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Okay, so I have a wee sample of the Claret left. This will allow me to compare it with the bottle of Fino I just cracked open for the first time.
First, I shall review the Fino.
Nose: Rich cream, honey, Granny Smith apple, pie crust, toasted barley malt, butter scotch.
Mouth: Honey, brine, caramel, strawberries, quince, smoke, cashew, graham crackers, sea salt, white chocolate, oat bran.
Finish: Nice and long. Pie crust again, baked peaches, brine, seaweed, rhubarb, turbanado sugar.
One the death: brown sugar, cream, Werthers butterscotch hard candy.
Adding water is ill-advised in the case of the fino. It can bring out a slight sulfuric tinge and the whisky waters down terribly fast for some reason, given its relatively admirable ABV. A fragile creature, indeed.
The shift from brininess to sweet on the finish is very sudden, like a roller coaster ride.
I've already done tasting notes on the Claret, so I will just say that it is more dignified than the upstart Fino, which is suprising since the Fino is two years its senior.
The Fino actually tastes younger. However, the sudden shifts and changes in the mouth rarely happen with whiskies younger than 14 years, so that aspect of it is a bit less of a shocker, although I must say that whiskies like this are not all that common. The claret wins, but the fino is a wild fun ride. Which do I like more? The fino, but just barely. The claret is more "steady on" then the fino. It has its sea legs about it.
Of course, sometimes "unexpected" is just what the doctor ordered. Charles Darwin be damned. He was a hopeless racist and a eugenicist anyhow. And if you doubt me, read "The Descent of Man."
Evolution happens in fits and starts, and not always through "mutations." When it comes to Springbankery of the Finoesque variety, the evolution might just propel your appreciation of whisky into a new category of strange, like some sort of furtive cryptid peeping through your window on a stormy window at night . . . then again, it is very blustery outside tonight where I live. Oh no, I'm scaring myself. Time for another dram of Fino to settle my only slightly ruffled nerves. . . there, that's better. Now what was I saying?