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I'm in the midst of writing my "Taiwan" series of reviews, wherein I'm sampling the best whiskies this lovely island has to offer. I'm midway through my Kavalan reviews, and I thought I'd take a moment to review another Taiwanese delicacy, Matisse.
Unlike Kavalan, which is distilled here, Matisse uses only Scottish whiskies for its releases. More specifically, everything released by this blend comes from Speyside. The owner of this company apparently made the conscious decision to ignore traditional whisky marketing strategies and instead try something different...
Firstly, he wanted to give it a very slick and modern look, which he did. Very cool package and bottle. More importantly, he opted not to release the names of the distilleries involved in his products, so that they may be sold on their own merit. Whether or not you agree with this, it does make one think about how people tend to be biased towards certain brands. Instead of only drinking what they know or only buying whiskies which are steeped in Scottish tradition, a whisky drinker should arguably be able to enjoy a dram simply because, well, it tastes damn good. Interesting approach.
So here we go. Matisse 12 Pure Malt, which draws from both bourbon and sherry matured malts. Bottle price was roughly equivalent to $25 Canadian dollars.
Nose: Cherries, caramelized bananas, orange chocolate, hints of spice and oak, with wisps of cereal and nuts. Much more complex than I expected.
Palate: Creamy, malty. Orange rind, milk chocolate, caramel, roasted nuts. Sherried fruits and spices are here, but they don't overpower the other flavours. Lovely, powerful malt and cereal notes. In the finish we get some deep oak, leather, and barley. Not a long finish, but not too short. A complex and enjoyable dram with wonderful balance.
I was surprised by how good this was. I was nervous when I first bought it last year for two reasons. One, because it has limited distribution, so there isn't much info or discussions out there about this stuff. Two, the way they market this whisky allows for very little background info on its origins. All I had to go on was Jim Murray's 93 scoring. I usually trust his reviews, and I was curious to give it a shot simply because it is exotic and somewhat overlooked given the geographical constraints to its distribution. Anyway, it has become a mainstay in my cabinet. It's a good balance between sherry and bourbon. Not only that, this blend is better than a lot of single malts and costs half the price. Simply put, it's a solid, complex, reasonably priced everyday dram with more richness and complexity than the price would suggest.