As the 2003 version of the Zi Pin felt so good to me, I wondered what it would be like to taste its younger counterpart. Due to extraordinary kindness of Wistaria, I got a sample of that for tasting.
The last session was a night one, sorry for flash photos...
... and a comparison to 2003 (the big fellow to the right):
The 2003 Zi Pin is a bit browner, compared to dark green-brown of the 2005, but the difference does not seem to be huge.
The rinsed leaves have that trademark Wistaria house aroma, with some sweet wood and red fruit, accompanied by light woody smoke (Xiaguan <=2003 style); if one inhales deeply, there are some dried herbs. It is not really that attractive, being similar to the 2003, but lacking the ellegance and inner harmony the latter has. While the actual difference is probably quite small, it makes a big impact on my perception of pleasantness.
The liquor is just a bit lighter than that of 2003 - not a big difference here.
The taste... The tea is reasonably thick (not as much as the 2003 though) and quite pleasant, though not really shining awesome. The first steepings contain a taste of clay (young, not aged), sweet dry wood and red fruit. There is also a some smokiness, which is not bad, but not that great either. Slight plummy taste (sort of like in Cheng Guang He Tang's autumnal Yiwu of 2006) is a good addition. The components I described, plums aside, tend to be quite awful in too dry stored teas, but as the storage of this one seems to be just right, it works rather well. Anyway, the taste in the first (circa five) steepings is not as easygoing and harmonized as that of the 2003 version.
Luckily, after a while, things get better - the smoke goes away and the taste gets cleaner and more pleasant. After the 4th or 5th steeping, it is really very similar to how the 2003 version tastes. The not-that-great red fruit turns into more pleasant overripe variant, the sweet plums become more pronounced and the tea enters the state of harmony. It is dark in feeling, I think, but warming.
Feeling in mouth is good, lubricating, with pleasant activity, which is nicely accompanied by light and rather pleasant astringency.
Qi... that's the reason why I was semi-crazy about the 2003 Zipin and, unfortunately, I find it quite lacking in the 2005 version. Throughout the session, enough qi accumulated and harmonized me in the end, but it was nowhere near that qi smasher the 2003 was.
This tea is quite a lot cheaper than the 2003 version (about 70% of the 2003's price, according to my notes), but where I grabbed the 2003 cake as soon as I could, I don't think I'd be that keen to buy this 2005 cake. In the second half of the session, it was quite good in both sessions I had it, but the first halves were rather disappointing, unfortunately (still, we're talking "this is quite good, but not nearly as great as the 2003", not "this tea sucks"). The 2003 was 70% about qi to me, with the other 30% being "decent mouthfeel and taste" - if you cut that qi bonus and some of the taste for the initial phase of steeping, you get a tea which is clearly not as good as the 2003 version. I wonder whether it is more a matter of aging or material. I'm guessing material, but it would be nice to be wrong.
Nevertheless, thank you very much, Wistaria, I enjoyed this tea!