Blind Tasting Challenge - NAS vs. age statement

NAS vs. Age Statement Blind Tasting Challenge: Cardhu 12 yo vs. Amber Rock

Blind Tasting Challenge - NAS vs. age statementIn early 2015 whisky blogger and malt maniac Oliver Klimek set out to do a wide-scale comparison between NAS and age statement expressions, all done blind and with 35 tasters per pair of whisky. The results are very interesting with a near-draw between the entry-level malts and their NAS counterparts. Head over to his site dramming.com for all details on the challenge and the results!

Here are my original tasting notes on the first pair of whiskies: The Cardhu 12yo vs. their NAS Amber Rock edition. All notes are original as written during the blind tasting phase.

A4A: Cardhu Amber Rock
Distillery: Cardhu
Bottler: Official Bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2014-2015
Age: NAS
Limitation: –
Casks: Bourbon + toasted oak finish
Alcohol: 40%
most likely chill filtered and coloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour:
gold
The nose opens with a rich and creamy note of vanilla and fruits. Oranges, orange rind, ripe pears, lots of apricots, fully ripe peaches, almost over-ripe Kiwi (including slightly bitter notes of Kiwi kernels), raisins and a top note of ginger. Maybe a very faint note of smoke – 2ppm-ish, but it could also stem from the casks. No european oak notes, though, probably American Oak Ex-Sherry casks? Just pure speculation – it is a blind tasting after all. The palate is as expected. There’s a caramel sweetness and a creamy mix of all kinds of fruits – both summer and dark fruits, pureed and diluted with water. I’m having a hard time telling them apart, sorry. Finally the cask makes an appearance with an oaky note in the background and hints of spices – cinnamon and cloves. Once again, there’s a minuscule hint of peat smoke. The long finish has the same profile as nose and palate: Dark, sweet fruits. some caramel, light spices – just fading gently until it’s gone.
Verdict:
A very tasty dram with a lot of sherry casks in the mix (probably no European oak, hough). It fits the bill as a daily dram – not overwhelming but not too light either, just about right for casual dramming at a higher level than most supermarket drams. I’d guess it’s a Speysider. Maybe Glenfarclas (12 or 15) because of the very light hint of smoke?
Score: 84/100
(Nose: 83  Palate: 85  Finish: 84)

A4B: Cardhu 12 yo
Distillery: Cardhu
Bottler: Official Bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2014-2015
Age: 12y
Limitation: –
Casks: Bourbon
Alcohol: 40%
chill filtered and coloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour: 
light gold
The nose is quite a bit younger and lighter in style than sample A4A. Vanilla, honey, with peppermint on top. Light fruits, such as red apples, pears, orange rind, pineapple, peaches. A hint of dark fruit puree in the background, but nowhere near as pronounced as in the previous sample. Do I get the slightest hint of peat smoke as well? The palate is in line with the nose: vanilla, honey, molasses, light caramel, quite subdued fruits and a bit more nippy as well, was it bottled at a higher ABV? The fruits – a very faint puree of dark fruits on fully ripe stewed apples and pears – make me think of Ex-Sherry casks as well, but probably X-th fill. The medium long finish is a bit more alcoholic upon swallowing and not quite as intensely fruity, but there are still dark fruits and a slight herbal note – fading away without any off notes developing.
Verdict:
This is a dialed-down version of the previous dram. Not quite as fruity, not quite as intense but a bit more nippy, suggesting a higher bottling strength to compensate for the weaker wood. If the first one should indeed turn out to be Glenfarclas then this would be one of the new NAS editions called “Team” “Passion” and “Spring”. But then again it might not be Glenfarclas after all… 😉
Score: 80/100
(Nose: 77  Palate: 81  Finish: 81)

Afterthoughts:
That one really surprised me when I found out it was actually Cardhu. I can’t blame myself for not guessing the distillery correctly as these were the first two Cardhu malts I’ve ever tried. Well, at least I was right in guessing Speyside and it’s close to Glenfarclas, so…
The Amber Rock really got me – double ex-bourbon maturation? I could’ve sworn some ex-sherry casks (but from American oak, so at least I got that part right) were in the mix. They must’ve been some very active and fresh finishing barrels. I can definitely see myself picking up a bottle of this for a daily dram when I stumble across it on sale.

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