With the 2005 equivalent still in mind, it would be wise to look over the 2006. Thanks for the suggestion, Phyll. I've read that this is a blend created for the event by Chen Zhitong, the ubiquitous Mainland pu'er celebrity. The sample comes from Houde.
~12cl Caledonian Springs in 20cl shengpu pot; ~5g leaf; 1 rinse
First impressions indicate that this is not as decent as the 2005. The bing has a fair number of chopped leaves within it, and what whole leaves there are appear only in the thin outer coating. The inner leaves are markedly more compressed, forming an entire secondary stratum, and look much less pleasant. Its blended status is clear from the inclusion of a basis grade of rather dark leaves, as you can see. The few visible tips are likewise included in the outer layer, which I find a touch suspicious - I don't believe cakes should be dressed-up in such a way.
The aroma is sweet and young, with a hint of true character, though not the room-filling fragrance of the 2005.
5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 60s:
This is one of those cakes where the majority has already been revealed by its dry leaves.
First impression: it's a dirty tea. There is a lot of detritus which navigates from pot to gongdaobei to wenxiangbei to pinmingbei. A hint of this is shown in the photograph.
The slightly charismatic aroma has carried over to the wenxiangbei, with a little candy, or treacle, at the end. This rapidly fades to mere warmth in subsequent infusions.
The first infusions are strong, but not outrageously so. There is a rich background flavour that sits in the nose, and stays there for the full duration. This is akin to the rich, leathery nose of the 2005, but a little less powerful. However, it is enduring, and lasted all the way to the last infusion.
I get the idea that the bitterness, staying as it does always within the bounds of acceptability, has been somewhat contrived: I suspect that Mr. Chen intended this tea to be drinkable now, but with a hint at aging potential. In that, he has not gone far wrong, but it lacks the honest power that I would like from a "real" (less overtly blended) cake. It feels a touch over-engineered. "...and on your left, the bitterness. And on your right, a little bit of flavour."
The feeling is generally quite sweet and high, and I was impressed with its patience. The huigan is quite simple, but pleasant enough. Later infusions show a little minty coolness. The texture is acceptable.
A token few large leaves look rather lonely in the melee of chopped leaves. The darkened basis leaves also stick out like sore thumbs, some of which look rather pre-fermented, being quite red. It's not a pretty sight, compared to the 2005.
Hard to fault, but not excelling at anything, I feel as if I am drinking the result of an experiment rather than an honest tea. The second edition of "The Art of Tea" notes that this 2006 was "better received" than the 2005. It is not so with me.
It is enjoyable, and has many merits, but is not up to its predecessor. The state of the rather dirty leaves makes me wonder if Mr. Chen was operating under tight budgetary constraints.