Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Stellar Selection": a new series for the Japanese market

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

A few weeks ago, we looked at a series of single cask bottlings of Scotch whisky for the Japanese market featuring deep-sea creatures. Astute readers will remember that this was one of three new series launched by Whisk-e this autumn. I promised to fill you in on the other two, so here we are with the second one, and for this one, we're leaving the depths of the oceans to seek pleasure a little higher... actually, a lot higher. It may seem a bit cocky to call a series "Stellar Selection", so without further ado, let's see if it is stellar in more than just the literal sense of the term.

For the first two releases, the people over at Whisk-e tapped into their own inventory of casks. They picked a 15-year old Clynelish ("Libra") and a 27-year old Linkwood ("Scorpio"), both drawn from single hogsheads. The first thing one notices when putting them next to one another - other than the beautiful labels - is that the whiskies are very similar in colour and both very light in colour, in spite of the considerable difference in age. Never judge a book by its cover, though. While it would be easy - but misguided - to suspect these whiskies spent their life in exhausted casks, it is equally plausible that the more gentle influence of the wood led the spirit to higher realms of subtlety rather than to increased intensity and beefed-up flavours.

Let's start off with the Clynelish (1996/2012, bottled at 55.4% abv). The nose is very light with notes of green apples and baked goods (shortbread, Dutch spice bread, ...) at the centre. Water stresses the apple note and brings out sweeter notes, such as manuka honey and Werther's Original, as well as adding a light floral note (not my forte, flowers, so I'll leave it at that!). It's light but wonderfully fresh. The palate delivers citrus notes, a hint of rice pudding and oatmeal and some ethereal woody notes. It's beautiful but fragile (and in large part, beautiful because of its fragility). With water, it loses its definition so this is definitely one to enjoy at cask strength.

On to the Linkwood (1984/2012, bottled at 53.6% abv): the nose is similarly light, but the component notes are very different. There is a distinct panettone note as well as a hint of frangipane tart with stewed apricots, raspberry jam and golden raisins adding their own individual charm to the proceedings. I also picked up some light woody notes hiding in the background. Water brings out hints of cantaloupes and mango sauce. The palate starts off with tingling tannic notes and white pepper, quickly followed by a compote of ripe summer orchard fruits. There's a wonderful touch of sangria on the finish, which fades quickly but the afterglow stays for what seems like an eternity.

The context and the whiskies reminded me of a passage in Simone Weil's Gravity and Grace: "Stars and blossoming fruit trees: Utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sense of eternity." These two whiskies really express the fragility of that equation. I'd be hard pressed to choose one over the other - they are sublime in their own way. There's no doubt in my mind that the people at Whisk-e really nailed it when they called this a "Stellar Selection".

Update 26.11.2012:
Some of our readers abroad have inquired as to how to get hold of these bottles. We're happy to report that both the Clynelish and Linkwood are now available directly from Whisk-e, but only for people residing abroad (i.e. not for Japanese customers, for the simple reason that they are available from decent retailers throughout the country).


Jerry Frausto said...

As an American, how would I find these bottles?

Stefan said...

Liquors Hasegawa and Shinanoya ship abroad. I don't know if they ship to the US (with its complicated liquor important laws), but it's worth a try!