This bottle of Yoichi 1988 is the first ever expensive whisky I ever bought. Well, I say bought, but in fact it was a gift from my girlfriend at the time, and wife now. Back in 2008, the World Whisky Awards had designated a single cask of Yoichi 1987 the best whisky in the world. So the next year, when Yoichi released its 1988 vintage, I was curious to buy one, as it was probably as good as the previous which was the best in the world, right? At the time, I had a starting interest in whisky, I had maybe half a dozen bottles, which was quite a lot compared to my friends who only drank things like Jack Daniels. But when the bottle was available at La Maison Du Whisky, it was sold for 220€ which was quite a lot for me at the time. Back in 2010, I was buying 50€ bottles, I was really not ready to put that price in a whisky. But some time later, during a nice weekend in Andorra, I discovered a fantastic off-licence in Andorra-la-Vella, that had it in stock for just 150€. Quite a price cut compared to LMDW!
Now, since it was a very expensive whisky for me at the time, I drank it very sparsely, only on good occasions or if I wanted a treat, because it was a whisky I really liked from the start. Then I saw over time its value increase, and I think it made me think each drop of it was getting more and more expensive. This is a bit stupid, since the bottle was not paid the price it was starting to rise to, and since it was opened, it kind of didn’t have value anymore. At least not “selling value”. But that made me select even more the occasions to enjoy it.
But now as I write these lines and yesterday when I had my final dram from this bottle, I was happy it took me so long to reach the end of it. Because since I opened this bottle, and especially in the last three or four years, my palate has improved. Getting more and more passionate with whisky, starting to take tasting notes, trying more and more whiskies, my nose, palate and experience evolved and progressed. And thanks to all of that, I have the feeling I am finally able to appreciate this whisky as it should, or as I should. I’ve enjoyed it before, but I wasn’t able to put words to explain, even just to myself, why I enjoyed, and what I enjoyed, and what I felt.
Still at the beginning of my whisky journey, back in 2019 I wrote tasting notes on WhiskyBase, sharing a dram from this bottle with Julien, with whom I started this blog. My notes at the time were as follows:
Nose: Starts on delicate peat, red berries: raspberry and redcurrant, dark chocolate, with musty notes and old leather. 92 points.
Taste: Very creamy, on spices (ginger, grey pepper, cinnamon), orange, oak, then huge alcohol bite when you keep it while it gets creamy. 94 points.
Finish: Long finish on the creamy feeling, wee bit sweeter but still spicy. 93 points.
Final rating: 93 points.
Now, let’s see what I get after I’ve just killed the bottle with a nice final dram. Disclaimer: as I’ve said, this is the final dram of a bottle opened about 12 years ago, so oxidation will probably have had an impact on it.
Yoichi 1988 Review
This Yoichi vintage 1988 is a combination of new and refill casks, bourbon barrels and sherry butts, using lightly and heavily peated spirit distilled in 1988 and filled in new oak as well. It was then bottled in 2008, at 20 years of age, giving 3500 bottles at 55% abv. As I said earlier, my bottle was bought for 150€ in Andorra in 2010 while La Maison du Whisky was selling it for 220€. Now, you’d need luck and extremely deep pockets to find one, and be ready to front north of 6.000€.
Despite the bottle being open since 2010, the alcohol is still quite present on the nose. The peat is still here, delicate, intertwined with red berries, but they may be a bit toned down compared to 2019. The musty notes and the old leather are still fully here, however. Smoked ham and salmon give a nice barbecue note, while ginger and pepper provide nice spicy aromas. Some herbal notes of bay leaf and thyme too.
With a few drops of water, there’s a slight woody note as well as maybe paint thinner, but very soft, while all the aromas I got when neat stayed there.
The arrival is thick, drying and still quite hot. Immediately the tongue is dried out, while spices (ginger and pepper again, and wasabi paste as well) warm the palate and the throat. I didn’t remember the sherry butts from the “cask bill” being that noticeable, either my memory’s lacking or it’s more discernable. Or my palate’s better trained. Red and dried fruits, butterscotch, and some wood from the new oak, but it’s not overly woody at all. There are citrus notes as well, lime, blood orange, that slowly change to Jaffa cakes (good ones) as some thick liquid dark chocolate arrive. Maybe some tea, but don’t ask me which kind.
With water, the arrival is creamy and sweet and the dryness is way softer. There’s a stronger mentholated note as well as honey sweets for a sore throat.
Wood, chocolate, grapefruit, red berries and a touch of menthol, with the smoke embracing the other flavours. Long. Very long.
It’s incredible that, after having been opened for 11 years, the whisky kept its strength and flavours and character. The nose is punchy and full of aromas, this is rich and clean and very complex. The palate is still absolutely great even after all those years. It didn’t lose its power, it didn’t lose flavour (as far as I can tell and remember), it’s surprisingly drying but delicious and rich and very complex. And then you add water. And the palate is even better. The mouthfeel gets creamier, the palate is sweeter and fresher, and it’s just perfect. This was my last dram of the bottle, from this special bottle, and I should be sad. But I’m not. Because until the end, this whisky delivered. Until the last drop, it was absolutely fantastic. One of the very best I ever had. I had it at 93 points until I added water, and then it reached near perfection.