Usually the LCBO has the annual edition of Midleton Very Rare in time for St. Patrick's Day, but this year they were late (How dumb is that? Imagine the increased sales, folks!) Not only does the 2017 edition contain some of the oldest whisky ever put into the range, but it has entirely new packaging with a super fancy box and luxurious bottle design (too luxurious, in my opinion...) Let's see how it compares to the 2016 bottling.
The colour is a rich gold. Very nutty on the nose, with dark chocolate, marzipan, crispy malt, toasted oak and dark honey. Lots of tropical fruit: banana skin, papaya, lemon and underripe green mango. Touch of mint. Very grassy. A bit closed (it is a freshly opened bottle) but those roasted almonds, walnut and macadamia are very apparent, speaking to a prominent pot still character. Lots of complexity too: the longer it sits, the more you get (sandalwood, nutmeg, lots of fruit.) With water you get ginger and wood smoke. Scrumptious!
A wee bit thin on the palate, with more honey, cinnamon, cloves and light maple syrup (very light). Orange pith. Chocolate, but milk this time. A hint of ginger; also the requisite butterscotch and vanilla. Buttery, creamy mouthfeel. Both maltier and spicier with water. Very impressive but doesn't quite have the joie de vivre of the nose.
The medium-to-long finish is oaky, spicy (with black pepper and paprika) and lightly sherried. This is beautifully done, one of the best of the range that I've tasted, with a wonderful balance between serious oak and that biscuity spirit. That rich, creamy mouthfeel is fantastic. How does it compare with the 2016 edition? That one's been open for over a year, and is still quite fresh with those roasted nuts and honey - but lacks the body of the new edition. As good as 2016 was, 2017 is definitely better - almost justifying the fancy gussying-up!