While this, to me, is a poor man’s Japanese Harmony (which I also reviewed for Bourbon and Banter), it is not without its intrigue. If you research the use of Mizunara in whisky, you’ll find quite a bit of disdain for what Chivas is doing here. People say that the qualities that Japanese oak imparts on whisky can’t be rushed by using it as a “finishing” technique. While not being an expert on either whisky finishing or the qualities of woods that are grown half a world away, I think I respectfully disagree.
David James Spirits, out of Kentucky, is seemingly in that awkward adolescent phase that a lot of craft distillers must go through. Their website touts a “Purity focused” product that is in the works and that they are excited to put out in roughly three years. During this waiting time, distillers must make a choice: do they bottle some of their own juice while it’s young and maybe not up to their own standards, or do they outsource the aging to other distillers and bottle the work of someone else?
Prior to being sent these two bottles to review, I had tasted the Paul John’s Brilliance before, but never had their peated offering, Bold. The Brilliance lived up to my memory of being an incredibly strong value despite its relatively low proof. It’s a very approachable daily sipper that would be familiar to bourbon drinkers and is equally at home neat in a Glencairn or a highball glass with some soda and lemon.
Don’t let the double-cereal punch from the tasting notes throw you off: this entry-level offering from Amrut was my first taste of Indian whisky and I’ve found myself returning to it over the years even as I’ve branched out and tried more premium labels. It’s one of those bottles that gets better after it’s opened and has a chance to oxidize a bit, and I regularly taste new notes in a bottle after it’s sat for a while.
As I was venturing into the world of Japanese whisky, I purposefully avoided two bottles produced by Nikka, despite the fact that I very much liked some of their other offerings. I decided that I would not like their “Coffey” whiskies because, with little-to-no exceptions to this rule, I’m not a fan of flavored whiskies. I figured that since they misspelled “whisky” (I prefer the American/Irish “whiskey”), that they must have misspelled “coffee” as well. I assumed that coffee-flavored whiskey must have its fans, but that I would not be one of them. It was in explaining this flavor preference …
This is a severe departure from a bourbon-bomb that’s single-barrel or cask-strength. It is appropriate that the brand’s own notes include the phrase “a full orchestra of flavors.” If a high-proofed bourbon is rock-and-roll, then this is truly a classical masterpiece. Obviously, being a fan of one, doesn’t mean you can’t be a fan of the other: sometimes you’re in the mood for Led Zeppelin or the Red Hot Chili Peppers and other times can call for Beethoven or Vivaldi.
This whiskey contains considerably more peat and iodine taste than I would expect from an American Whiskey or any whiskey that brands itself as being in the “Highland Style.” Had it been marketed as in the Islay tradition I may not have had the expectations disconnect that I experienced the first few times I tasted this.
While I may be romanticizing the past, the palate is not as complex as I remember it being prior to being discontinued, and a bit sweeter. The older variety (again, at least in my memories) had this umami and dry finish – similar to that which can be found in good parmesan cheese – that is lacking in this one. Without knowing much about blending, my guess is that of some of the stronger, peatier, more mysterious blends are less represented in the current ratio than in past iterations of the Green Label. In this generation, the honey from the nose takes center stage on the palate and is supported by malt and cereal. A bit of water adds a little spice that is absent when drinking it neat. The mouthfeel is relatively light, but the best parts of the flavor profile seem to last longer than everything else, which is a nice surprise.
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