Much like my Cask Strength Shootout post, these are provisional reviews, as I only tried these whiskies once. Still, they were large drams, so I got a fairly good sense of what was going on.
Nose: barbecue peat smoke with honey sweetness underneath, a little bit of oiliness, pine sap and sherry if you dig for it, which gains some brown sugar and molasses notes while the barbecue smells win out over the peat after a bit of water
Taste: slightly sweet up front, strong pepper mid-palate, dried fruits, citrus, malt and a touch of bitterness leading into the finish, which becomes a bit more subdued and creamy after dilution
Finish: gentle barbecue smoke, chocolate and what I thought of as a mash-up between the nose and early palate
This is the whisky that finally convinced me that peat smoke could be a good thing. After flipping through Michael Jackson's scotch guide for a while, I finally just asked the bartender for a suggestion for something similar to Highland Park. He suggested Talisker and the DE was only $1 more than the basic 10 Year. And I was in heaven. I really like the spicy barbecue flavors that come with the smoke. I still need to try the Talisker 10, so I don't know if this is just a feature of their whisky or something that comes out of the extra maturation in sherry casks, but it's really delicious. I'm even considering some Islay whiskies now, which were pretty much the opposite of what I was interested in when I started. How things change...
Nose: PX sherry, raisins, a hint of peat and a bit of orange peel, with the peat and sherry becoming more harmonious after adding a few drops of water
Taste: lightly sweet up front, malt, a bit of sherry, and orange mocha going into the finish, which becomes a bit sweeter and more peppery after dilution
Finish: sweet and malty, with a touch of sherry, which evolves into bitter chocolate malt after adding water
It was a bit of a mistake for this to be the second whisky of the night after the Talisker. I have a feeling that this is a better and more complex scotch than it seemed at the time, but after the brawny island smoke, it just couldn't stand up. I'd really like to try more, but the price point is just a bit hard to justify when the somewhat similar Clynelish 14 is nearly $30 less. If anyone has a lead on a store that will sell and ship it to me for under $60 I'd love to try it again, but right now it's a little way down my 'to buy' list.