Tag Archives: Islay

#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.

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.

Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1995

Distillery: Lagavulin
Name:  Distillers Edition 1995
Region: Islay
Age: 16
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 43%
Batch No.: 4/499
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £66
Colour: Amber
Nose: Light peat, rich, sweet
Taste: Light peat, full bodied, rich, smooth, coastal, dry
Finish: Light peat, warm, medium
Rating: 8/10
Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1995

I am a big fan of the standard 16yo Lagavulin so after finishing a bottle I decided to try the next one up, the Double Matured Distillers Edition from 1995, and boy was I not disappointed. It is less peated that the standard 16yo as a result of the maturation in Pedro Ximenez casks, but it has also resulted in a richer flavour. This is apparent on both the nose and the palate, with the palate also giving your mouth a lovely coating of the initial richness, which then dries out with a slight coastal note coming through, leading to a lovely, warm, medium length finish. The peat notes are apparent throughout but is perfectly balanced, not overpowering.

Due to it’s smoothness I also did not find the need to add water, it is not harsh. If you prefer water however then it has plenty of flavour to allow a generous amount, if that is how you take it.

A wonderful whisky that I am happy to have as part of my collection. It is an improvement on the standard 16yo in some ways, but looses some of its character at the same time. To choose between them would be very difficult, I would simply prefer to say you should have one of each, they both have their time depending on your mood.

Jura Superstition & Diurachs’ Own

Superstition

Distillery: Jura
Region: Islay
Age: N/A
Chill-filtered: ?
Strength: 43%
Batch No.: N/A
Colour: Amber
Nose: Light, coastal hints, slight sweetness
Taste: Light, fresh, lightly peated, coastal
Finish: Light, medium length, slightly dry
Rating: 6/10
Jura Superstition

Quite accurately described as ‘delicate/light peated’ on the boxes’ 2×2 matrix, this is a very easy drinking dram, fantastic on a hot summer day. It is light and refreshing with slight coastal (sea air, saltiness) tones on the nose but with a little sweetness hidden in there also. This continues onto both the palate and the finish but with the addition of a slight peatiness coming through.Although it is a little stronger than normal at 43%, the addition of water is not necessary due to the already light nature of the drink. The strength is not over powering and the addition of water does loose some of the qualities of the whisky. If you like your lightly peated whiskies or if you want a good introduction into peated whiskies then this is a fantastic choice.

Diurachs’ Own

Distillery: Jura
Region: Islay
Age: 16
Chill-filtered: ?
Strength: 40%
Batch No.: N/A
Colour: Amber
Nose: Rich but crisp, coastal hints
Taste: Well rounded, slight sweetness, coastal
Finish: Long, coastal, slightly dry
Rating: 6/10
Jura Diurachs' Own
Diurachs is the Gaelic name for the people of Jura and the whisky is described as ‘rich, full-bodied and unpeated’ on the boxes’ new matrix, now a 5 section circle due to the addition of Elixir. It has a deeper, more intense nose it than the Superstition yet manages to keep a crispness to it at the same time, a little unusual but it works. The coastal tones are evident throughout helping to keep it refreshing, which is nice change for a rich whisky. It makes it a whisky that can still be enjoyed on a warm day, when I usually expect this type to be more of a winter warmer.

The Ileach Peaty

Distillery: Ileach
Region: Islay
Age: N/A
Chill-filtered: Yes
Strength: 40%
Batch No.: N/A
Colour: Amber
Nose: Peaty, chemical
Taste: Medium weight peat, smooth
Finish: Short but harsh and bitter
Rating: 2/10
The Ileach Peaty

I have become a fan of peated whiskies over the last few years but I can’t quite settle with The Ileach Peaty. It’s not that it is distasteful, it just that it feels, well fake. It doesn’t feel like a peaty whisky, more a whisky with peat flavourings added. Now it is a no-age statement whisky so I am not expecting a top class dram, but there doesn’t appear to be anything more than medium strength, slightly artificial peaty note to the nose and on the palate, it would be nice to have something else there, something genuine that you can sink you teeth into. I found the finish a little surprising as well because the palate is smooth but the finish is a little too bitter.

It may just be the lack of age that lets it down, but I would personally spend the extra on something like a Laphroig if you want a peat monster or save a few quid and go for a Ledaig if you want a more subtly peated whisky. Sorry Ileach.