Without time & water: mellow and very pleasant, but also closed-up and a bit oaky, 88 points.
With time & water: refill sherry and muscular yet floral Speyside spirit in perfect harmony, 90 points.
I'm settling for the middle: 89 points.
Really a lot of old oak, but it's tolerable for the age. Once you get past that, you're rewarded with buttered shortbread, dark honey, gooseberry, ripe apricot, soft Speyside florals, beeswax, old leather, sunflower oil, cashews, darker notes of charcoal and wood ash, as well as some (very muted) liquorice and Oloroso umami.
Admittedly, it's all very soft and a bit fleeting, so this one's certainly not for thrill-seekers and lovers of intense aromas. But as a subtle, old-style sherried dram that balances cask and spirit and mainly convinces by displaying the benefits of long-term barrel-aging, it's well worth the money.
Begins mellow and softly sour on jammy fruits, gets then leathery (the refill sherry), darker and increasingly sweeter and more richly honeyed, and then some more and more (and more), following this trajectory into a spectacular finale, full of precisely-measured oak spice, wild honey, red-berry fruit jam and roast flavors. All at once.
This is where it wins me over: I've rarely had a malt that develops as linearly like this, in a steady upward motion, with the flavors just rising and intensifying all the way into a climatic finish, and all the different components peaking at the same time. Really good.
Mouth-coating to the max, with an oily film that covers and clings to everything. Savory salinity, wild berries, honey, almond butter and mellow old oak.