Okay, let’s make it three full weeks in a row of reviews of peated whiskies. Like Monday’s Ardmore and Wednesday’s Brora this does not feature full-throated Islay-level peat. In fact, it’s not from the Highlands or even Scotland. But it’s from a distillery whose whisky these days is as scarce as Brora’s: Yoichi, all the way from Hokkaido in Japan. Bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, this is easily the oldest Yoichi I’ve had—and it’s another sample that I have sat on for a really long time, for no reason that I can determine. I really liked the last 1987 I had (this 23 yo bottled by La Maison Du Whisky) and am hoping that this will be at least as good. The only thing giving me pause is that it was matured in a virgin oak puncheon: 26 years in virgin oak (if this wasn’t a finish) seems like a really long time. My suspicions of of the last virgin oak cask I reviewed (this Glendronach) were proved accurate and this one spent a decade and a half more in the cask. Let’s see if it somehow escaped the curse of over-active oak.
Yoichi 26, 1987 (61.6%; SMWS 116.20; virgin oak puncheon; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Ah, rich honeyed malt; the oak is behind it and it’s powerful but it melds perfectly with the spirit. On the second sniff there’s some peat, the honeyed note moves towards caramel and there’s some salt as well. As it sits the oak recedes and toffee emerges in its place; a big cereal note too now. With more time there’s some red fruit too (cherry). With a few drops of water it’s all about honey, orange, apricot and pastry.
Palate: The oak is in the lead here but it’s not overpowering; salt and dry, peppery peat right behind. Surprisingly approachable at full strength but that’s probably at least partly an artefact of the sample having sat for some years. On the second sip the richer notes begin to come through—dried orange peel; some dried mushrooms too. More citrus as it sits. Let’s see if water opens this up even more. At first it pushes the oak back further and brightens the fruit up, but then as it sits again the oak gets more tannic.
Finish: Medium-long. The oak gives way to the salt and peat. With time the citrus comes through here as well and picks up some pastry crust along the way. With water the finish gets spicier (pepper).
Comments: The nose was great from the get-go but, neat, the palate needed some time to get going. Water oddly emphasizes the oak even more on the palate and finish—are tannins held in check by higher alcohol? Need a chemist’s take on this. Anyway, I preferred it neat, which is not something I say very often about a whisky at such a high strength.
Rating: 90 points.
Thanks to Teemu for the sample!