You might have seen this article and thought “What am I looking at?”
This is a fair reaction, and I don’t blame you. This is not a big volume seller. This may not even be in consideration amongst other whisky review outlets. That very lack of consideration may actually be the biggest positive for this bottle. In another timeline, no one in any market would be able to come across this bottle if it got the same widespread hype as the other annual cask strength offerings from many of the established distilleries.
What is Navazos Palazzi? It is a partnership formed between Spain’s Equipo Navazos and Brooklyn, NY based PM Spirits. Equipo Navazos is spearheaded by two individuals, Jesús Barquín and Eduardo Ojeda. These two are the driving force behind securing old, forgotten casks. It is clear from their portfolio that they are serious when it comes to sherry.
PM Spirits is led by Nicholas Palazzi, who grew up in Bordeaux, France. Given the backgrounds of these two entities, it is clear why they are well-matched for each other. PM Spirits seeks out specialty artisanal spirits and Equipo Navazos provides exactly that.
Onto the actual whisky: the bottle itself is not the most eye-catching. There is no fancy, colorful label nor ostentatious bottle design. It is very straightforward, if not boring. However, there is a lot to be gained by reading the words on the label.
I am a big fan of distilleries that place information on the labels. This one is about as open and informational as it gets. The brand itself is stylized a bit, and connected via green “Z.” The words “MALT WHISKY” are seen above, and that is where the first piece of interesting information comes from: this Is a 100% Spanish product. The barley, the water source, the casks, the aging, and the bottling all are done in Spain. This product is wholly genuine and unadulterated by the hands of the ever-expanding Scotch industry. It is even a miracle that such a product exists and is available (kind of).
Also noted is that the product was bottled at cask strength, back in 2017, at a healthy 52.5% ABV. It is presented non-chill filtered and at natural color, and somehow this isn’t the most impressive aspect of this whisky.
I honestly am not aware when this bottle hit the shelf of the store I visited. So far, based on specs alone, seems to be quite the sherried whisky, but it gets better.
I have walked past this bottle a few times but one day, I saw a bright yellow sticker on the label, with the words “SALE $79.99.” It was at this moment I knew I had to buy it. It was previously marked at $120-ish and didn’t even warrant a second look at that price. Dare I say: after having it on multiple occasions, pairing with it different foods and cigars, it is worth a lot more than even $120.
As for the information that was a little bit harder to find, there is the age of whisky. After some digging, I found that the age is said to be 11 years. The whisky was matured for 11 years in a single Bota Punta Oloroso cask. What is a Bota Punta? This term refers to the first cask at the lowest row of casks. There is some scientific importance to cask placement, and in this scenario, this bottom row experiences the most interaction with air than compared to the upper rows from within the solera. Even more interesting is the fact that it is usually from this Bota Punta that samples are drawn from by the distillery for tastings.
This release consisted of 900 bottles. Now that the background has been set, onto the actual whisky itself. Tastings have been done in Glencairn and rocks glasses across multiple sittings.
Navazos Palazzi Bota Punta – Review
Bota Punta Single Oloroso Cask. Bottled in 2017. Cask Strength 105 proof (52.5% ABV).
One of 900.
On the nose: This must be the most expressive, non-peated nose I have encountered. It is oozing with the classical sherry notes initially. All the red fruits, berries, strawberry jam. The alcohol does make its presence known, but it is not overbearing. The next whiff brought up some legit raisin and prune notes. Just to confirm this, I did end up pulling apart a raisin and nosing the flesh… yup, can confirm raisins. As if all these classic notes were not enough, heavy honey, caramel. and toffee also exists underneath the layer of sherry notes. Even a note of a fresh crack of a Luxardo cherry jar. You can spend half an hour on the nose alone and keep discovering new aromas.
In the mouth: Whereas the nose was super complex with classic and nuanced sherry notes, the palate is another experience entirely. Quite oily and spicy, but not because of the proof. The spice character reminds me of a single pot still whisky. This drinks less hot than some 100 proof bourbons I’ve had. Most of the sherry notes from the nose translate over. All the red fruits are present and accounted for. There are no real oaky or woody notes to this, which can probably be attributed to the fact that the cask has many years of sherry in its wood. It is not an overly drying experience, despite the high proof. This is masterful, with no off sulfur notes either. The finish is incredibly long, too. I kept tasting the sherry notes even a couple hours afterwards.
If you are a big fan of sherry bombs, this bottle is immediately on the list. If you see it, grab it. This is such a specialty product, and the fact that no one knows of its existence is wild. What are similar products to this? Bottles like Aberlour A’bunadh and Glenfarclas 105 all kind of fall into the umbrella term of sherry bombs, but they all have their flaws… for one, price. All those are routinely north of $120, every time. The other problem is the perceived decrease of quality in those bottlings from recent batches.
Nearer to the Navazos Palazzi would be the Tamdhu Batch Strength, albeit at a slightly higher price. The closest you can get to this bottling would be, in my limited opinion, the Bunnahabhain 12 Cask Strength 2022. The Bunna can be looked at as an eight-tenths version of the Navazos, but realistically, this is the Bunna taken a couple notches further.
This Navazos Palazzi is in my personal top three ranking of whiskies I’ve had. The overall cohesiveness, breadth of flavor, complexity, and the layered nose really makes this a standout malt. My rating is a minimum and, on the right day, right weather, right setting, this is easily a 10/10 bottling. In a market where Macallan 12 is a nearly $100 bottle, seek this unknown gem out. It is worth the extra effort.
Lead image courtesy of Total Wine.