Last basho was bittersweet for us here at S&S. We had an interesting basho with great storylines, some good bouts, the rise of some new, strong sekitori, and some good smokes, good whiskies, and good times. At the same time however, we could see the end of an era approaching. Our fearless (as long as you don’t count his wife) leader, Virgil Valentine, is headed back to the mother country to pursue career options, leaving us (sans Daly/Chalmers/Briton-Meyer) in the Japanese hinterlands to fend for ourselves. We all therefore decided he needed a proper send off, so we all pitched in and snagged this individually numbered bottle as a surprise (amongst others) and headed to the beach for some camping.
As it would be one of our last opportunities to do this together we decided to record our reactions for posterity and write them out as a review. What you shall read hereafter are our unfiltered, and somewhat inebriated opinions of this special whisky on this special occasion.
Before tucking in, we all took a whiff from the bottle. Valentine popped his whole beak into the bottle and claimed a honey note, Bertrum and Connolly seconding…the motion passed. After some contemplation, Creswell & Degama added vanilla. Although let it be said that the aroma of this particular offering is not as powerful as an Islay whisky, but pleasantly subtle and understated. As it was a hot day, and we were stupid, we decided to start with a rock.
The first sip: “This whisky is smooth” our newest compatriot (Henry Johnson) commented, “maybe the smoothest I’ve ever had.” We all agreed it had a very pleasing smooth front, smoother swallow, and a homey, warm finish. DeGama insisted that at first “the taste resembles juice… like maybe grape juice”, but Daly later insisted that “If we are unable to find 3 instances of ‘juice’ being used in a whisky review that we couldn’t use it in this review”
Creswell understood what DeGama was getting at, but couldn’t put his finger on it. Then, during a small side-chat with Bertrum, he spat out “Honeysuckle… that’s what it tastes like!” although the only other member that could even remember honeysuckles was Johnson. The word thin cannot be used to describe this taste, but its kind of that feeling. A subtle, sweet, and fragrant honey and vanilla flavor. Almost refreshing, if a whisky can be refreshing.
It was decided at this time that the rocks might be thinning things out a bit. Spot on, The flavors were a bit more vivid, and the warmth amplified when served straight up. Bertrum rightly pointed out that “much like a bourbon, a rock will sometimes dampen the flavors of an Irish whisky, where they would enhance a scotch.” Valentine then categorically stated (as is his wont) that he “don’t put a rock in his bourbon.” With a bit of Valentine’s wife’s favorite “Chinese music” playing, we turned the spotlight to the Irish to give a few words about this spirit from his homeland.
“It’s sweet smellin’, It’s incredibly smood tah drink. Da ahfter taste comes back tru yer nohse, den is followed back down yer troat. It tickled moi troat.” As we all know, and as Johnson pointed out, it was “not the first thing to tickle Connolly deep down in the ‘troat.'” DeGama then pointed out that it’s smoothness resembles that of a Johnny Walker Blue. Something you drink and relax into. “Like a brandy.” Bertrum added that “you don’t get a kick in the jaw that you (read:I) want with a whisky.”
DeGama, Creswell, and Bertrum were all on the same page. But they usually are when it comes to whisky. They love the salty, oily, smoky, peaty, punch-in-the-face whiskies. Which this is not. If a music analogy could be made comparing this whisky to Laphroaig, the Laphroaig would be heavy metal, the Bushmills, the Beatles. Not as brutal, not as complex, not as many things getting broken and certainly not as smelly, but it has a sweet and often beautiful simplicity. Appealing to all who like whisky, and some who don’t. As over critical and verbose as we are here at S&S, our perpetual man of few words, Daly, put it best as one can for a whisky like this one: after the first sip, while making a sidelong glance at the beautiful golden drink, he simply said “mmmmm” not a Homer simpson “mmmm…donuts”, nor a pleasantly surprised “mmm”, but a satisified, utterly happy, and relaxed “hhhmmmm.”
The bottle soon drained, and we went on to drinks of a lesser pedigree, finishing our last gathering together for some time. But the whole night was cloaked in the satisfied relaxation we imbibed from this wonderful spirit. Farewell Valentine, until next time. For our American readers, give Valentine a shout while he’s back in the states, he could always use a few more buddies to bring him whisky.