Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides. It holds a rich whisky heritage. It is believed that Irish monks first introduced the art of distillation to Islay during the early fourteenth century. The Islay malts have become world renowned for there peat, smoke and briney character.
My readers will know that I have a real soft spot for Bunnahabhain; I adore their maritime malts, that to me really show the character and terroir of the isle of Islay. For this reason I was overjoyed to be able to pick up this beautiful single cask from my friends at Duncan Taylor, an Independent Bottler in Huntley who really are masters of their craft. This single cask release was bottled at a cask strength of 53% ABV and of course is non chill-filtered. It holds a beautiful dark amber colour which is a testament to the fine Sherry casks that this magnificent whisky was aged in. It is with great pleasure that I can share this with you today.
Nose: Bold and mouthwatering with smells of caramel, toffee, almond, sweet molasses and, of course, the sea.
Palate: A wonderful velvety mouthfeel with rich and dry flavours of nuts, sultanas, earth, sea salt and spice.
Finish: Long and luscious with clear flavours of sea brine and caramel.
I am always pleased to try a new expression from Bunnahabhain, and this one is a real gem. To be able to find one that also carries the devotion to craft that my friends Duncan Taylor bring is an absolute pleasure. This dram is extraordinary and I would recommend it to any connoisseur. Sláinte!
As the original member of Bunnahabhain‘s current core range, the 12 Year Old holds a special place in my heart. This wonderful entry level edition was re launched in the summer 2010 with an elevation of strength to 46.3% and a declaration of no chill-filtration and no added colouring.
Nose: Briny and fresh with a floral and fruity tone. Notes of seaweed, malt and a subtle prevalence of smoke all round out the nose.
Palate: A lovely syrupy texture with clear flavors of dried fruit, nuts and spice. The palate also holds vanilla, sea salt and a very light hint of smoke.
Finish: Dry with hints spice and sea brine.
This wonderful malt is double-matured in ex bourbon and ex sherry casks. It is beautifully rich and full-bodied, achieving the perfect balance of the nutty sherry flavors characteristic of Bunnahabhain. I am a real lover of Bunnahabhain and their 12 Year Old is a great place to start an exploration of their rich maritime malts. Sláinte!
Meaning 'Smoky Two' in Scots Gaelic, Toiteach A Dhà (pronounced Toch-ach ah-ghaa) is the sequel to the original robust peaty Toiteach. This excellent bottle is non-chillfiltered and has a higher sherry influence than its predecessor which helps to balance out the the bottles heavy peat.
Nose: A bold peatiness with strong hints of sherry and rich oak.
Palate: Immediate tones of peat and sea salt drift to a sweet Oloroso sherry with rich oak. Delicate pepper is present as well.
Finish: Barley, dry smoke and pepper.
While I usually shy away from non-age statement bottles I have to admit this one really is fabulous! The Bottle is very different from the classic Bunnahabhain range, which have a relatively light peat influence. The bottle combines the heaver peat tones associated with some of the southern Islay distilleries, like Lagavulin with the delicate and soft sherry influence characteristic of Bunnahabhain. I highly recommend this bottle!
An Cladach, meaning 'The Shore' in Scots Gaelic, was released as a travel retail exclusive by Islay's Bunnahabhain. Like their Classic 12, it is a beautiful example of their traditional un-peated and sherried maritime palate. At 50% ABV, un-coloured and un-chillfiltered, it is an example of Bunnahabhain's unsullied character.
Nose: Rich smells of almond, seaweed and dried fruit, with hints of vanilla and damp oak.
Palate: Creamy with a spicy sweetness. Flavours of raisins, honey, walnut and pepper dominate. Also present is an ever present tone of coastal brine.
Finish: Medium in length, with rich flavours of dried fruit, honey and a little spice.
Pronounced ‘stew-rahdur’ meaning in Scots Gaelic Helmsman. This whisky matured in first and second fill sherry casks. It was bottled at 46.3% ABV with a declaration of no chill-filtration and natural colour.
Nose: A slight youthfulness about the nose with bold notes of brine, apple and toasted sugar. Also present is a slight hint of yeasty malt.
Palate: Robust with flavours of honey-roasted nuts, cinnamon and clove, with a touch of salt sea too.
Finish: Spicy and lingering with tones of chilli, chocolate and citrus.
Although I feel this malt is slightly too young for its bottle I did feel that It carried a notable complexity that is a testament to its noteworthy distillery.
I’m very pleased to discuss with my readers a rather unique expression from our old friend, Bunnahabhain. Eirigh Na Greine meaning 'Morning Sky' in Gaelic, was exclusively matured in French red wine casks. This limited edition release was made as a travel retail exclusive. It was bottled at 46.3% ABV with a declaration of no chill-filtration and natural colour.
Nose: Lingering scents of toasted sugar, vanilla, raspberries and a little honey.
Palate: Robust flavors of roasted nuts, fresh sweet berries, sea salt and black pepper.
Finish: Smoky and lingering with flavors of spice, coastal berries and sea brine.
I am a real lover of Bunnahabhain. It has always been one of my favorite Islay distilleries and I’m always excited to explore new expressions from them. Their rich maritime malts never seem to disappoint. Sláinte!
Released as part of the Distillery Manager's Selection and bottled as a distillery exclusive. This fine malt was aged solely in first-fill Oloroso sherry hogsheads, which gives it the incredible dark brown color as well as it’s beautiful Sherry tone. Bottled in 2019 at 51.7% ABV. Only 3,000 bottles were released so unfortunately they’re quite difficult to find now, but not impossible on secondary markets.
Nose: Beautiful sherry notes of raisins, dried figs and chocolate. Subtle peat smoke is present as well with tobacco and old leather.
Palate: Soft and creamy with strong tones of raisins, prunes and nutmeg from the Oloroso casks. Bold dark chocolate is here as well with a light peat smoke and a hint of wild berry.
Finish: Deliciously long with dark chocolate, soft smoke, a hint of pepper and blackberry.
Bowmore’s distillery manager, David Turner hand picked these casks. He is without doubt a whisky artist and I think this bottle is one of his best. Unfortunately as I mentioned it’s quite difficult to obtain now, but not impossible for the right price.
The ‘Deep and Complex’ 18 year old single malt is matured in both Oloroso and Pedro Ximenéz casks. This was originally launched for the travel retail market in 2017.
Nose: Bold and sweet. Citrus peels drenched in Sherry, with notes of blackberry, chocolate and toffee. A good pinch of sea salt is also present.
Palate: Gentle chocolate, toffee and toasty oak dominate. A clear sherry spice is present too with dried fruit richness and salty sea air.
Finish: Massively chocolatey on the finish.
This rich and decadent sherried malt is far from what you might expect out of one of Islay’s oldest distilleries. It non the the less is an excellent choice for those who adore a sherried malt. It combines the richness that you might expect out of a highland with the noticeable sea salt tone that is a hallmark of a classic Islay.
The 15 year old was released in 2007 as part of Bowmore’s core range. Matured first in bourbon barrels then treated to three years in Oloroso Sherry casks.
Nose: Dark and rich. Sherry notes of raisins, spices and chocolate complement a light but present peat.
Palate: Rich cedar wood, treacle toffee and a slight oily tone dominate. There is chocolate present, some slight vanilla and a touch of smoke as well.
Finish: Spicy sherry tone with the presence of toffee and barley.
As my readers may have guessed, I have always had a soft spot for the lighter, sherried Islays. Don’t get me wrong, I love a heavy peaty islay every now and again as well. However, I find more and more though that the heavy Islays demand a certain atmosphere for their consumption; the cold night or the roaring fire. Whereas the lighter, sherried Islays have more versatility. The Bowmore 15 year is an excellent example of a good lighter, sherried Islay, and its even better when one considers its price.
Named for its warm and inviting colour, the 15 Year Golden and Elegant is delicate and subtle but with a bold complexity. This Islay malt was originally released in 2017 as part of a series of new travel retail exclusives. The 15 Year Golden and Elegant is matured in first-fill bourbon casks and bourbon hogshead casks resulting in a generous helping of wonderful flavours of vanilla and, of course, its lovely golden colour. This soft and intriguing bottle stands at 43% ABV.
Nose: Fresh scents of vanilla, orange peel, lemon, salted caramel and slight hint of smoke.
Palate: A creamy palate with flavours of vanilla, sea brine, loads of citrus, a bit of chocolate and of course Bowmore's light peat.
Finish: Beautifully lingering with tones of soft smoke, spice and a burst of citrus.
My readers may have guessed that I have a deep love for Bowmore. I've never had a dram from Islay's oldest licensed distillery that I did not enjoy, and many of their expressions I do truly love. The Golden and Elegant 15 Year Old is a slight rarity for Bowmore in that it is solely maturated in ex-bourbon casks. My readers may know that I tend towards sherried or partially sherried malts but I was very impressed by this expression. It's light and sweet vanilla and citrus tones marry quite well with the light smoke and maritime flavours of Bowmore. If you have a chance, give it a try!
I can honestly say that I’ve never had a Bowmore that I didn’t enjoy, and many of their expressions I do truly love. Their 12 year, the heart of the Bowmore range, is a fabulous bottle. It exhibits some beautiful coastal tones with a gentle peat, and some marvelous floral elements that makes it a great entry bottle for Bowmore.
Nose: Light smoke and citrus tones are followed by floral notes of heather.
Palate: Beautifully rounded with honey, citrus and vanilla competing with a gentle peat and coastal salt. There’s also a strong floral tone here reminiscent of heather and lemon blossoms.
Finish: Long full finish with a lovely light peat, citrus, sea spray and an oily sweetness.
The Dark and Intense 10 year old was released for the travel retail market. Named to express its beautiful dark colour and the intense depth of flavours brought from the marriage of Spanish sherry casks and hogsheads. Bottled at 40% ABV, this lovely malt exhibits a fine balance of the classic Bowmore maritime character, light Islay smoke and a rich sherried sweetness.
Nose: Bold scents of raisins, dried apricots, fresh oranges and dark chocolate. Also present are whiffs of cinnamon and peat smoke.
Palate: A beautifully balanced palate. Sweet subtle flavours of Saville orange marmalade, maple, walnuts and dark chocolate contrast with the classic Bowmore sea brine and soft peat.
Finish: A layered finish with toasted malt, sweet spiced rum, honey and lemon.
For this weeks review I could think of nothing better than Laphroaig’s 2019 Càirdeas release. The Càirdeas, meaning “friendship” in Gaelic, is an exclusive bottling launched each year to celebrate the Friends of Laphroaig, as well as the annual Fèis Ìle festival on Islay, which runs from the 24th of May to the 1st of June. This years Càirdeas is a Triple Wood, cask strength bottle. 36,000 bottles were produced this year and have been matured in ex-Bourbon barrels before maturation in quarter casks and ex-oloroso Sherry casks. Bottled at a cask strength of 59.5% without chill filtration this bottle is certainly a must try for those bold maritime malt lovers out there.
Nose: Classic smells of Iodine and smoke mixed with luscious caramel, toffee and tobacco leaves.
Palate: Voluptuous and classically warm with bold tones of walnuts and sea brine. There is a clear peat flavor present as well as honey and dried apricots. -
Finish: Sea salt, sultanas and a campfire smoke hold a long finish.
When visiting Laphroaig this last August I couldn’t resist buying this beautiful bottle. It bears the classic Laphroaig tones of iodine, peat and maritime sea brine but carries unique flavors of sweet nuts and dried fruits, no doubt from its Oloroso finish. I adore this wonderful combination and my esteem for the bottle only grows with its strong cask strength. A true match for a fine Islay Lover!
For today’s post I thought we could explore an old favorite of mine, the Laphroaig 10 year. Now I know this isn’t exactly a rare Scotch; in fact these days you can find it at almost any liquor store. There’s a reason it’s so popular though, and that is, for its price, it’s an excellent Islay.
Nose: It’s opens with the smell of cigar smoke, campfires, salty sea air and buttery toast. There is also a slight hint of cherry.
Palate: Big peat, Iodine, Seaweed, butter and grass lead. These notes are followed by a noticeable sweetness and clear spice flavors such as black pepper and cardamom. The Vanilla of Oak is also noticeable throughout the palate.
Finish: Long and creamy with hints of butter, tar and iodine.
I would recommend this bottle to anyone who wants to start their journey into the peat filled, sea salt rich and grassy nature of the island of Islay. Sláinte!
Bruichladdich Distillery’s Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2011-vintage was distilled entirely from Barley grown on the Isle of Islay. The two varieties used were Oxbridge and Publican and were chosen from three local farms, Dunlossit, Kilchiaran and Sunderland. This peaty treat was aged for six years in a combination of American whisky and red wine casks giving it a ripe and robust palate. Bottled at 50%, it is non chill-filtered and holds its natural color.
Nose: Lustrous and vibrant with aromas of lemon zest, sweet smoke and apricot. A hint of caramel and seagrass is present as well.
Palate: Big and bold with tones of vanilla, peaty char and a buttery sweetness. There are subtle notes of white grape as well with pepper and hints of iodine.
Finish: Lingering wafts of costal smoke carry the finish with biscuits and salted caramel.
I am always astonished at the great variety of malts created on Islay, from the lighter sherried Bowmores to the heavy medicinal peaty Laphroaigs. The individual character of each of Bruichladdich’s malts is part of this wide diversity found on the Isle of Islay.
The independent bottler Signatory Vintage is relatively new. They are based in Pitlocry and incidentally are under the same ownership as Edradour distillery. This elegant Caol Ila was solely matured in a bourbon hogshead cask (#314659) for 8 years. Bottled at 46%, it is un-chillfiltered and holds its light natural color.
Nose: Smokey Islay peat, nutty almonds and a hint of lemon blossom.
Palate: Surprisingly soft with a vanilla tone from its bourbon aging. There’s also a strong presence of Islay peat, pepper and a slight hint of lemon.
Finish: Simmering spice, light vanilla and sea air.