This Imperial was bottled for the Whisky Fair, which is one of the biggest whisky festivals in the world (perhaps the biggest in terms of reputation), held every year in Limburg, Germany. Quite apart from the official distillery offerings that show up at most festivals (and which dominate the lineups at the few festivals in the US) Limburg is famous for the esoteric and collectible bottlings, official and independent, on offer by the pour and by the bottle. And as at European festivals you are allowed to purchase/fill samples to take away, it’s an opportunity for geeks to get their hands on small pours of legendary whiskies, full bottles of which would cost a king’s ransom. And also to taste/explore new bottlings from boutique outfits.
Every year I see whisky geeks in Europe talk online about heading out to Limburg and feel envious. Then I read the reports of the crowds which seem to rival the Kumbh Mela and feel less bad about being a whisky geek in the US (yes, there are some US based whisky geeks who go out to these festivals but that’s beyond my pay grade; if I had the money to spend I’d spend it on whisky). Who knows, maybe one year I’ll be in the neighbourhood for a conference at the right time….
Note: These sample bottles from Whiskybase only hold 20 ml and so in the last month when I’ve reviewed any such samples I’ve held off on ratings and detailed notes as I don’t find 20 ml enough for those purposes. However, I’ve now begun to purchase 2x of each sample, which actually works out quite perfectly. I pour one 20 ml sample first and take my initial notes slowly and add a little water and take notes again. Then I pour the second and repeat adding less or more water as necessary. I do still have a lot of single samples from past purchases and if I end up reviewing those they’ll end up in the more informal “Quick Hits” category.
Imperial 17, 1995 (53.9%; The Whisky Fair, refill bourbon hogshead; from a purchased sample)
On Whiskybase it says that this is from a refill sherry hogshead but on the Whisky Fair site I see this is listed as “Refill Bourbon”–which is a relief as (as you will see) I got no sherry notes from this.
Nose: Not a million miles from the Signatory 1995 I reviewed some days ago but much fresher. Apples galore, but juice rather than cider. Starts out sweet and then turns a little acidic. Vanilla and a touch of butter, and after a while some salty and oaky, spicy notes. With more time, wet stones (cobblestones after summer rain) and yes, a lot of salt. Water does nothing for the nose.
Palate: Ah, very nice. Very thick, oily mouthfeel. Sweet apples on an oak platter plus some musky citrus; vanilla and then some brown sugar. With time the apples give way completely to oranges (really nice development). Gets maltier with time. Does not need water at all, and water does nothing interesting for the palate either.
Finish: Long. Tingling citrus and wood spice.
Comments: The best of the few Imperials I’ve had. The apple to oranges shift is really quite nice on the palate and I love how mellow it is compared to the acidic bite of the Signatory. I wish I’d tried a sample before this disappeared because I would have purchased a bottle right away.
Rating: 88 points.