Here are my tasting notes. Yes, I am a writer. Sorry for the very long review, but I think this time it's worth putting down my full notes for the benefit of others who are debating whether to plunk down over two hundred dollars for this whisky.
Color: Pale goldNose: Immediately, rich malty notes come to the fore with the scent of damp wool. A mineral note emerges that can be likened to petroleum jelly. Sweet peat follows, along with cigar ash. There's a bit of dunnage warehouse fustiness that is present in most Springbanks. Finally comes lemon drops, vanilla ice cream, and some grapefruit.Palate: Classic interplay of malt, a little smoke, sea salt, buttery caramel, and sultana. I’m reminded of the last glass of Springbank 10 Year 100 Proof that I savored last year, but this whisky before me is more mature and even more “old skool,” if you can believe it. The dram is so masterfully made that it tastes a little different with each sip. That sort of variation reveals a master stroke of craftsmanship.Upon one’s tongue, the malt turns sweet right away with some overtones of vanilla bean and caramel sauce drizzled on cheesecake. Industrial notes are not far behind with hints of furniture polish and the kind of mineral oil used to sharpen knife blades. Some fruitiness also comes into play with dried apricot and sultana. Lastly, one is left with an oceanic form of saltiness that seems to evoke some batches of the 1960’s Local Barleys.In the finish, I am reminded of the heather honey that I tasted recently in a 30 year old Highland Park. I wouldn’t categorize the finish as bitter, and yet it moves through a green sappy vegetal note that seems almost bitter, but not quite. This compliments sweeter overtones from the palate remarkably well. A phantom savory note, as of marbling on a fire roasted rib-eye steak, is present at the death, for those who have the ability to detect it.Influence of water: On the nose, water eliminates the damp wool scent right off the bat. One is left with a more austere grassy, mineral impression--along with a foundation of malt and some peat, as might be expected. In the mouth, water also simplifies things. The broth is reduced to light caramel, wet moss, and very little in the way of stone fruits (no more dried apricots). But I do still get a hint of lemon rind, along with a wee bit of grapefruit.Local Barley 2016 is more citrusy with water, in other words. Other critics have said the whisky takes water quite well. I would say that it is delightful with water, but I do appreciate the finer points that are lost with the addition of more than half a teaspoon of water. Since I employ a dropper to add water, I was able to try the whisky with a few drops, and then to add a few more, and a few more, sipping as I went, until I got up to a teaspoon’s worth. I feel that the trade off went south after about half of that. Word to the wise: when it comes to water, less is more with this one. A few drops can relax the whisky without stripping away all of the amazing subtleties.Final Thoughts: Local Barley does succeed in evoking an old-school form of craft-oriented whisky making in spades. I’m amazed this stuff is only sixteen years old. There must be some older casks in the batch. Yes, the broth definitely tastes older to me at times. It has the power of sixteen years, and the charismatic charm of twenty years. In fact, as I said, I was reminded at one point of the latest release of Highland Park’s 30 Year Old, and that is high praise considering how high I rated that one!