Miyagikyo 10 @Day 0, 2012-05-08
Another 5cl sample bottle of Japanese whisky, this time a Miyagikyo (from Nikka) 10 year old at 45% ABV. To be honest, I know nothing about this one in terms of wood use etc. but judging by the colour (ignore the attached colour designation, I'm just talking about a mere tinge here) it may well have some sherry influence.
Nose: Japanese plum, peat, honey, soft fragrant incense smoke, lavender oil. Light and fragrant like perfume. Reminds me a lot of Suntory Hibiki. Alcohol is detectable if one delves a little too far, which is not something I usually detect. Also picking up something quite distinctive that I've only got with Japanese malts so far - an almost indescribable note that I can presently only describe as oak that has been steeped in water with violets and other floral-perfumed extracts and then dried. With water: Fruity sherry, floral notes emerge but leave the other notes by the wayside.
Taste: Immediately prickly and spicy, clings to the tongue delivering a big hit of spiced fruit and citrus oils with a good helping of brine. This is a robust dram. I'm surprised in fact, the strength in delivery seems greater than the bottled strength of 45%. With water: Delivery tones down to an acceptable level, oak and white pepper coming through at the expense of citrus and losing some of the mouthfeel.
Finish: Immediate bitter citrus upon swallowing, followed by fruit and development into an unexpectedly big phenolic peaty punch that builds and builds - and then a reprieve; slowly trails off over a couple of minutes supported by continuing background threads of fruit and wood spice leading to a dry conclusion. With water: Shorter and toned down in all departments.
Balance: This packs a punch that one does not expect at all from the soft, fragrant nose. The prickle on the tongue, alcohol bite and "rawness" of the peat on delivery do not enhance the experience. For a 10 year old malt I think this could have been better integrated. Big does not always mean good - you need a certain level of refinement to pull it off.
Score: N21 T20 F20 B19 = 80
Overall, an above average dram that has its moments, where the nose is the definite stand out. Some rough edges in taste and finish ensure that this one doesn't end up in the company of great malts. After the initial surprise with the big delivery, the whisky is let down by its overall lack of depth, particularly exposed by the addition of water.
Miyagikyo 10 @1 Week
Nose: Plum wine, faint whiff of smoke, honey suckle, cherries, strawberries and cream, milk chocolate, candied orange. Quite a soft nose that likes to play hide and seek - but some effort brings its rewards. A very "dessert" quality to this which is unexpected but welcome. Sophistication right here.
Taste: Immediate spice on the tongue, quite sharp delivery, peaty phenols, citrus (grapefruit), brine and pepper in equal measure arrive closely behind. Silky, mouth coating. Harmonious peat. Elegant oak.
Finish: Dry peat is most prominent, followed by oak spice and a background of citrus and brine. A fairly short but warming finish.
Balance: Like the Yoichi 10, displays a great balance between dry peat, oak and citrus combined in a silky-smooth palate (once the initial sharpness has abated). The nose here provides a fruity-sweet element which contradicts (or counter-balances) the palate which actually works, overall.
Score: N22 T21 F19 B20 = 82
Miyagikyo 10 @4 Weeks
This has had 3 weeks to breathe now since last tasting with only 1/3 of the small 5cl sample remaining, hence this is the final review of this time course review. I'm hoping the 2/3 air to whisky ratio for such a minute quantity of whisky is simulating 2 or 3 months of "standard" bottle oxidation in a full sized bottle - at least the noticeable changes in character in a mere 4 weeks would suggest that oxidative effects are definitely at play.
Nose: Quite closed even with some hand warming and plenty of time in the glass to breathe. There's some soft confectionery sweetness there, non-descript fruit sugars, a distant echo of earthy peat smoke, a little mild incense, citrus peel, sweet bourbon wood and cola. Easily likeable but requires much time. Complex beyond initial impressions.
Taste: A zesty bitter lemon/lime/grapefruit attack with a good helping of tingly oak spices and some phenols, mellowing to sweet and sour; medium-bodied tannins to counter-balance. Rustic but not without its charms.
Finish: Bourbon oak and wood spices in the lead, followed by a touch of peat and citrus, continuing on to dry, sweet malt in an abbreviated but enjoyable, warming finish.
Balance: Quite well balanced for the most part; the nose displays some good complexity which isn't quite delivered on the palate and finish although elements in tune otherwise. The palate whilst enjoyable feels a little clumsy although there is nothing fundamentally flawed - however I would venture to say that the slightly over-pronounced citrus bitters and lively oak spice on the palate disturbs the overall harmony BUT not to a significant degree - a quite minor criticism to be honest.
Overall, a more than pleasant dram but lacking the refinement that other Japanese malts in its class can display. This whisky contains perhaps a little too many competing themes and comes off slightly disorganised, but again, that's an over-analysis and I certainly wouldn't let it get in the way of experiencing this quite enjoyable Japanese malt.
Score: N21 T20 F20 B21 = 82
Final (Average) Score: N21 T20 F20 B20 = 81