Monday, 12 July 2010

WS#4: Islay

Islay whisky is filthy (in the peated sense, you understand). It's hard to believe a pile of mud and yellow-brown water can produce such a fine tasting spirit, but believe it you must (although malted barley is also said to play a part). For Whisky Squad #4, we decided to focus entirely on Islay, whose eight active distilleries made producing a playlist of four a challenge in itself. Eventually, led by Darren the whisky guy, malt's answer to Professor Dumbledore, we fell upon the following spell-binding spirits...

Bunnahabhain 18

43% ABV
Nose: Honey, sherry, cheap chocolate brownies.
Taste: Vanilla fudge, milk chocolate, rich. Not peaty.

Bruichladdich Peat
46% ABV
Nose: Tequila, cheese, unwashed running socks, green sap
Taste: Parma Violets, vanilla, not very peaty (again).

Caol Ila Unpeated 10
65.8% ABV (cask strength)
Colour: Light straw
Nose: Nasally powerful. Fudge.
Taste: Orange zest, honey and coal sacks.

Lagavulin Distillery Only
51.5% ABV. Only 6,000 bottles produced. No age statement. 
This was essentially the classic Distillers Edition (almost 16 years in bourbon before being finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks), further matured in a PX sherry-soaked bourbon cask for an additional three to six months and bottled at cask strength.
Nose: White chocolate and smoke, with dates.
Taste: Vanilla-sweet and richly peaty with a long, sweet finish. Like Christmas Day.

The Lagavulin, procured on a trip to Islay, was a great after-dinner dram, the most popular with the Squad, and finally some peat! Overall, our quartet was distinctly less peatsome than your average Islay session, but for a sweltering hot Thursday evening it may have been just what the whisky doctor ordered.

For a bonus round, courtesy of brilliant booze blogger Billy, we enjoyed a miniature sample of 
Kilchoman "new spirit plus about six months in the barrel", from the island's newest distillery (circa 2005). It gave us aromas of virginal malted barley with a hint of peat, and a palate of peat vodka. Underdeveloped, but moving in the right direction.

Thanks to the Whisky Squaddies for help with the tasting notes, as always.
Next month, we're on summer whiskies, so let's hope the weather stays appropriately uncold.

Read Billy's nasally challenged but peerless account here and Darren's part-finished but learned effort right here.

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