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A mate of mine (Jimmy) and I have this arrangement that whenever we get something new we always invite each other over to have a glass. He recently had a birthday and was gifted a few bottles - a Haig Dimple 15 year old, and Chivas Regal 12 year old and a Bruichladdich 18 year old.
Third and last was the Bruichladdich 18 year old.
The blurb on the bottle (and the case) referred to 'Opitz One' - Vin de Paille. Vin de Paille is the french name for straw wine, or wine that has been made with grapes that have been set out to dry on straw mats to concentrate their flavour. It doesn't specifically mention it, but it's probably safe to assume that this was finished in Vin de Paille wine casks.
And straight away the influence is felt on the nose. Full of fruity red wine, raisins and grapes, it's almost sherry-ish. Over several sniffs it also exhibited honey sweetness, heather, clean mountain air, malt, and old dry leather. This was genuinely complex, and very well put together, I could have kept nosing this for quite a while.
The taste was initially light, but got warmer, richer and increasingly characterful the longer it sat in my mouth. Unsurprisingly I guess, it had many of the characteristics of deep rich Merlot. The raisins and grapes continue, along with the honey. New to the mix were a rich earthiness (like a good rich fertile black soil) and a taste of charred oak - the type of charring you get when you drill into oak - just that lightly toasted smell. Very engaging, quite complex, well balanced and thoroughly enjoyable.
The finish was long, warm and rich, befitting such a fine dram. Has the character of an excellent mulled dessert wine with the raisins, and grapes continuing, with a gentle sugary sweetness and the return of the old dry leather.
This was genuinely excellent. Compared to the other two we tasted, it was not just in a different league, it was like comparing a talented high school team with a team in the big league - they are several leagues apart. I'm going to give it a 9, but that might be a reflection of the lack of character of the other two whiskies we tasted. In better company, it might have been an 8.5.
If you have some friends who are genuine red wine buffs, this would be an excellent dram to introduce them to the real stuff.