This is called A “Speyside” and rumor has it the unnamed distillery is Macallan. Now that I’ve been able to spend some time with it, I concur with that rumor. Let me tell you right up front: If you can find this and can afford it, buy it, open it and drink it. This is among the best whiskies I’ve had the pleasure to savor and sip and one of the best examples of high level Speyside character I’ve ever had.
Imagine running through a wide open field on a hot summer day, through heather and long grass, stopping to catch your breath in the middle of a field of ripe cantaloupe melons…
And then… Sugar Babies candies, lemon slices, new suede, a hint of vanilla and caramel and, way in the back, a fresh, just-opened pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.
This is the kind of nose that makes me lean back and take my time, a fully satisfying experience in itself, compelling me to stretch out the complex olfactory pleasures before taking the first sip. (25/25)
A slightly oily mouth feel and a nigh perfect balance between sweet and drying, fruit and mineral, herbal earthiness and oak-aged maltiness. The fruit is melon-like but less pronounced than in the nose, and a moderate oaky astringency is nicely balanced by a not-too-sweet heather-honey creaminess. (24/25)
Even at full strength (51.3% ABV), the burn on this is a softly searing pleasure that radiates from tongue to throat to chest over several minutes. The heather-honey gives way to a slow, mild, mouthwatering spiciness that in turn gives way to an oaky drying sensation. Long and slowly developing – not as utterly rich and warming as a few I’ve had, but one of the best finishes my pleasure centers have converged on in a very long time. (23/25)
The magic here adheres in the relational integrity one senses from beginning to end, the graceful arc that defines the balance of individual impressions, all of them remarkable, beginning in the nose, continuing on the palate and wrapping up beautifully in the finish. Like a film from a master director or a song or a novel written by a genius of the form, the experience of drinking this elixir is a seductive balance between change and continuity, like watching a group of spellbinding dancers tell a captivating story over time.
Thanks to my very generous friend Bikram Singh, I have had one Macallan that was better than this, a 33 year old single cask bottled by Douglas Laing that tasted like fermented rose petals with heather and saffron – the most delicate single malt ever to pass my lips. But this 23 year old from Exclusive Malts, at less than a quarter the price, is a solid second place finish. This is a truly marvelous whisky. (24/25)
Total points for this whisky: 96