I had trouble deciding how much I liked it at first. The leathery, rubbery, peppery, and savoury notes are pretty challenging, and I’m not such a big marsala fan. That said, I think the water helped it out a fair bit, and I feel the whisky will only improve with time oxidizing in the bottle (update: a year after writing these notes, I can say that this prediction has definitely come true). There are some serious meaty notes in here, along with gorgeous tropical fruits, coastal Islay influence, and French oak.
Nose: Savoury and syrupy-sweet. Pretty obvious marsala influence, but pretty well-integrated into the malt. Old leather, soy sauce, and nori. Funky fruits: dried mango, papaya, and passionfruit. There’s also more of a familiar vanilla/maple/caramel sweetness, along with some dark chocolate. There’s definitely peat smoke, but it’s mellowed by the marsala and French oak. Lots of fresh rubber. There’s some herbal elements underneath, with some juniper and anise appearing to complement the rubber and leather.
A little water brought out the heavy French oak sweetness.
Palate: Sweet fruit, then herbal and woody. Lots of rubber and leather. Dark, slightly bitter herbs and seaweed. Vanilla and wood. Spicy black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla on the back end.
After adding a few mLs of water, the palate is much sweeter and tamer. The bitterness has mostly subsided. Now the whisky arrives with apple, citrus, and sea salt, before rich Marsala, vanilla, and peat smoke take hold. Honey-glazed smoked meat in the middle, or is it pepper steak? There’s still leather and rubber, but they sit in a bit of a sweeter space.
Finish: Fruity, malty, and spicy. Passionfruit, banana, and pear. Strawberry Pop Tarts! Or some other sweet cookie thing. More old rubber, black pepper and soy sauce. Some kind of sweet barbeque sauce. Sautéed mushrooms and punky wood. Tandoori smoke and cured meats.