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I've been dying to do a side-by-side of the 12 Year Old and the Amber. And hey - now's as good a time as any!
My understanding is that the age statement Sherry Oak whiskies are being phased out (everywhere except in Asia, I think), to be replaced by the NAS 1824 Series bottles. So this 12 Year Old is nigh impossible to find in North America any more - apparently. If anyone wants to correct me on that, please feel free...
The colour is a deep, rich, coppery gold. On the nose, it's all sherry, sherry and more sherry, which (unlike the Gold) shows no trace of sulphur. It almost overwhelms the delicate barley sugar, but not quite. Medium dark chocolate, old leather, cinnamon and a basket of mixed fruit (dates, raisins, papaya and green apples). Water exposes the spirit a little more, but not by much. Exactly what you would expect - beautifully done but unsurprising.
The palate leans more toward the dates and raisins, with more spices (nutmeg, chili) and oak. Light chocolate notes, and obviously, tons of sherry. Silky, delicate mouthfeel. Water does a bit more to the palate than to the nose, upping the spice a bit. Straightforward, elegant and delicious.
The short-to-medium length finish has some cherrywood smoke, with gentler spices and a bit more oak. I do love this whisky but I can't score it above 90 (Mr. Murray gives it a 93, by the way) only because there is such a sensible straightforwardness to it, rather than more complexity. I'm not sure that is necessarily a bad thing - it's a fantastic malt, easy to drink and very satisfying. Maybe I'd score it higher if there was a bit more oomph to it, but who knows? If you can find it, grab it.