or desert – something light not heavy. Or even an arugula salad with blue cheese and caramel walnuts.
I brought the glass with us for the dinner… our desert was a baked lagan nu custard. And the Toki paired with it? perfection! Just the right interplay between the different elements and an ideal way to close the evening.
Another from the tasting archives… this time from Sept 2011. Rediscovering these notes brought a flood memories of my previous Mumbai flat… that had a fabulous cabinet in which all my whisky was stashed… now replaced in our current home by a larger storage space waaaaay up high in our kitchen pantry.
We broke with tradition and merrily abandoned all pretense of blind tastings… instead settled down for a sampling of various bottles. It became a popularity contest between different regions and geographies as small pegs of multiple whiskies were sniffed, swirled, swallowed, savoured and yes – much discussed!
Speyside‘s dominated the evening with:
Aberlour’s cask strengthAbu’nadh batch 32 (sampled earlier) and batch 31 were compared. Batch 31 was a clear winner and a hit of the evening! Bold yet with an extraordinary warm finish… with layers to discover and enjoy.
Aberlour 10 year held its own with slight smokiness and butter, however was overshadowed by it’s cask strength cousin.
Once upon a time, the Hakushu 18 year was a favourite – an excellent example of exquisite balance with complexity and a touch of smoke to make it interesting. Then the price rose to ridiculous levels and availability went from challenging to near impossible.
With our original group, we taste blind, so our experience is influenced only by our reactions not any other element… hence we had no clue we were about to experience a Hakushu NAS avatar picked up in Japan.
Here is what we found:
Nose – Quite vibrant, fresh, clean, light citrusy lemon, lots of perfumes, tropical fruits, very sweet… as it opened started to take on a musky quality, then quite woodsy – particularly pine – like walking through a temperate forest, coriander seeds… a bit mossy
Palate – As the 1st whisky of the evening, the initial sip was bitter, then became sugar sweet, light and dry, cereals, with a nice gentle spice, dry currents, slight resin, while it lacked body, it sat nicely mid palate
Finish – Short and sweet with a hint of nuts
Water – While not needed, helped open it up slightly to reveal dry coconut, and the slightly nutty element shifted to nutty biscuits
Overall we found this an exceedingly ‘friendly’ whisky, absolutely no harshness, very smooth. Light, uncomplicated, enjoyable in its way.
Speculation ran against it being Scottish and Japan was mentioned but it didn’t quite fit the profile of familiar offerings. We found it quite ‘youthful’ and possibly matured in white oak barrels.
And the reveal… Hakushu?!? Where was the light dancing peat? The complexity?
After packing for an impromptu trip to Amsterdam, I decided to treat myself by revisiting one of my favourite Japanese whiskies – the Hakushu 18 year.
Years ago Suntory came to Mumbai to explore the Indian market. My friend and I were introduced to their range and even from the first sip, the Hakushu whiskies stood out for me as far more exceptional than their better known Yamazaki cousins.
Since I picked up my first bottle in Singapore, the price has steadily risen. On my last trip to Tokyo, my quest was for lesser known Japanese whiskies, so I skipped re-stocking this favourite yet found even there it was inching into to the more expensive category.
There are just a few drams remaining in my last bottle and I’ve jealously guarded them… storing it now for several years.
Hakushu 18 year
The tasting notes
So… after such a long time, has my memory of this delightful whisky faded? Has the whisky itself stood the test of time despite its storage?
Nose: Vanilla sweet, fresh grass with just the lightest tickle of peat, it then warms into a deeper note of cherries, almost floral
Taste: More spice than I remembered, a delightful burn that reveals multiple elements – a hint of leather and smoke, perhaps plum too?
Finish: Even though the bottle was opened more than a year ago… the finish lingered… no harshness, a touch of smoke, a drop of honey, slightly nutty oaky elements emerged after a minute
My memories were of an exquisite nuanced whisky… one that had multiple elements and needed time to distill and describe the different notes and flavours. The fresh grass nose was more subdued than I remembered however it is no surprise to have dulled after being stored in an open bottle for so long.
Also, when I first tried the Hakushu 18, it was before I sampled Irish potstill whiskies. Sampling now, I’m reminded of Yellow Spot or Redbreast – both superb whiskies.
So is it still a favourite? Well… it would certainly remain in my recommended list however may not be a priority to replace when the last drop of this bottle is gone… more because of its current price point than preference.
Any other opinions? (aside from castigating me for storing whisky for so long!)