Thursday, February 28, 2013

Eigashima's first single cask release

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub
Our webmaster Niko just confirmed that Eigashima has released its first single-cask bottling. The whisky spent the first three years of its life in a hogshead, and was then transferred to bourbon cask #1129, maturing for a further year and four months. It's bottled at 55% abv and there are just 360 bottles. This is a significant development for Eigashima and comes as a bit of a surprise in light of their recent switch to NAS. This particular cask was originally bottled for Hanshin Department Store in Umeda, Osaka for their Whisky World Fair (February 6-19, 2013) but is now available, while stocks last, in their regular liquor section. The Hanshin department store liquor section was nothing to write home about up until recently, but the fact that they made this - the first ever single cask from Eigashima - happen, may be a sign that things are changing in the basement there.
Hanshin Whisky World Fair 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

Colors of Four Seasons 2: Karuizawa 2000/2013 for Liquors Hasegawa

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub

Today, the second release in Liquors Hasegawa's Karuizawa series "Colors of Four Seasons" went on sale. This time, they selected a cask from the final vintage (#5173) - distilled on December 1st, 2000 and bottled 12 years and 2 months later at 64.8% abv. The success of their first release (just 82 bottles) probably gave them a bit of confidence to go for a cask with a slightly higher outturn (185 bottles). The result was pretty much the same, though: all of it was gone in less than 3 hours. I had the chance to try it today and it's definitely a young Karuizawa, which sounds a bit like stating the obvious, but those of you who have had the chance to try a few different 2000 Karuizawas will understand what I mean. This whisky hasn't had the first-fill sherry cask boost that other recent releases from the same vintage have had. It's fresh - which ties in with the seasons theme: suggestive of spring, according to the staff - a little rough, a little "dirty"- in the good sense of the word! - and it has that slightly "metallic" edge that typifies the Karuizawa spirit, which is not always easy to pick up in older and/or 1st-fill-sherry-cask matured expressions. It'll be interesting to see what sort of cask they're going to find "summer" and "winter" in. They're still looking but it promises to be an interesting little series, so keep an eye on what they're up to when summer approaches!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Underground SMWS Event in Tokyo

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub

Whisky fans based in Tokyo may want to block next Saturday evening (March 2nd) as we've picked up rumours about an impromptu SMWS event to be held on that day at an as yet undisclosed location in Shinjuku's Golden Gai. Unfortunately, we can't be more specific at this point in time. We do know that the Society has set aside some of their best recent releases (a.o. a 1972 Glenglassaugh [21.27]) as well as some truly extraordinary bottles from the past for this event: a 1985 Yamazaki released in 2004 [119.9], a 1986 Yoichi [116.5] bottled in 2005, the 1968 Longmorn for Whisky Live 2006, and former managing director Richard Gordon's all-time favourite Society release, the appropriately named "As good as it gets" 30yo Highland Park 4.73 [1970/2000]. There will also be a number of not-too-serious competitions but with fairly serious prizes to be won, such as the upcoming first SMWS-J 20th Anniversary bottling (see this post for details) and even a free membership for non-members.
If you're a member already, this is a chance to take a little trip down memory lane. If you're not, it's a chance to get to know the Society in less formal surroundings. The question on everybody's mind will be: when and how do we find out more about this special underground event? Well, follow this Twitter link and everything will be revealed to you in due course...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Memories of Karuizawa 2: 1991/2013

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub

For their second "Memories of Karuizawa" release, the people at Whisk-e selected a cask from the 1991 vintage. The 1990s are a bit of an unknown quantity for most Karuizawa fans, so this is a welcome chance to dip into unfamiliar territory. "Memories of Karuizawa 2" was drawn from sherry cask #9106 - one of those typical bespoke casks, slightly smaller than a sherry butt - and bottled at a cask strength of 63.7% abv.
On the nose, you get stewed fruits (raspberries and blueberries), honey-glazed apple-pear tart, macadamia nuts, walnut skins and a hint of steamed beets. There's also a subtle floral dimension to it in the background. The attack on the palate is quite intense. The initial impressions are pommeau (i.e. a blend of calvados and apple must), walnut bread and allspice. It packs quite a punch, but when you recover from it, you're rewarded with orange marmalade and fresh ginger ale. Beautiful! The finish is long and spicy. As it slowly fades, you get more of the stewed fruit notes. But wait, the party isn't over yet... after a minute or so, a lovely tartness emerges with a hint of lemon cake. And then, teetering on the brink between perception and memory, you get some cafe mocha and glazed chestnuts. Water makes it a bit more approachable and sweeter on the palate, but it also brings out more citrus notes, which is nice.

It's very different from the 1st "Memories", but I guess that's the whole concept behind the series: showing different facets of the distillery output at different points in its history. This, the 2nd release in the series will go on sale in Japan today but the good news is, it will be available to Bond#1 members worldwide via this link. It'll probably sell out in no time, but don't despair! There's a sister cask, so sooner or later...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A smaller Hibiki 12 for Japan & Europe

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

From this spring, Suntory will be seeking to further push the global presence of its flagship premium blended whisky “Hibiki 12”. It will come with a slightly different label, and will also be available in a slightly smaller size (500ml). After its debut at home on April 2nd, it will be rolled out in the UK and France, where it should be available towards the end of May.

Hibiki was created in 1989 to mark Suntory’s 90th anniversary. Twenty years later, in 2009, the company decided to introduce a 12-year old version to the European market, with the aim of building a global brand. A couple of months later, Suntory also started selling their 12yo in Japan. It has picked up numerous awards since and its popularity - both at home and abroad - keeps growing, witness last year’s 20% increase in total sales.
Hibiki 12 is a mild, smooth blend with a sweet overall profile and a slightly tart finish. It’s built around malt matured in ex-umeshu casks (American white oak casks used for a period of about 2 years to mature plum liqueur) which is, obviously, relatively young, but to give it extra depth, they also use a significant percentage of older components (over 30yo).

The introduction of a smaller sized bottle is an attempt to expand Hibiki’s fan base. Suntory is hoping it will encourage people who haven’t tried it yet to pick up a bottle for themselves whilst also making it a bit more appealing – economically, that is – as a potential gift.

Karuizawa 30yo 1981 (Cocktail series)

Review by Ruben of WhiskyNotes
The Cocktail series is a range of four Karuizawa bottlings exclusively sold by La Maison du Whisky, featuring labels by the Japanese artist Hideyuki Katsumata. He was inspired by the link between single malts and cocktails that apparently exists in Japan. Also, bars are the 2013 theme for LMdW (check their catalogue).

There’s a 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984. This 30 years old 1981 is the darkest of the pack, even though the picture exaggerates its colour a little….
Karuizawa 30 yo 1981 (55,8%, N°1 Drinks for LMdW, sherry butt #162, 584 btl.)

Nose: not exactly the opening I was expecting, but that’s not a bad thing here. It’s sweet and quite fruity. Black cherries, wild strawberries, lots of dates and a hint of passion fruits. Also notes of lacquered pork belly. Sweet pipe tobacco. Huge notes of polished oak, sandalwood I’d say, with some ‘good’ wood glue. And a whole array of tiny notes like cinnamon, lychee, incense, rum, eucalyptus and sugared nuts. Quite perfect.
Mouth: more powerful now, and quite smoky. Earthy notes, a certain farminess as well. Lots of tobacco again. Then chocolate coated nuts and coffee beans. Cured ham. Bread crust. Sweetness of dates and figs too, as well as hints of fresher fruits (honeydew melon). A bit of sweet liquorice.
Finish: almost as long as a trip to Japan, still quite sweet, showing coal, honey and polished oak. Even a slight medicinal herbalness in the end.

This was pretty much an instant favourite. The fruity sweetness is outstanding. No sulphur nonsense either. And great to see the roundness is coupled to a bit more earthy power on the palate. A gem. Around € 315. Still a few bottles available!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SMWS Japan: 20th Anniversary Special Event & Release

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's Japan chapter and to kick off the celebrations, the SMWS-J is hosting an event at The Cellar Bar of the Rihga Royal Hotel in Osaka on March 17th (14:00-16:00). There will be various other events throughout the country, but the first one had to be in Osaka, because that's where it all began. In 1993, Watanabe-san of Tenma Shoten set up the first overseas branch of the Society there - a bold move at a time when single cask, cask strength bottlings were a lot rarer than they are now. The people at Whisk-e took over the running of the branch from 2001, but they continued to work with Watanabe-san for many years thereafter.
David Croll, head of the SMWS-J, explains: "We were introduced to the then Society Managing Director Richard Gordon and Chairman Willie Phillips during a trip they made to Japan in 2000. Richard was very keen to have the Society bottle Japanese whiskies and encouraged us to enter into discussions with Japanese distillers. The first bottlings - 4 single casks from the Yoichi distillery - emerged in 2002 and since then, the Society has also bottled whiskies from Hakushu, Miyagikyo and Yamazaki."

In the course of this 20th anniversary year, a series of special bottlings released from casks selected and with labels designed for Japan exclusively will be unveiled at various events. The first is, appropriately, from the Glenfarclas distillery, the first distillery Pip Hills and his friends - founders of the Society - sourced a cask from 30-odd years ago. Release 1.167 - "Delicate and venerable", a 25yo - will be available for tasting at the Osaka event, along with the 12 bottles that will make up the March and April offerings. The event is open to non-members as well, so if you're not familiar with the Society yet, go and have a look. You won't regret it. For more information, check this link. Nonjatta will be covering the celebrations in detail and we'll have tasting notes for the special bottlings as soon as they're unveiled. Watch this space.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cool Bourbon: DiCaprio for Suntory's Jim Beam

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

From tomorrow (February 16th), Suntory will launch a new campaign to promote their Jim Beam under the banner "Cool Bourbon", a new way of drinking bourbon (i.e. with lots of ice). As part of this, they will also start airing a new commercial featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, a short 15-second version of which you can see on the Suntory website. It'll be interesting to see how the Japanese drinking populace will react to this new, "cool" bourbon.

Karuizawa 1964 for Poland - Launch Event

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

It's a truism that a picture is worth a thousand words but that doesn't make it any less true. So, as a follow-up to our lengthy post about the Karuizawa 1964 for Poland, here are a few snapshots from the launch in Warsaw last Wednesday.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yamazaki Owner's Cask 1996/2012 for Ritz Carlton Tokyo

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Tokyo will be promoting their exclusive Yamazaki Owner's Cask 1996/2012 (15yo) in March. "The Bar" (that's not meant as a superlative, that's the name of the actual bar on the 45th floor of the hotel) will start selling the bottles but the whisky must be consumed on the premises - in other words, it's set up as a "bottlekeep". Pricing hasn't been confirmed yet. The bar staff gave me an approximate figure and while it's obvious that the price will be a multiple of what such a bottle would normally be sold for in a liquor shop, the whole package is attractive - if you're a frequent visitor of hotel bars, or plan on becoming one there. Cover charge (2,500 yen per head) will be waived for the owner of the bottle and up to 3 guests, so if you go a few times and bring some of your friends, your bottle will be "free" - so to speak - in no time. Suntory Owner's Casks are much less ubiquitous than they used to be since the program was stopped two years ago. They make exceptions for special clients only and the Ritz is such a special client, or so it would seem. If you happen to be in Tokyo Midtown in March, treat yourself to a fabulous view of the city and a stellar malt to go with it.


Karuizawa 1964 for Poland

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.
Today, we’re delighted to be able to finally share one of the best-kept whisky secrets: the release of an extraordinary 1964 Karuizawa. Drawn from cask #3603 after more than 48 years of maturation, this is the oldest Karuizawa released to date. Michal Kowalski of the Polish investment company Wealth Solutions wanted a worthy follow-up to his Glenfarclas 1953 and he knew, right from the start, this was going to be a Karuizawa. It was a long process from wish to reality – we were there when the whole project was conceived and were honoured to be able to help in small ways along the road – and the loving care and attention to detail Michal surrounded this exceptional whisky with is simply beyond words.

Most whisky enthusiasts will remember the Glenflarclas 1953, bottled on 13 February 2012. The 1964 Karuizawa will be launched in Warsaw exactly one year later. If Michal keeps doing this annually, Poland will probably be the best place on earth to be for the whisky enthusiast on Valentine’s Day. Just to get the facts out of the way: cask #3603 was filled on 1 September 1964 and bottled at cask-strength (57.7% abv) on Christmas Eve 2012. It yielded a mere 143 bottles – all of which have been presold to Wealth Solutions clients. One lone bottle will be available from Master of Malt, but not for very long, I suspect.

The presentation is absolutely top-notch: a bespoke, heavyweight version of the traditional Karuizawa bottle is housed in a beautiful wooden box with a front made of Polish black fossil oak with the characters for “Karuizawa” engraved in it. The wood is hundreds of years old and has been recovered from ancient Polish swamps – this is a reference to the last character in the name “Karuizawa”, which means “swamp”. Each bottle comes with a full-colour, 35-page book, containing a fascinating appreciation of Karuizawa distillery written by Dave Broom as well as tasting notes by 6 writers/bloggers (Broom, Dominic Roskrow, Marcin Miller, Neil and Joel of Cask Strength & Carry On, Serge Valentin and yours truly).

So what’s the whisky like? Well, I last tasted it half a year ago and, at the time, I wrote the following notes (they appear in edited form in the book):

“Nose: starts off with a prelude of annin dofu (almond tofu) and maraschino cherries, which soon gives way to a triple fugue of forest notes, tree fruit notes and waxed wood notes. The initial interplay is between the forest notes: suggestive of a forest in spring after rain, incredibly fresh, with hints of pine trees, boulder fern, sandalwood and a feint eucalyptus note. Soon after, seemingly out of nowhere, fruit notes start to appear: overripe apricots, Yubari melon (a Hokkaido cantaloupe variety), nashi (Japanese pears), some dates in the background. Underneath these are subtle hints of blood oranges and ruby grapefruits. On the back of these fruit notes, something reminiscent of a recently polished chapel starts to develop, with some freshly-baled hay, heather honey and a hint of freshly-crushed pink pepper thrown in the mix. Water tends to foreground the fruit notes, pushing green apples and underripe peach notes to the fore; it also brings some wet grass drying in the sun to the party.

Palate: the nose sets up certain expectations, but the palate gracefully sidesteps these expectations, only to reveal a whole new dimension – such is the complexity of this whisky. Neat, the initial impressions are acerola, brambles, gooseberries and orange liqueur. There’s also a distinct kashiwa mochi (rice cake wrapped in oak leaf) note. The sour – pleasantly sour, that is – flavours soon give way to an equally pleasant and seductive bitterness: goya, walnut skins, kale-and-green-apple juice, and an ever so slight liquorice note. As if that’s not beguiling enough, water brings out a prominent sudachi (a Japanese citrus fruit) note – something I never thought I’d find in a whisky but there it is! How a whisky this old can be this refreshing is just one of the great mysteries of the universe.

The finish is medium-long with hints of kiwi jam, also lingonberry jam, sweet-and-sour sauce, goya again, and an incredibly delicate sweetness at the centre of it all.

It’s fairly common for commentators to compliment mature whiskies on how young and vibrant they are despite their old age. This 1964 Karuizawa is far beyond such platitudes. Let’s not pretend: only time - and a large dose of luck - could have conspired to make it what it is. And what it is, is one of those rare whiskies that creates a world of its own and holds it together so beautifully it’s almost like an image of nature at its best. “

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chichibu to the US

Post by Chris of the WhiskyWall.
As they say: When it rains it pours - and this is a storm that I am truly grateful for. Just this past December we saw the introduction of Nikka Whisky into the US market with their Taketsuru 12 and Yoichi 15. Now there is word that Ichiro Akuto and his Chichibu malts will be taking the plunge into the US as well. In some ways this seems to make sense because Chichibu is already available in Europe, however I am surprised by how quickly Akuto-san decided to enter the market here. Suntory has only slowly over several years released the 4 currently available expressions here and as mentioned Nikka only launched a couple of months ago. It is not clear when exactly Chichibu will officially launch here or with what expressions. We will update as we obtain more information. If you are in the US and would like to meet Akuto-san and chat a bit about his whiskies he will be attending the Nth Universal Whisky Experience in Las Vegas March 1 - 2.

Whisky Shop W. Exclusives: Bowmore 15YO & Chita Grain

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

A few months ago, we reported on the release of a new Chita single grain expression, bottled for our friends at Whisky Shop W. in Osaka (which is located on the first floor of the Suntory building there). In the meantime, they've also put out an exclusive 15yo Bowmore expression. So, without further ado, let's see what we've got.
The 15yo Bowmore is non chill-filtered and bottled at cask strength (54.8% abv). On the nose, it starts off with vegetal notes (burdock, paprika soup, grilled aubergine) surrounded by gentle peat smoke. Underneath, there's a fruity dimension - guavas, dried mango, Yubari melon - and a bit of toffee, as well. Water pushes the fruity and sweeter notes more to the front, but I quite like the rough side of the nose when it's undiluted. On the palate, you get bitter oranges, raspberries, a bit of apple pie, a nice dose of oak smoke and a lovely seashell salinity. The finish is intense - here actually the full range of this whisky is revealed - and fades slowly, leaving you with notes of cedar wood, rhubarb and flor de sal. A nice daily-dram whisky - it hasn't left my kitchen counter since I opened it - and a versatile whisky to pair with food, too.

The Chita single grain (48% abv) is a complete different beast, of course. As we mentioned before, it's a vatting of younger and older casks. It's well-rounded on the nose and it's immediately clear that this was composed rather than the result of a lucky find in the warehouse: butterscotch, baklava, underripe bananas and vanilla from the oak, leather polish, pot-pourri, a hint of apricot jam. On the palate, it's very "bourbonny" but with little surprises left and right (a bit of cured ham, dried pineapple, raspberry meringue, cashew nuts, nutmeg, white pepper, ...). The finish is a long, smooth diminuendo with that nutmeg-and-white-pepper note playfully lingering on a bed of sweet notes. If you don't like bourbon, this really isn't for you. If you do, well, then this will give you a pretty good idea of what a good, Japanese bourbon would be like.

Both of these exclusives are still available at Whisky Shop W. (and their online alter-ego e-liquor). It's worth visiting the shop, though - if you can adjust your schedule to their crazy hours (11:00-19:00 weekdays only) - because they've still got a handful of bottles of the Yamazaki single cask to celebrate their 2nd anniversary on the shelves.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ichiro's Malt Card Series: The Joker

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.
Melinda Joe is an American journalist and certified wine and sake professional based in Tokyo. Her excellent blog - "tokyo through the drinking glass" - is required reading for anyone interested in the wider drinks scene here. There's very little about whisky, but loads of fascinating articles about other Japanese liquor. She recently visited the Chichibu distillery and wrote a little piece about it for the Japan Times, which you can read online for the time being. In the article, she got confirmation from chief stillman Masashi Watanabe of something that had been an open secret for a while now: the fact that there will be one more release to round out the card series, a Joker.

It'll probably be a while before the Joker make his appearance. Nonjatta will be reviewing the final four - regular - cards (7 of Spades, 6 of Hearts, 5 of Diamonds and A of Clubs) this week, so stay tuned.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nikka Whisky Reference Guide

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

As most of our readers will know, the Japanese word "otaku" refers to people with obsessive interests - bordering on the insane, from the point of view of an outsider - and is usually associated with anime, manga, video games and (pop) idols. "Otaku" will spend an inordinate amount of time and money in pursuing their interest/obsession. The whisky scene has its "otaku" too, of course, although many prefer to use a different nomenclature with slightly more elevated connotations. It's rare for "whisky otaku" to make any sort of impact on the world of whisky - the world outside their bedroom, that is - but every once in a while, somebody comes along whose focus is so intense that they are able to fill a void and jaws start dropping.
Hajime Asano is such a guy: never had any particular interest in whisky, but somehow he found himself part of Nikka's yearly "マイウイスキーづくり" program (which roughly translates as "Making Your Own Whisky"). It's run at both the Yoichi and Miyagikyo distillery and people get the chance - over two days, usually Friday/Saturday - to be part of the entire whisky-making process at the distillery. You pay next to nothing for the whole experience, and 10 years later you get a bottle of the whisky that you helped make. As you can imagine, interested parties far outnumber available places, so the whole thing is organized as a lottery. Few are lucky to get in, but Asano-san was... and it changed his life. He found himself at the Yoichi distillery in May 2012 and, apparently, got the whisky bug pretty bad. He spent the next few months digging up everything he could find about every single Nikka whisky ever released. You may think: "what's so special about that?" Well, what's special about it is that in less than half a year he self-published a book about it. And what a book it is. There are bottlings on these pages that even Nikka people didn't know existed or had forgotten existed. It's an unofficial catalogue and it's just the first version (printed in a limited edition of 100 copies), but if someone can come up with this in less than half a year... well, give him a bit more time, and he'll put together the whole puzzle. There's no doubt about that. In the meantime, if you see this, get a copy. It's one of the rare publications documenting actual whiskies rather than whisky making history, in general.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

From Kyushu (2): Kumamoto Bar Society

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

Read part 1 here.

About a year and a half ago, I heard something about a special bottling for the Kumamoto Bar Association. I tried to find out more but couldn't find a single piece of information to substantiate the rumour. At the time, I thought it a bit strange, though, that a group of lawyers in Kyushu would go through the considerable effort it takes to source a private bottling from one of the smaller distilleries here in Japan. Fast forward to December 2012, when I happened to be in Kumamoto, winding down the year with my family, and I decided to find out once and for all whether that elusive bottling actually existed. I quickly discovered, while I was there, that my source had made a small but significant mistake: it wasn't a bottling for the Kumamoto Bar Association but for the Kumamoto Bar Society, a group of bartenders not lawyers!
I asked around a bit and people pointed me in the direction of Bar:Colon and its owner-bartender Takeshi Tsuruta, one of the key people in the KuBS (as we'll call them for the sake of brevity). I spent the evening of December 30th there and instantly fell in love with the Kumamoto bar scene. There's nothing like it anywhere else in Japan, and if you feel that's a bold statement to make, well, bear with me and then show me a group of people who - even though they are rivals and do business along the same street for the most part - are not only as knowledgeable and passionate as these guys, but who also work together and help each other out - in ways that would put even the closest family to shame - like they do. They go on distillery trips together (Islay in 2005, Kavalan in 2012, ...) and then publish books about these trips! They put out at least one private bottling a year; we'll discuss these in depth in the next few instalments of our Kyushu series. They've even produced a feature-length documentary about "the making of" their second private bottling (more about this later, too). They also publish a bar map of Kumamoto every year, and it's wonderful to see that the KuBS love is spreading: the first map was subtitled "20 Doors"... the current map includes "38 Doors". The KuBS is an open society without any membership fees, and everything is done in that wonderful spirit of cooperation which I got a glimpse of when I was there.

Over the next few weeks, we'll show you what makes the Kumamoto whisky scene special and what makes this a must-go place for the Japanese whisky aficionado, in spite of there not being a distillery anywhere near. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Two new oldies from Shinanoya: Glenlivet 1977 & Glen Mhor 1982

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

Do these guys ever take a break? It sure doesn't look like it. I'm talking about the people in the hard liquor section at Shinanoya, of course. They don't leave a stone unturned in their search for exclusive bottlings and will literally look everywhere in their quest to bring Japanese whisky enthusiasts the very best the world of whisky has to offer. Fresh off the success of their incredible quintet of Japanese whisky releases to celebrate their 5th anniversary, here they are with two single cask Scotch malts - a 1977 Glenlivet and a 1982 Glen Mhor - sourced from independent bottlers Wilson & Morgan and The Cooper's Choice respectively.
The 35yo Glenlivet was drawn from a refill sherry cask and bottled at 49.6%abv (192 bottles). The initial impressions, on the nose, are: butterscotch, apple sauce and freshly cut grass in spring. After a while, you get hints of lemon tart and "far breton", as well as subtle floral hints and something like a burning haystack in the background. Water brings out this element a bit more and adds a strong peach note. On the palate, waxed wood notes mingle with meringue and mandarin oranges - the balance between sweet, bitter and sour is quite sublime here. The finish is medium long, with the apples making a return drizzled with a touch of Napoleon liqueur and a bit of pink pepper sprinkled on top. Lovely.

On to the 30yo Glen Mhor, a single hogshead bottled at 59.0%abv yielding 222 bottles. The nose is much more herbal and floral, compared with the Glenlivet. The herbal notes - spearmint and rosemary - really stand out, but there's more going on. You've also got forest notes (a forest after rain), a bit of vanilla, a hint of cherry liqueur, black tea, some orchard fruits (overripe pears) and a faint "basashi" (raw horse meat) note. It makes quite an impact on the palate, a litte dry but rich with cherries-soaked-in-kirsch and apricot jam. The long finish surprises with notes of milk chocolate, cafe mocha and toasted coconut shavings.

The Glen Mhor is more of an early-evening dram, whereas the Glenlivet would be the perfect substitute for afternoon tea. If I really had to choose, I'd go for the Glen Mhor - it's a bit of a surprise for the senses, but not in a crude way. Everything's beautifully integrated. Then again, if you ask me tomorrow afternoon, I may go for the Glenlivet. I guess, for the whisky drinker, inconsistency is just the moment's search for the pleasure that fits best. For the bank account, it's something very different, of course... but let's ponder that in the morning, or after February 8th, which is when these two beauties will go on sale.