Reviews of ultra-high-end whiskies are controversial. Few can afford a bottle, and most who buy one are unlikely to drink it. Scant mainstream reviews tend to show up in places like Forbes, and are typically nothing more than puff pieces written by inexeperiened (in whiskey) journalists, who parrot the marketing materials and write what they think they’re “supposed” to say.
All the average person usually wants to know is one thing: “Is it worth it?”
If you’re the kind of person who’s okay dropping $20,000 (or currently offered by some retailers as low as $17,500) on a libation to share with friends, then yes, this is worth it. That’s presuming you like the style of heavily aged, heavily sherried single malt, because this one is about as solid as they come.
If you’re working your way through college, hoping that maybe your parents grace you with a bottle of Macallan 18 for your next birthday — and then wondering if that $250 could’ve been better spent elsewhere — then no, this isn’t remotely worth it. Neither are most whiskies, for that matter. Go get yourself a Glenfiddich 12, Balvenie Doublewood, Lagavulin 16, and be done with it.
Expectations and setting have an enormous influence on what we taste (see our infamous Black Bowmore Tasting for a good example). And I felt I kind of “knew” what this was going to taste like. I’m fortunate enough to have tasted many super-aged, first-fill sherry Speysiders, and I’ve enjoyed other heavily sherried Tamdhu (I'm especially thinking of some great Douglas Laing +/- 20yo bottlings circa 2008 - 2012).
So anyway, it’s extremely good. Very much what I expected in a very good way (but I'm also stressing that here as a possible bias alert). The oak is very present, but really in balance. Sherry, dried fruits of all kinds, and rancio (which is a term I hesitate to use, since it can mean different things, but I hope you know what I mean here). Spice notes on the edges -- arguably cloves, maybe allspice. As a general comparison, it’s in line with a highly aged first-fill oloroso Glenfarclas or Macallan. There’s no love-it-or-hate-it funk, sulphur, or unexpected angles. Finish is lengthy, and with good chew, but not an overoaked or bitter kind. I quickly want to go back for more… and do!
For those wondering if they’re missing out by not being able to taste stuff like this, don’t worry. I’ll freely admit that for every ridiculous whiskey I taste, there's another one out there that I’m jealous I haven’t tried. Which brings me to something I’ve been saying something more and more lately: Whisky only gets so good, and the rest is added in your head. But those mental additions can also be half the fun.