This was left over from my birthday party back in May by my good friend Igor Kossov. It was distilled Feb 21 1994 and put into a 2nd fill bourbon hogshead; 20 years later it filled 189 bottles.
The colour is a light-to-medium caramel. On the nose a fruity sweetness comes first: strawberries, peaches and kumquats. Behind that, however, is an alcoholic backbone that hints of corn (a bit like the unaged American corn whiskey I just reviewed). Very slight hints of butterscotch, lemon pith and vanilla, but mostly it has a slightly medicinal sheen of a sort that I wouldn't expect from a 20 year old single malt scotch. Water adds a bit of sea breeze but also flattens it. Gets a bit dusty with time in the glass. Interesting but not wholly successful.
Smooth on the palate with some corn oils, thin caramel and toasted oak. The malt is dominated by the cask here - the oak gets more pronounced the longer you hold it in the mouth, becoming somewhat bitter. Water smooths that out, though, but adds more heat and spice.
The finish is oaky with cinnamon, brown butter and black liquorice. At 52.7% it's remarkably smooth without water (I would avoid it). It's more interesting than successful - the bitterness of the oak doesn't quite gel with the malt. And it's not over-oaked at all (it's not dark in colour), it's just that somehow the tannins got to it.
If you want to compare my notes with the bottler, here's what the SMWS folks wrote on the label: "Evocative aromas of late summer cornfields in the Midwest as Tom Sawyer begins to whitewash a fence. The taste neat was that of a corn on the cob or homemade blackcurrant jam. Water added root beer and a 'cherry pie moonshine'." Hard to believe that's not describing an American whiskey. In hindsight, I get the root beer, and I suppose some of those notes are similar to mine (but they write it better).