David of Essence of Tea was kind enough to send me samples of teas he started offering - let us start with the two that are pressed lightly aged maocha. Can't say I'm a big fan of such processing, but these two teas suggest that it may actually work, at least to a degee (and when one does not take price into account).
2006 Da Xue Shan
The dry leaves smell interesting and unusual, of raisins, with a more "top" component of red berries. After rinsing, the mixture of dark (raisins, dried fruit) and light (rowanberries; some hongcha-like fruitiness).
The liquor is beautiful and very above-average in saponines.
In mouth, this Da Xue Shan is extra-pleasantly thick and coating, without bitterness and astringency (some of which appears later throughout session). The taste is on the lighter side, but I do not mind here as I sometimes do with young fancy pu, especially Yiwu. It consists of a mixture of sweet garden fruit (already a bit aged, definitely not young shengpu style), honey and flowers... it shares a lot of taste components with Youle teas, but while the tastes would be called the same, they are "performed differently".
After the rather nice taste, good, long aftertaste comes (based on the "lighter" components of the aroma), along with good activity and buzzing in mouth (this gets noticeably weaker after steeping 3). I'd say that qi is above average in this one.
Overall, this is quite a satisfactory tea, the only weakness being a decline in enjoyability, which is a bit faster that I'd prefer - possibly a consequence of non-compressed aging? This issue is ameliorated when tea stove water is used. The 06 DXS bears a strong resemblance to the 09 DXS from Finepuer, except, of course, it is more aged (and it seems to be aged in a good environment).
07 Qi Sheng Gu
The dry leaves smell pleasantly of leather, some wood, some smoke and overripe fruit. After rinsing, the woodiness gets more significant and turns the leading component from "woody smoke" to "smoky wood". The wood here would be sandalwood, I think (the liquor smells very characteristically of sandalwood, but it's not as distinct in the aroma of rinsed leaves).
The liquor starts creamy and very smooth, tasting of a pleasant mixture of wood (with a component of smoke, but not a bad one), overripe fruit, some camphor and a good, low sweet base, which is nicely complex and interesting, having tones of spice. One has tasted the basic taste a million times throughout various Xiaguans, but the "bass" base of this Qi Sheng Gu gives it an edge over these XGs.
The aftertaste is not particularly long, but it is nice, with a component of dried longan.
The activity in mouth is quite decent for a northern tea, but qi is not a strong point here, at least for me.
Overall, the Qi Sheng Gu seems like a "better Xiaguan" to me, being rather nice, but ultimately still a modest tea. For those who like Xiaguan character in tea, this could be indeed a great bargain as EoT website suggests..