The 2010 Menghai Tiger I wrote about the last time, the first of zodiac series, was quite a nice tea, no doubt. I purchased all of the 2010-13 to see what they are like, after all, they are one of the more premium cakes by Dayi. They are not particularly cheap, between 60 and 80 dollars per cake. Unfortunately, this seems to be a result of an unhealthy investment bubble - these cakes used to cost much less when they were brand new.
Let's take it chronologically...
I did not know what animal this was. I was thinking of a pig or a sloth when I had my first tasting. Well, it's a rabbit. Chinese rabbits must be really scary then.
The aroma of rinsed leaves is still quite young, green, but it just started to get darker. It heads towards dark overripe fruitiness, with some pleasant spice and good sweetness. The overripeness is realy "over", it's as when apples start rotting and fermenting a bit. But it's actually kind of nice. Or "controversial" - it's not plain bad, to be sure.
There is a sort of "aftersmell", which contains remains of youthful smoke (woody) and some incense. The aroma is really different than the one of the tiger, but it is also solid, wide and pleasant.
The taste is quite complex, dark for a 2011 tea (it's probably a blend of several vintages anyway), with some animality, some urine (yeah, weird), some fully ripe, overripe and fermenting/rotting garden fruit (mostly apples), all around pleasant. It's really a rather heavy and decadent blend (that is why I was surprised when i learned it's a rabbit), but I rather enjoy it.
The sweetness is good, but not as much as in recent fancy gushu cakes. Hui gan is nothing extra; bitterness and astringency are medium. The aftertaste has some interesting notes of sugarcane. Activity in mouth is nothing extra. After two days of being put aside, the leaves have developed an interesting tones of camphor, not unlike you can find in some older Yiwu. However, I don't think there was too much Yiwu material, if any.
Overall, this is one of the more interesting young cakes, with some seldom seen tastes and high degree of overall "solidity". I would not be afraid to age this one.
This one much more dragonesque than the rabbit was rabbitesque, in my opinion.
The dry leaves are like generic young sheng from Menghai/Bulang/Nannuo.
The wet leaves emit a very "classical" puerh aroma, with some leatheriness which is similar to the Nannuo one. It's rather sweet and reasonably complex, seems like an above average "universal sheng".
In taste, there is good, tasty "Menghai sweetness" and robust mix of greener tastes, not overly long though (long like in english; it's long in chinese). The greenness actually has a bit of a bite, it does not feel too comfortable on the tongue.
The mouthfeel is nice, after the slight sourness of green tastes go away. There is, again, a nice taste of sugercane paired with astringency.
I stopped drinking this tea around steeping 5 or 6... it just does not have too much to offer right now. It's really just a somewhat above-average universal sheng... There are better ones without that Dayi premium.
Again, I think that this tea is rather faithful to its animal.
The leaves are very long! And good looking. They sure look lovely and classy. They faintly smell of smoke, unfortunately. The scent of leather is more to my liking
The wet leaves smell a bit aggressive, leathery, with some smoke, but not too mucch. It's like Nannuo, with some Bulang and possibly a bit of Wuliang..
The taste is a complex mixture of animality, leatheriness, smoke, with a starting fruitiness and fruity wood - I think that these two components will become stronger in future. Sweetness is good.
Overall, the taste is a lot better than the aroma would have suggested. If the smokiness was not present, it would be a really good mixture. I think the light smoke will go away and I think this tea will be very good (even though it's not too drinkable right now).
There is a fine, light mouth-coating astringency, which, along with the taste of leather, suggests a large portion of Nannuo leaves, I believe. Looking where a good leathery Nannuo can go, as, e.g., in that Wistaria Nannuo, this Snake sure sounds like a good candidate for aging, if a not-too-dry environment is used.
Another thing where the Snake is very good is feeling in mouth; it's very active, with good cooling. Without that, I might not have finished drinking it as it is really young and harsh.
I saw some good in all of the 2010-2013 zodiac cakes by Menghai. However, it was a bit difficult in the Dragon of 2012. 2010 Tiger, 2011 Rabbit and 2013 Snake are all notably better, in my opinion, and if they were not as hyped, I'd consider buying some more. I think that Dayi really show that they know how to make a good tea. All these three cakes have their character, they go beyond "ok, young pu" and show good promises for the future.