Google Asia Tasting Diary Part 2

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

December 16, 2017



I have to say last time I’ve been this jealous of someone else was when my friend Alain had bought a brand new metallic blue Gitane Testi Champion Super 50cc, back in 1974… -S.




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus’s Asia Tasting Diary. Part 2: Japan
As you read this I’m still in Japan, on a tour of bars, cities and restaurants which to describe as revelatory would be an understatement. The politeness, respect and kindness of the Japanese people; the cleanliness and efficiency of their transport and cities; and the beauty of their food and many remarkable bars has all been breathtaking.


I had intended to take notes for a selection of the whiskies we tasted and publish all of them here on Whiskyfun. However, at the time of writing I’ve written notes for no less than 52 different whiskies. So, I think for this occasion, we’ll just stick to selected highlights. However, as with last week, I apologise in advance for any excess maltoporn which may or may not occur...  


Glenfiddich 30 yo (43%, OB, Stags Head decanter, 1980s)

Glenfiddich 30 yo (43%, OB, Stags Head decanter, 1980s) A bottling produced for several markets which is now pretty rare and at the time of release was particularly expensive - even by today’s standards. Colour: Deep Gold. Nose: Beautifully lush, deep and polished. Many ripe figs, hardwoods, spices, quince, damson puree, mint julep, orange oils and rosehip tea. Some jasmine, assorted dried herbs and lanolin. Harmonious and very beautiful. Mouth: very light but with a nicely spicy backbone, a gamey side as well with meat stock, a gravelly minerality, soft waxiness, lemon rind and eucalyptus resin. Becomes increasingly complex with a little time in the glass. Finish: Surprising length. Almondy with olive oil, pear liqueur, bay leaf and turmeric. Comments: A fragile but beautiful and rather great old Glenfiddich. It’s easy to imagine some rather plush business types chomping on cigars and downing this by the tumbler full in the 1980s. SGP: 441 - 90 points.



Glenfarclas 1955 (43%, OB, decanter, 1980s)

Glenfarclas 1955 (43%, OB, decanter, 1980s) Another super rare old official decanter style bottling. This one carries a pretty serious reputation... Colour: chestnut. Nose: Holy moly! The most astonishing concentration of dark fruits, wet earth, waxes, precious hardwoods, aged teas, espresso, walnut liqueur, aged pinot noir, game, rancio, aged cognac and trail mix. Astonishing - pure maltoporn! Mouth: The nose writ even larger! Except you can add a good slug of ancient balsamico, cloves, toasted spices, olive oil, green fruits and malt loaf. Even a lick of aged peat and some orange oils. Best stop now as this could go on indefinitely if we’re not careful... Finish: Thrilling! Gently tannic, perfectly spicy and lusciously fruity. A long, rollercoaster heading for the sunset... Comments: A genuine showstopper of a dram. The epitome of what perfect sherry + perfect wood + perfect distillate + time can produce. A Glenfarclas for the ages. SGP: 663 - 94 points.



Highland Park 1951 (43%, OB, St Magnus Label, late 1970s)

Highland Park 1951 (43%, OB, St Magnus Label, late 1970s) Another extremely rare bottle that I have long coveted, however bars in Japan seem to have these things just lying around in cupboards. I should also add this one was freshly opened for us as well (sorry Olivier). Colour: Amber. Nose: A rich mix of earth, dry sherry, crushed nuts, assorted fruits and peat. It’s this typically Orcadian peat: full of soft, dry herbal and earthy qualities - almost organic in character. Light citrus notes, a few smoked grains, olive oil then becoming increasingly coastal with seashore, hessian and preserved lemons. A little metal polish and soot as well, getting saltier with time. Mouth: Glistening peat, waxes, preserved dark fruits, some candied peel, various shades of pepper, a little milk chocolate and increasingly earthy and farmy with a big resinous character. Finish: Long, oily and resinous. A little more waxy, citrus peel resurfacing towards the end. Comments: There is a slight frustration here with the bottle being freshly opened, I suspect that had we tasted it even a day or two later it would have opened up and been even more spectacular. However, it doesn’t disappoint. Surprisingly gentle in many ways but globally it’s beautifully complex. One of these old school HPs that’s a world away from anything distilled anywhere today. SGP: 455 - 93 points.



While we’re on Orkney...  


Highland Park 1956 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK, 1980s)

Highland Park 1956 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK, 1980s) We suspect this may well have been an exclusive bottling for Japan. Although it was also common for the Japanese to buy almost entire bottlings and export them to Japan anyway so who knows... Colour: Gold. Nose: Not dissimilar to the 1955s in the same series. Immense depth with these beautiful and immense herbal and liqueurish notes. But here there are also wonderfully polished and fresh green fruits as well. Beeswax, runny honey, pollens, clover, olive oil, very subtle peat and an increasing sea salt aspect. Motor oil, ripe greengages, yellow wild flowers and a hint of petroleum - almost a very old dry Gewurztraminer. With water: obscenely fruity, waxy, coastal and complex. Mouth: Proof that it is possible to peat candle wax I’d say. Clove rock, soot, ripe peaches, plum sauce, strawberry wine, more sooty coal notes, all manner of fruits, spices and a wonderfully crisp coastal zing. With water: yet again it becomes utterly spellbinding. Finish: Endless, resinous, waxy and herbal. Comments: To be expected I suppose, given the pedigree of this series and what was a golden era for Highland Park. The equal of the 1955s in my opinion. SGP: 565 - 94 points.



Something else we were fortunate enough to do on this trip was taste upwards of 30 different old SMWS bottlings. In this day and age finding old bottles that very few people know or have tasted is increasingly difficult, one of the places where you can still find totally unknown wee masterpieces in the SMWS back catalogue - which remains thrillingly obscure, impenetrable and surprising. Let’s follow the HP pair with a due of old SMWS Springbank, SMWS had many, many astonishing Springbanks over the years...  


Springbank 1964/1996 (51.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.39)

Springbank 1964/1996 (51.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.39) Colour: Mahogany. Nose: Pure dark fruit compotes, walnut wine and camphor mixed with very delicate medicine, cherry cough syrup and rancio. Stellar, stellar combination of distillate and cask - quite astonishing. More cherries, dried cranberries, dried banana flakes, some lamp oil and paraffin. With water: a softer and wider fruitiness with an increasing complexity. Mouth: Again this is just astonishing. A broad and complex mix of fruits with fresh brown bread, dark chocolate, espresso, dunnage, wet earth, coal hearth, balsamic, mushroom powder and vegetable stock. A crushed been stock cube as well - perhaps Bovril. Cherry cola cubes dissolved in a strong mint julep. With water: A fat, undulating molasses of black tea, dark mint chocolate and smoked meats. Hauntingly beautiful. Finish: Endless, winding and concentrated. Full of liquorice, spices and dark fruits. Amazing complexity. Comments: Yet another astonishing 1960s Springbank. Are there any of these old SMWS sherry casks which aren’t amazing? SGP: 663 - 94 points.



Springbank 1965/1993 (58.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.25)

Springbank 1965/1993 (58.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.25) Colour: Mahogany. Nose: This one is more subtle - probably a cloaking due to the higher ABV - it leans towards freshly brewed coffee and dark chocolate with assorted nuts and spices. The sherry is more immediately earthy and savoury with a little bergamot and lemon rind which maintains freshness. Some green fruits emerge with time and savoury pastry notes. A few nervous minerals as well. With water: More fruits come now, dark fruits such as sultanas soaked in old cognac. There’s also more rancio, green apples and brown sugar. Mouth: Immense concentration of candied fruits, throat lozenges, cough medicine, black pepper, Darjeeling tea and wet earth. With water: bready, oily, toasted seeds, tar liqueur, Cherry Heering and wood spices. Finish: Long, earthy, resinous and darkly fruity. Also increasingly waxy with some notes of walnut oil. Comments: Not quite as astonishing as the 27.39 but we’re not far away. Still world class old Springbank. SGP: 552 - 93 points.



Actually, I think we’ll continue with a few more SMWS. Here’s one for you Serge...  


Clynelish 31 yo 1972/2004 ‘Fresh figs and Brazil nuts’ (58.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.34)

Clynelish 31 yo 1972/2004 ‘Fresh figs and Brazil nuts’ (58.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.34) Colour: Gold. Nose: Pure, powerful and classical old/new Clynelish. Massively waxy, a whole beehive of pollen, honeycomb and wax. Also a wonderfully nervous coastal character with a few cereals, a hay loft or two, white flowers, beach pebbles, a little natural vanilla, some camphor, lamp oil and damp sack cloth. With water: softer wax and many green and yellow fruits. A beautifully fragrant coastal aspect. Mouth: Powerfully thick and beautifully waxy. Many green fruits, flowers, a lovely nervous saltiness, then some frying bacon and a little malt loaf. With water: becomes more tropical now. Kumquats (no, really), greengage, motor oil, kiwi, hessian and a little clove oil. Finish: Long, spicy, waxy, a little tar, coal smoke and some quince. Comments: I don’t get try these old vintages of Clynelish  too often these days sadly. This is a timely reminder of just how idiosyncratic and utterly brilliant that distillate was in those early years of the 1970s. SGP: 573 - 93 points.



Let’s move to Islay for a couple now...  


Laphroaig 1973/1995 (50.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.6)

Laphroaig 1973/1995 (50.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.6) Colour: Gold. Nose: BAM! A beguiling mix of tropical fruits, seashore, medical complexities, soft peat and background farmyard qualities. Goes on with ointment, iodine, orange peel, TCP, smoked sea salt green and citrus fruits. Amazing in other words. With water: Medicine, crushed nettles, iodine, citrus rind and assorted tropical fruits. Obscene! Mouth: Spectacular arrival. Miraculous precision and a breathtakingly pure saltiness. Brine, seawater, black and green olives, mercurochrome, a little white stone fruit, grist and lapsang souchong. Dazzlingly powerful and precise. With water: the volume on the tropical side goes up now while the rest remains amazingly salty and structured. Pure beauty and power. A little fragrant wood smoke as well with time. Finish: Endless, ashy, mineral, medicinal and full of lingering tropical and citrus fruits. Comments: It’s pure joy to find an amazing old Laphroaig like this. I don’t remember trying such a thrillingly salty and pure example before. SGP: 667 - 94 points.



Caol Ila 1980/1995 (63.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #53.10)

Caol Ila 1980/1995 (63.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #53.10) Dark sherry, I’m rather excited... Colour: Deep amber. Nose: A deep, bass-like and earthy peat. Huge oiliness, tarry, fishing nets, then veers towards menthol and minty notes. Some eucalyptus resin, boiler smoke, beach bonfires, BBQ sauce, cherry cola cubes and a resinous earthiness. There is fruit in here as well but it’s very much dark fruits with a bit of citrus rind. With time it starts to become increasingly meaty and hugely medicinal. With water: A gravelly, meaty and mineral side emerges. With smoked grains, ash, lemons, olive oil and even a rather distinct waxiness. Mouth: A massive mix of sherry and peat with perfect integration. Mercurochrome, kippers, peppered mackerel and some stewed dark fruits. Goes on with wet earth, mushrooms, oils, tar liqueur, smoked beer and TCP. Massive, emphatic and utterly superb. With water: fruit oils and children’s medicine such as Calpol. Also earthy, smouldering peats, herbs, smoked meats and salted fish. Finish: The kind of whisky you could probably still taste hours after. Glistening earth, fruits, medicine and an aftershock of peat. Comments: A brilliant and beautiful wee beast. What a find! SGP: 678 - 94 points.



Seeing as we’re in Japan it would be ludicrous not to have a local whisky...  


Yoichi 1985/2007 (50.7%, Whisky Live Tokyo, cask #250192, 242 bottles)

Yoichi 1985/2007 (50.7%, Whisky Live Tokyo, cask #250192, 242 bottles) Yoichi is probably my favourite Japanese distillery, so it’s pretty thrilling to be able to try one from my vintage. Colour: Light gold. Nose: Stunningly oily and full of cloves, coconut water, jasmine, green tea, a few lemon drops, a little smoked earth, some berry fruit and a cup of spiced milk tea. With water: smoked teas now with cured meats, paprika and toasted sesame seeds. Mouth: Wow! The peat really leaps out at first. Quite unique flavours of medicine, smoked oysters, fish sauce, tar, camphor, olive oil and stony mineral qualities. Maybe some smoked tofu as well. With water: beautifully harmonious now. Herbal smoke, spices, minerals. Mouth enveloping and rather dazzling. Finish: Long, spicy, lemony, peaty and complex. Comments: I’m not sure you could call it a surprise as these old Yoichis carry a serious reputation, but it was totally thrilling whisky. Terrific and irrefutably ‘Yoichi’ in form and character. SGP: 465 - 92 points.



A couple of rather special drams to draw this deeply silly session to a close...  


Macallan-Glenlivet 50 yo 1949/1999 (40.25%, private, Baccarat crystal decanter for Japan, cask #852, 160 bottles, 75cl)

Macallan-Glenlivet 50 yo 1949/1999 (40.25%, private, Baccarat crystal decanter for Japan, cask #852, 160 bottles, 75cl) The casks for this bottling originally came from one small parcel of stock owned by Jack Milroy who also had his own bottling done. The third bottling was the famous and elusive 1949 Macallan by Signatory in 1990. Colour: Deep amber. Nose: leathery with many spices and quince paste, fruit jams, a little soot, crystallised fruits and soft waxes. Some wonderful tertiary notes of honeycomb and boot polish. Mouth: Resinous, waxy, full of dark fruits, crystallised citrus rind, motor oil, herbal peat, coal and tar liqueur. It’s surprisingly fat, emphatic and rich on the palate given the ABV. A velvety, verging on oily, mouthfeel. Becomes increasingly meaty with notes of beef stock, heather, olive oil and black pepper. Some tropical fruits lurking in the depths as well. Finish: A good length with notes of strong tea, lemon balm, chamomile, earl grey, pipe tobacco, cough medicine and some soft, dark fruits. Comments: A great privilege to try a rather historic and fascinating bottling. I suppose you could say it’s a tad disappointing given the age and provenance but it is an old and somewhat fragile whisky after all. Still, let’s not split hairs, it’s still a beautiful and hugely elegant old dram. SGP: 542 - 90 points.



Balvenie 50 yo 1937 (42%, OB for Milroy’s, 500 bottles, +/-1987) Balvenie 50 yo 1937 (42%, OB for Milroy’s, 500 bottles, +/-1987) I’ve often dreamed about tasting this one. Quite amazing that you can still find it in some bars in Japan. Deep breath... Colour: Ruby. Nose: But this is a very old Cognac! Seriously, a beautiful and very subtle array of walnuts, sultanas, Guinness cake, rancio, toffee apples, leaf mulch, aged Calvados, maraschino and a little freshly brewed black coffee. Different to the many G&M bottlings from similar vintages also released in the 1980s - it lacks the obvious coconut aromas, maybe suggesting this was not from American oak - but also similar in other ways with this undercurrent of delicate, old style, earthy peat. Fragrant herbal qualities in the background and the tiniest hint of cigar smoke. A poetic and emotional nose - the kind to get lost in. Mouth: Dense, chocolatey, deeply earthy and resinous on arrival. Almost salty! You have these wonderfully farmyard and mineral notes with lychee syrup, quince paste, umami, oyster sauce, rancio, VORS palo cortado and more dense coffee flavours like fresh espresso. Continues with dried herbs, caraway, a hint of soot and some subtle and rather beautiful waxiness. Finish. Long, sappy, earthy, resinous and herbal. Some final flickers of peat, wood embers, engine oil, old medicine and an eventual wink of green and citrus fruits. Comments: I was never really sure what to expect from this whisky. I always suspected it was the kind of dram that - at such an age and strength - could go either way. However, I have to say I am impressed and more than a little humbled to have been able to try this one finally. Emotionally weighty whisky. SGP: 553 - 93 points.  


That’ll do for now. I’ve collected many, many more notes for some remarkable whiskies but they can wait for future posts. I should also say a massive, eternal and heartfelt thank you to my compadres on this trip, Emmanuel and Hitomi. It’s been real!  







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