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Nose: Very heavy and pronounced, with thick toffee and hot caramelised apples immediately enveloping our senses. Underneath this there's a secondary however no less rich layer of honeyed eucalyptus and malted pinecones. Almost as if a meal in reverse, we move away from the desert-like introduction and move to a more fruit-based flavour palate, with lemon and raisin prominent, before moving on further to make sure we get our dose of healthy vegetables, notably fried courgette, caramelised carrot and raw yellow pepper. There's a refreshing layer of orange squash infused with fresh mint to wash it all down with, which allows us to then note the increasingly present and acutely sherried profile of this whisky, which brings with it a hint of sulphur, blending further into superglue and even plasticine. A slightly spiky twist to what is otherwise a luxurious nose.
Taste: A light to medium bodied swathe of honey, which brings within its meditated current a plentiful offering of spiced apples and oranges, garnished with fresh mint and eucalyptus. The flow is exceptionally smooth, as is to be expected of a typically japanese malt, although it does kick up a hint of dried mud as it passes. Once again the sherry notes seem to increasingly dominate as the the whisky sits on the palate, along with some dark chocolate truffle and macadamia nuts. Perhaps even one of those fancy dark chocolate truffles with sherry inside...
Finish: As the honey river passes over the palate and disappears, it leaves behind a trail of cashew nuts, macadamia nut brittle, and peanuts (unsurprisingly of the honey-roasted variety...). There are toffeed apples and sherry-soaked raisins and apricots to savour, with some prickly grapefruit and lime to add some bite. A subtle bed of oaky spice offers a slightly bitter counter-balance to the otherwise rich and indulgent finish, which manages to escape mostly unharmed from a restrained sulphur undertone.
Balance: Very smooth and very contained. The nose may be heavy and enveloping, yet never rushed. Likewise the palate is calm and measured, and the finish is an exercise in restraint. These are qualities that tend to mark the great Japanese whiskies. Here however the sherry influence is so strong, that it nearly undoes all the fantastic work that the malt itself has done. The beautifully complex and rich flavour profile is infused with some potentially subversive sherry elements, unsurprisingly of course in the shape of a sulphur and even plasticine. However these undertones don't ever spoil the show, and one could argue they even add to it by giving it a sense of intrigue. So I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt. A very fine after-dinner dram.