Whisky Reviews: Nantou Omar Plum Liqueur Finish, Black Queen Finish, and Sherry Cask Strength
Today I’d like to take a look at three interesting bottles from our friends across the sea in Taiwan at Nantou Distillery. Similar to Amrut in India, the hot climate requires shorter maturation periods, explosively high ABVs, and lots of fun and experimentation with different production methodologies and cask treatments.
Nantou Omar 2020 Plum Liqueur Barrel Finish / 52% ABV
Although Whiskybase is lagging behind in tracking all of these releases, they do have this 2015 edition of Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corp’s Nantou Distillery bottle which is closest to the one I am reviewing today.
Nantou Omar offers a cask-strength single malt finished in a Plum Liqueur barrel. The bottle date here is 2020.10.08 (F), and it is non-chill-filtered.
- Color: auburn (1.5)
- Nose: Japanese umeshu, unripe/green plums, apricot, varnish, corn potage and molasses
- Taste: fruit tarts drizzled with honey, roasted plums, some vanilla, a little oak; crisp apple, and a tart undertaste
- Finish: medium; quite sweet, the fruit give way to a sugar glaze and Christmas spice
A fine offering from the Kingdom of Fruits, this is probably the only widely available plum-liqueur (aka Umeshu)-finished whisky in the world, and it’s pretty fruity and delicious. Keep in mind that you are not getting a classic ex-Bourbon/Sherry profile here by any means, but rather more of a dessert cordial.
Nantou Omar 2020 Black Queen Wine Barrel Finish / 52% ABV
If you are wondering what on earth “Black Queen” is, it is a grape varietal (arch) developed in Japan in 1927 as a cross-strain between Bailey and Golden Queen. I suspect that TTL Nantou Omar source their ex-wine Barrels from vineyards in Niigata, Japan.
The bottle came in a lovely box, which I have not thrown away yet, so I can preserve the inner box notes that read:
And English translation via Bing, which has achieved human-parity in Mandarin, so it shouldn’t be too terrible:
OMAR original barrel strength single malt whisky (wine barrel)
Grown under the Changhua Erlin cane are black grapes for winemaking, which are brightly sour and the tannins are astringent. Elegant deep purple-red from grape peels, rendering whisky into a very pleasing ruby red, this bottled malt whisky condenses the three major forces of heaven and earth, inviting you to experience the story of Taiwan’s land.
Colour: The center is a deep ruby red with a slight bronze edge
Aroma: The first thing that comes out is the sweet aroma of cooked bananas, followed by the aroma of grape jam, spices, toasted toast, the bottom layer is first the aroma of dried plums, brown sugar cake, and then slowly bring out the quiet aroma of sandalwood.
Palate: Soft and slender without losing its full-bodied taste. The grapes are slightly green in the mouth, and then turn into a sweet nectar-like sweetness with a light smoky smell.
Afterglow: Roundness with grape skin stems, jams, spices.
Here’s what I find:
- Color: burnt umber (1.7)
- Nose: chalk, tannins, lemon, sandalwood; amaretto and brown sugar
- Taste: chewy fruits, stewed berries, black pepper, and smoked cheese platter
- Finish: long and semi-dry; full-bodied red wine, and soft grapes
This is very elegant, and extremely complex. I think I prefer it to the plum-barrel finish because it’s not as sweet, and also has a lot more going on. You could pick this apart for hours, it’s so understated!
Nantou Omar 2015 Sherry Cask / 57.1% ABV
Tasted neat, then with some bottled water
- Color: brown sherry (1.9)
- Nose: PX sherry, brown sugar, cigar smoke, some hot liquor; toasted oak
- Taste: spicy wood, leather, some vanilla, oak, and crème brûlée; black licorice and rum
- Finish: quite long, sweet, and big on vanilla
This is very typical of hot-climate sherry casks, it’s quite nice but also a little hot. I really wish the climate allowed some extra time on the books.