Nose: Sweet and waxy with pineapple and polished wood at first, but with a farmyard touch at the back. That dirty note grows as it sits in the glass, bringing out more earthiness, herby hints, a wisp of smoke and a touch of sea air.
Palate: Sweet fruit to start with muddiness and chocolate quickly rolling in. It’s spicy, with mulchy hay, fruity dark chocolate, liquorice and ashy touches. Water amplifies the darker with more liquorice and dark chocolate, as well as turning up the smokiness and bringing out a lightly medicinal character – bandages and wood ash.
Finish: More liquorice and sweetness, sweet apple, green herbs, chocolate and damp ash.
Comment: The first comment from tasters around the room was “it’s a Brora this time”, after a few previous batches straying into sweeter and brighter Clynelish territory. On the nose this initially hints that it might go that way, but on the palate it’s dark and smoky, with great depth.
Appearance: Yellow gold or polished brass. Lightly oily.
Nose: Initially clean, fresh and bracing; then warming, developing depth and richness. Creamy top notes of warm scented wax or vanilla-custard float above a herbal note (basil?) and a sharper, cereal base, all suffused with just a thread of smoke. The nutty, waxy notes sweeten into honeycomb and toasted coconut. The sea appears very late, as a fresh sea breeze. Adding a little water softens the impact and brings up the scented wax, with honey and lemongrass subduing the more subtle vanilla aromas.
Body: Light and softly coating.
Palate: Good texture and a surprising taste: much sweeter than you expect from the nose, and much more smoky, with a most attractive tongue-coating smoothness. A leafy hint of fresh picked strawberry introduces lemon zest and candied peel to set the tongue tingling. Then damp beach notes of wood, sand and sea air round off a beautifully balanced palate. With water added this is a very easy-drinking, rewarding dram: fuller in texture than when at full strength, it is also less sweet, becoming mouth drying, cleansing and softly smoky.
Finish: Coating, chewy and softly drying, with minty chocolate (after-dinner mints). Wood smoke lingers in the complex, fresh and spicy conclusion.