Category Archives: Islay

#89 – Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance Series

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Name: Cask Evolution Exploration 2006
Age: 9
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 64%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £70 I think
Distilled: 2006
Bottled: 2015-07-24
Bottle: 253 or 273
Barley: Optic
Cask Type: Fresh Bourbon
Oak Type: Quercus Alba
Warehouse: 02. L01
Nose: Sugar cane, barley, vegital
Taste: Hot! creamy, dry, vegital, slight sweetness, spicy
Finish: Medium, dry
Rating: 8/10

One of the bottles I picked up as part of my 2016 Scotland trip when I visited the Bruichladdich distillery. The Micro-Provenance Series as Bruichladdich describes it is:

“An ongoing exploratory series of single casks, specially selected to examine the evolutionary influences on maturing Islay Single Malt Whisky – the variables of age, vintage, wood, barley, storage, humidity, heat and marine climate – the very essence of provenance.”

The nose is quite light but heavy on the sugar cane. Barley notes come through too but sugar is the predominate aroma. If you cover it for a while and then nose it you get some vegital notes and slight underlying maritime notes too but it quickly gets bullied out of the way by the sugar cane. It is a pleasant enough nose but not overly complex most of the time but it certainly hides that 64% well, no ABV burn at all.

Boom! there’s that 64%, my god does this have a kick on the palate. It is a little more viscous than most whiskies having quite a creamy quality, but also quite dry, a little strange. The vegital notes that were hiding on the nose make their presence know on the palate and work really well with the whisky’s creamy nature. The sugar cane from the nose makes a brief appearance mid-palate which takes you from an initial dryness to sweet and back to dry again, it’s an experience this whisky that’s for sure. The tail end of the palate is full on spice before going into a medium length and quite dry finish.

In conclusion then, awesome! The nose could be better in truth, pleasant but not quite complex enough for me given it is a savouring whisky. The palate however is all sort of awesome. There is plenty going on but it is really well balanced too so there are not too many overpowering qualities going on. There were lots of options to choose from at the distillery and I’m just glad that the one I chose was a good’n.

#84 – Bunnahabhain 22 Year Old

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Name: Whisky Broker Bottling
Age: 22
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 47.2%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: Unavailable (was £45)
Distilled: 25th November 1991
Bottled: 15th August 2014
Bottle #: 77 of 206
Nose: Light, malty, slightly floral, sugar cane, hay
Taste: Smooth, spicy, barley
Finish: Medium, spicy, woody
Rating: 7/10

A bottle I have had in for a while now and never got around to opening, but thankfully a couple of months ago I got to crack it open at last. With such a long wait and built up anticipation, was I going to be impressed or disappointed?

It’s a Bunnahabhain, what do you think, it’s great 😊

It is light on the nose with an initial malty note and slight floral note too, I get subtle lavender. With a little aeration a real sugar cane note starts to become prominent with a subtle hint of hay in the background. It’s not super light as the malt and sugar cane add some depth but works well on a warm day still.

Onto the palate and you get a really smooth yet spicy dram with a barley note present. There is a slight sweetness there but it is subtle. The spicy continues onto a medium finish with a woody note coming through towards the end. It’s not as complex as I’d expected for a 22 year old but that does not make it an unpleasant dram, oh no, very enjoyable in deed.

Overall I am very pleased with this dram, especially for £45, I mean how can you not be. Not particularly complex but a bit meatier than you would first expect from the colour. It is not worth what you would ordinarily pay for a 22 year old in my opinion, but I didn’t so it’s great 😊. It is good on a warm day but also with food. I had it with a few meals and found that it complimented succulent pork quite nicely.

#83 – Caol Ila 15 Year Old Unpeated Style

Distillery: Caol Ila
Name: Unpeated Style
Age: 15
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 60.39%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: Unavailable (£89 for 2016 release at Master of Malt)
Bottled: 2014
Nose: Light, barley, sugar cane, marzipan, mineral
Taste: Malty, citrus, slightly coastal
Finish: Medium, malty, spice
Rating: 6/10

Another bottle from my Scotland trip last year. I had the opportunity to pop into the Caol Ila distillery for a quick tasting session when this lovely golden delight stood out to me. An unpeated Caol Ila, I had to give it a try.

At 60.39% ABV the nose is a might punchy undiluted, although it does actually die down quite quickly on it’s own. The aroma is light with a barley note taking the first step followed by a sugar cane sweetness. There is also a subtle marzipan and mineral note that begin to edge forward too.

The ABV hit is initially strong as you would expect but now as bad as you may think. As with the nose it is light with a maltiness as the forbearing quality but with a citrus note there too, specifically limes. On mid palate I get some coastal notes coming through which turns back to malt for the medium length spicy finish.

With a splash of water the aroma obviously looses the burn and the marzipan notes become a little stronger, as does the barley. The palate becomes more creamy and very surprisingly it becomes insanely spicy, maybe something to do with 15 years in a first fill bourbon barrel. It also develops a little more sweetness on the palate too.

Overall it has been a really enjoyable dram, I love how much spice this dram can kick out with the addition of the water. I am a big Caol Ila fan and can safely say this is nothing like any other Caol Ila I have tried, however despite being the most expensive bottle of Caol Ila I have purchased, I am not disappointed. I still prefer the peated variety but love that they have stepped out of their comfort zone with this unpeated expression.

#82 – Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Edition

Distillery: Ardbeg
Name: Dark Cove (2016 Committee Edition)
Age: N/A
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 55%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: Unavailable
Nose: Petroleum, tar, dark chocolate, toffee
Taste: Peat, dark chocolate, coffee,
Finish: Medium, peaty, spice
Rating: 8/10

I had the pleasure of visiting Islay around this time last year and while there I made the trip to the Ardbeg distillery to do the Warehouse Tasting. What a great place and great location/atmosphere to do a tasting. While at the distillery I spotted the Committee Edition of Dark Cove, knocked out at 55% rather than the 46.5% of the standard.

The initial hit on the nose as I pour is of petroleum, it’s strong but very short lived. It then opens up into a hot tar and dark chocolate mixture, if you can even imagine that. Give it a bit more time and it starts to soften and you begin to get a little more creamy toffee note. The ABV is very obvious at first but it does soften as it aerates and after a couple of minutes any burn has gone.
Onto the palate and you are presented with that much sort after Ardbeg peat, but it’s not alone. Oh no, it brings some welcome friends, high cocoa dark chocolate and a little bit of coffee come along for the ride, giving this peaty monster some real depth. Given a few minutes I start to detect a subtle sweetness coming through, some of that toffee from the nose maybe. This leads into a medium length finish that is a little dry, unsurprisingly peaty with a real spicy hit.
A truly wonderful expression from Ardbeg yet again, different enough from the core range with a much deeper quality to it coming from those sherry casks, and yet still light enough to be enjoyed on a summer evening. A great dram any time of the year.

#80 – Kilchoman 2008 Vintage

Distillery: Kilchoman
Name: 2008 Vintage
Age: 7
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 46%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £66 (The Whisky Exchange)
Nose: Citrus, barley, peat
Taste: Slight sweetness, smoke, blueberries
Finish: Medium, spice
Rating: 8/10

Kilchoman is the newest of the Islay distilleries, the first in 125 years in fact, opening in 2005 and is actually a farm distillery. The expression I am trying today is the 2008 Vintage that I purchased when I visited the distillery last year (2016), such a wonderful location too.

The nose is not too complicated with this dram (but not in a bad way, trust me), it starts with a heavy hit of citrus and barley, giving it a wonderfully fresh aroma. This leads onto a lightly creamy note and then into a peaty finish, the creaminess really softening the peat out however, just lovely.

Onto the palate and you are first tempted into a slight honey sweet note, but then get gently guided away by the smoke and lead towards a light blueberry mid-palate, what an experience. Nothing heavy or forceful here, all just well balanced. I guess the most ‘overpowering’ thing is the spice on the finish, and even then, it’s a push to say overpowering to be honest.

I’ve been privileged enough to have tried most common expressions of Kilchoman and I have to say, this is by far my favourite. It’s just so well balanced, it’s awesome chilled on a warm summers day and yet can equally be savoured on cooler days thanks to the spicy finish.

If this is what we get for a 7 year old whisky, I really can’t wait to see what the 10 year old equivalent is like.

Ardbeg – Blasda, Uigeadail & Corryvreckan

Distillery: Ardbeg
Name: Blasda
Region: Islay
Age: ?
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 40%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 3cl
Price: £170 (Master of Malt 70cl)
Nose: Light peat, floral, citrus, mint
Taste: Light, slightly sweet, slight spice
Finish: Medium, light, slight dryness
Rating: 7/10

 First up tonight is the Blasda, a lightly peated offering from the distillery known for their heavily peated whiskies. This one comes in a just 8ppm opposed to their more usual 24ppm.

The first thing that you notice is just how pale it is compared to the others, also that it is bottled at just 40% which is unusual for Ardbeg from what I have seen. The nose has a gentle peatiness with a citrus and floral freshness, a little vanilla sweetness finishing with just a hint of mint, very summary.

The palate is lovely and light, a real refreshing dram with a light toffee sweetness, a small amount of spice but with an overwhelming sense of flowers and just a hint of that mint again. It has a light, medium length finish to it that has a slight dryness to it.

A real summer dram this one, wonderfully light and refreshing, I believe a bottle would find itself empty quite quickly on a summers day with friends, and without them come to think of it 🙂

I was a little worried about the low ABV to be honest, but I think it really works well with the gentleness of this dram. This just goes to prove that Ardbeg are about more than heavy peat like some people believe. My only real criticism is the price tag, it’s lovely, but it ain’t worth £170.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Name: Uigeadail
Region: Islay
Age: ?
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 54.2%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £50 (Master of Malt)
Nose: Peat, smoke, rich, caramel sweetness, floral
Taste: Peat, sweet, oily, marzipan, dark toffee
Finish: Long, warm, spicy, peaty, malt
Rating: 9/10

 This was actually the first Ardbeg I tried, and I was sold on the distillery with the first sip. It’s not as heavily peated on the nose as I remembered to be honest, you do get the peaty, smokiness but not too strong. It has a real depth and richness to it with some caramel sweetness and a slight floral note at the end to just lighten it a little.

The palate is where the peat and smoke come through but not before some sweetness and slight marzipan notes, all wrapped up in a wonderful mouth-coating oily texture. It is deep and powerful with some richer dark toffee in there also. The finish is unsurprisingly long and peaty but also warm, spicy with a lasting malty flavour.

At 54.2% the Uigeadail can handle a bit of water, it opens the nose up to make it a little lighter with more floral notes but also highlights the caramel. The lovely oily character remains even with water. It increases the sweetness a little, decreases the peat and toffee but also removes the marzipan note.

An amazing dram this one, I love it every time I pour a glass. It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth compared to the Blasda but if you like your peat, you can’t go far wrong with this, worth every penny.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Name: Corryvreckan
Region: Islay
Age: ?
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 57.1%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 3cl
Price: £60 (Master of Malt 70cl)
Nose: Rich, caramel, tropical fruits
Taste: Sweet, peaty, spicy, rich but light, tropical fruits
Finish: Long, peaty, dry
Rating: 9/10

 Last in the trio is the Corryvreckan. The nose a some great depth to it,  a rich, creamy caramel quality is what first hits but then gets lightened by some tropical fruits. There is a lot going on in the glass but it is wonderfully balanced. Surprisingly note that peaty or smoky though.

On the palate you get that same sort of sweetness as with the Uigeadail along with a lot of spice. The peat comes through on the palate but is not too overpowering as it also has great richness yet remaining reasonably light somehow. The tropical fruits come through from the nose which helps to keep it light on the long and peaty finish. It is a lot drier than the Uigeadail however.

Another amazing expression from Ardbeg this, different enough from the Uigeadail but equally as good in my opinion. Again for the money I think it is worth it, not sure which I’d have though, might need a bottle of each in I think.

Conclusion

Ardbeg is awesome! Just about sums it up I think. All three would be great in summer, especially the Blasda but the Uigeadail & Corryvreckan also have a great richness and spice to them that make them a great winter dram as well, year round drams, what more can you ask for. Like I said earlier though, I think the Blasda is over priced unfortunately, especially given how quickly it would go.

Laphroaig An Cuan Mor

Distillery: Laphroaig
Name: An Cuan Mor
Region: Islay
Age: ?
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 48%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 3cl
Price: ?
Nose: Light peat, rich, smoke, dark fruits, sweet, metallic, brine
Taste: Creamy, lightly peaty, salty, liquorice, spicy
Finish: Long, peaty, spicy
Rating: 8/10
Currently only available as a Travel Retail bottling, the name translates to ‘Big Ocean’. It is double matured, initially in first-fill ex-American white oak bourbon casks and then in European oak.
It has a wonderfully complex nose with the characteristic peat and smoke having a bit more of a background role than usual. It is really rich and full of dark fruits, a real sweetness but with a slight metallic edge finishing with a brine like quality, I’m thinking cockles or muscles.
The palate is super smooth with a creamy mouth-feel. It is only lightly peaty with a light liquorice quality coming through which leads onto a quick hit of salt before the spiciness kicks in at the end. The finish is long and peaty, as it always is with Laphroaig, with a real spice to it.
Thanks to Tom (@Tom_Blumsom) for the sample.

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin

Distillery: Laphroaig
Name: Cairdeas Origin
Region: Islay
Age: ?
Chill-filtered: ?
Strength: 51.2%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 3cl
Price: ?
Nose: Citrus, orchard fruits, slight saltiness, fresh
Taste: Peaty, sweet, light, smooth, spicy
Finish: Long, smoky, warm, spicy
Rating: 7/10
Cairdeas is Gaelic for friendship and this bottling was released to celebrate the popularity of the ‘Friends of Laphroaig’ (FOL) programme.
Unusual on the nose this one, I don’t really get and peat coming through which is unexpected for a Laphroaig. It is light, fruity with a citrus cleanness to it and a slight salty note to it adding to the freshness.
The palate is also light and refreshing but with a wonderful smoothness to it, it also has a great mouth coating quality as well. The peat starts off quite subtle with the sweetness being the initial power but the peat just builds and builds, easing the sweetness. This leads onto the long, smoky finish that is both warm and spicy. I left this to aerate for a while and when coming back to it there was a strong coffee flavour to it, it actually really worked well.
At 51.2% I was really expecting it to have a bite to it, but it does not really. There is some alcohol burn on the palate but not much and I was quite happy to drink it without water. I did try adding some however and this did take that small bite away but the warm, spicy notes remain. The nose is a little lighter and fruitier with water.
Thanks to Tom (@Tom_Blumsom) for the sample.

Laphroaig QA Cask

Distillery: Laphroaig
Name: QA Cask
Region: Islay
Age: ?
Chill-filtered: ?
Strength: 40%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 3cl
Price: £48 (100cl)
Nose: Slightly sweet, light peat, fresh, floral, metallic
Taste: Peat, slight sweetness, liquorice, watery
Finish: Long, lightly peaty, ashy dryness
Rating: 5/10
The QA Cask is a travel retail only bottling and is matured firstly in ex-bourbon barrels, followed by charred American white oak casks (Quercus Alba in Latin), which is where it gets it name.
The nose is more subtle than expected for a Laphroaig, there is a slight sweetness there and the peak it also quite tame. It has a light, fresh aroma to it but with a slight metallic edge at the end.
Onto the palate and I find it a little disappointing to be honest, it has the peat, nothing too powerful but it is in the foreground. There is also a little sweetness and liquorice towards the end but it is just lacking body, for me it needs to be at least 43%, maybe even 46% to get the most out of it. The finish is quite long consisting of peat and ash.
It has a pleasant aroma to it and the lack of body does mean that it is an easy drinking dram, it is quite light for a Laphroaig and could be good on a hot summer’s day.
Thanks to Tom (@Tom_Blumsom) for the sample.

Monthly Meetup 2 – Laphroaig Triple Wood

Distillery: Laphroaig
Name: Triple Wood
Region: Islay
Age: N/A
Chill-filtered: ?
Strength: 48%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £42
Nose: Peaty, engine oil, sweet, smooth, citrus freshness
Taste: Peaty, light, fresh, sweetness, slightly dry, smooth
Finish: Medium, peaty, dry, oak
Rating: 7/10

This is the third of the Laphroaig range that I have tried, the 10 year old and the Quarter Cask being the other two, both lovely. The Triple Wood is essentially the Quarter Cask, which I love, finished in Oloroso sherry casks, which I adore as a finish, so I was pretty hopeful with this one.

Disappointed I was not, none of us were to be honest. Now we all enjoy an Islay which is why we wanted to try a slightly better one than most of us had tried previously. The peat was obviously a powerful quality pretty much throughout this dram, but it also had so much more to offer, which it had picked up from the quarter cask and the sherry cask. It added an extra depth to it that left us all wanting a top up, and more annoyingly, left us all wondering what the 18 year old is like.

I hear a lot of people say that Laphroaig, and many other Islays, are all about the peat, but I say to those people, you need to try the Triple Wood in order to appreciate the complexity that can also be present. It is a wonderful dram.