Yamazaki 25 year Sherry Cask 43%

There is no question that Japan, and specifically Suntory, has produced some exquisite whiskies over the years. Yamazaki holds a core place in Japanese whiskies rise in global prominence.

In recent years the Yamazaki 2016 Sherry has auctioned for as much as EUR 1,950! To then think of what a 25 year old can attract? This particular whisky is an official bottling and my whisky companions and I shared a small sample in April 2018.

(Image Master of Malt)

Yamazaki 25 year Sherry Cask 43%

  • Colour – Incredibly dark – almost unbelievable
  • Nose – Varnish, old wood, dark fruits, stewed plums, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, Christmas cake, enriched spices of nutmeg, butter cream, coriander
  • Palate – Very sweet, spices, very dry, more of the star anise, some dark juicy fruits or berries, a little cocoa
  • Finish – Long, solid with some bitter tannins
  • Water – One would ordinarily think at 43% the addition of water would be a crime. In this case, with such a concentrated flavours, it helped to open  up the whisky in the most marvellous way

Overall it was a brilliant whisky – rich, complex, intense. And one well worth sampling if you happen to be so fortunate to come across it.

I will admit that most Yamazaki’s I’ve enjoyed were long before I started to record tasting notes and most certainly before prices rose astronomically. However here are two Yamazaki‘s that stand out which I had the pleasure of sampling in the last few years:

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One amazing Ardbeg (1990/2003) Sherry 46% (G+MP)

Ardbeg is one of the Islay peaty “kings”… known far and wide for its strong distinctive character… which makes an interplay with sherry all the more interesting… courtesy of a Gordon + MacPhail’s experimentation.

What did we find?

Ardbeg (1990/2003) Sherry Cask 3133 46% (Gordon + MacPhail)

  • Nose  – Initially a bit ‘soapy’, then clear stamp of sherry and peat, cinnamon, wood fires burning, old books, quite rich, some dry hay, tannins, ash
  • Palate – Pure wildfire! With lots going on, fire and spice, chocolate, lots of ash, really quite brilliant!
  • Finish – Long finish with peat, chocolate and don’t laugh –  watermelon rind
  • Water – While ordinarily would not add to a 46%, please do in this case! It then reveals delicious bacon, maple syrup  along with cinnamon spice

Overall this had a brash “Pay attention dude!” quality – a “text book” Islay whisky – in the best possible way.

You won’t easily find this whisky as it was specially bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for Symposion Sweden.

While I couldn’t find any official tasting notes, recommend you check out WhiskyFun‘s review!

Other Ardbeg tasting experiences

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Krishna Collection – BenRiach 20 year (1994/2014) 54.7%

Last in an evening with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac, was a whisky from BenRiach

Photo: Scotch Whisky Auctions - note image is for Cask 806 not 808

Photo: Scotch Whisky Auctions – note image is for Cask 806 not 808

BenRiach 20 year (1994/2014) 54.7%

Cask No 808 Olorosso Sherry Peated OB for Taiwan Bottle 84/678

  • Nose – Peaty, sherry, brine, sweet spice, heather and flowers
  • Palate – Smooth, peat, a little spice, very well balanced
  • Finish – Lovely

One of those whiskies that sound like the different elements would not go together, but somehow do. The interplay of sherry and peat works wonderfully and was a worthy close to our evening.

Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna included:

Other BenRiach whiskies sampled so far include:

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Krishna Collection – Kavalan Solist Sherry (2008) 55.6%

For a few years now, Kavalan from Taiwan has done rather well in the world whisky awards department – with good reason.

As the Malt Maniacs 2016 awards were released there was a lot of chatter in one Mumbai whisky WhatsApp group. Kavalan had clearly dominated – sweeping with the ‘Supreme Champion’ award, Ultra premium, Premium… with an insane 6 Gold awards, 13 Silver awards and 4 Bronze awards.

As Keith Wood shared the Malt Maniacs report, they “received 23 different cask entries of Kavalan; 2 bourbon, 3 port and 18 different sherry casks. At this point I must add that Kavalan themselves only entered the permitted 3 bottles, all others were from private cask owners.”

I thought of this development as I brushed off notes from a sampling of a 2015 Malt Maniac entry… here is what I found…

2016-04-25 Kavalan Solist

Not the whisky sampled – another Kavalan Solist Sherry (OB)

Kavalan Solist NAS Sherry Cask S081229026 55.6% 08 Bottle 421/527

  • Nose – More saccharin than honey, sweet prunes, dry fruits, heaps of dark chocolate
  • Palate – More mellow, sweet spices, cinnamon and oak bark, teasingly playful, peppers dipped in sugar
  • Finish – Very sweet finish, exceedingly long and lovely

What makes this one interesting is that it is vibrant, not mature and bursting with character. It may not be the most sophisticated whisky you will find, but it has a certain something that draws you back.

That’s just what Kavalan has accomplished with its Solist series – each single cask has a distinctive character. It may be in a similar family yet distinctive – take 2010’s casks S1001200358 vs S1001290048. All Solist single casks have unique qualities and can clearly stand on their own too. That cannot be said of all single casks.

Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna included:

Other whiskies previously sampled with Krishna:

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Krishna Collection – Chieftain’s ‘Speyside’ 22 year (1990/2012) 46%

The Chieftain’s Collection is the brainchild of the Ian McLeod company and branded as special bottlings ‘targeted at the connoisseur.’

This particular sample did not disclose the distillery and was part of the Malt Maniac 2015 awards – garnering a silver medal.

What did I find?

Chieftain’s Collection ‘Speyside’ 22yo (8.1990/11.2012) 46%

First Fill Sherry Butt, Cask No 5162, 693 Bottles

  • Nose – Sherry, prunes, honey sweet, soaked fruits which were then stewed, mellow, plum brandy
  • Palate – Sweet, smooth, raw bananas, quite dry on the tongue
  • Finish – Long finish of stewed fruits then again dry

While it isn’t complex, yet there is a nice sweet-spice slightly astringent bitter dry quality that is quite enjoyable.


Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna Nakula included:

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80s flashback – Auchentoshan ‘Pure Malt’ 40%

Let me confess upfront… I’ve not been massively impressed with most mass market Auchentoshan...

Yes I get that as they are triple distilled, my palate should calibrate to something light, refreshing and more nuanced. Yes I also get that not all Auchentoshan’s are created equal. I remember being delighted with some special Auchentoshan’s sampled at the now defunct “Vault” in Singapore… followed by being universally uninspired ever since… until now!

We sampled this beauty blind at an evening which featured a trio of rare whiskies from the 1980s… providing a unique ‘flashback’ to single malts before the current craze that has whiskies flying off shelves around the world with the award winning pronouncements of one man!

Courtesy Krishna Nakula

Knowing absolutely nothing about the whisky before the unveiling, we discovered:

  • Nose – It kept evolving starting with apricot, dried peach, bannanas, lots of tropical fruits, fresh, bright, then some creamy vanilla, a little fresh curry pata (green curry leaves), fresh grass which morphed into dry hay, a dab of almond oil, ladies perfume, green bananas, light ash and finally a faint curd sourness creeping in…
  • Palate – Light, dry, bitter like watered down juice of kerela (bitter guord), the shadow of smoke without any direct peat, sense of being a “breakfast dram”
  • Finish – Some debate… some hardly found any finish, another described it as ‘present’ yet  ‘nondescript’… in short the finish was the only disappointing element of the whisky
  • Water – Absolutely does not need a drop

Leading up to the unveiling there was talk of it being an ‘old style’ whisky… clearly before the 1990s.

Sure enough – more than one sampler was surprised with it being an Auchentoshan. Krishna shared that the era of Eadie Cairns who rebuilt the Auchentoshan distillery completely after purchasing it in 1969.

This remarkable rare malt came courtesy of India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula at an evening organised by The Secret Supper Project and The Vault Fine Spirits in celebration of 20 years of Malt Madness.

The night before, we were ‘wowed’ with a quartet of 1970s Glendronach grand dames from 39 – 42 years.

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