Ardbeg 1975 OB 2000

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Nose: 8.2 | Palate: 8.4 | Finish: 9.2 | Overall Score: 8.6

Review
I think by now everyone’s read about my trip to Islay for the Feis Ile so I won’t bore you with the details.

What is pertinent, though, is our annual pilgrimage to the Kildalton Cross, a few miles ahead of Ardbeg, with the aim of toasting something special. This year there were seven of us. Which was both a good thing and a bad thing.

Good because more the merrier.

Bad because we decided to drive down to the cross in a single Volkswagen Passat. Let’s just say everyone had their privates mashed against someone’s rear at all times. There were violent complaints followed by uncontrollable bouts of laughter as we made the agonising 20 minute drive from Lagavulin.

The only person unaffected was my self. As the designated driver for the day I had the enviable position of sitting comfortably in the drivers’ seat and laughing at my friends’ discomfort.

I had procured this bottle in Dubai and gingerly carried it in my luggage all the while hoping and praying nothing would happen to it. Luckily the whisky Gods were on our side. The bottle was unscathed. The day was beautiful. Everything was perfect in that moment.

This vintage Ardbeg was released soon after the new ownership had taken over the distillery. Released in 2000 my sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 43%

Nose: A fading peat. Soft and in the background. Not as earthy as I thought but more coal smoke. Old leather shoes. Almonds. Walnuts. Organic kale chips. Salty kale chips. Yemeni honey. After a while becomes quite malty. Cereals. The tender oak is next. Becomes a touch floral over time. Dried lavender petals. Like potpourri. Heather. Such a distinctive old school style of spirit. No sharp edges. Everything married as one well rounded robust offering. 8.2

Palate: Feels better on the palate. So full. Extremely oily. Mouth filling. Lovely soft delivery. Faded peat. Cocoa powder. The oak here is supreme. Beautifully balanced. Same nuttiness as on the nose. Banana cake and almonds. Four cumin seeds. Not five. Not three. Four. 8.4

Finish: Bloody hell. This just keeps getting better and better. One of the more magnificent finishes I’ve encountered in a long time. Just stays in your mouth and refuses to dissipate. Hints of vanilla. The soft peat. And, of course, the divine oak. Love it. 9.2

Overall Comments: A truly world class whisky that harks back to a bygone era of whisky making. There’s an aged softness to these old school spirits that I’ve noticed that might never be replicated. There’s just too much time and care taken to produce these kinds of gems to make them successful in the modern world where everyone is impatient and has the attention span of a Jack Terrier on cocaine. And, frankly, even if they do I doubt us lesser mortals will be able to get our hands on it anyway. Such is the world we live in.

Overall Score: 8.6

Berry Brothers & Rudd Tasting

The following is an honest account of my experience at a recent Berry Brothers & Rudd tasting.

We were greeted with a sweet cherry cocktail as we walked into the clubhouse of the Jumeirah Golf Estates, one of the many developments that have sprung up around the outskirts of Dubai. They call it secluded but the phrase that came to my mind was more along the lines of out in the boonies.

Since I was early I perched at the bar and kept my self busy watching, you guessed it, golf on the many HD screens hanging from the walls. Once there were sufficient numbers crowding the waiting area we were ushered into the restaurant and shown to our numbered tables.

The head-chef came out first and explained the menu to us in great detail. Food wise things were looking promising. The chocolate mousse and pistachio dessert was what I was really waiting for. As it turned out the entire meal was absolutely fantastic.

The fresh salmon ceviche was followed by a baked sea bass. Braised beef in a whisky reduction was next and a lovely chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream was pretty much spot on. Really happy with what I ate that night.

Unfortunately I wish I could say the same for the whiskies that we encountered.

Having been in the business since 1698 Berry Brothers & Rudd are one of the oldest wine and spirits merchants in the UK. They also bottle a hefty number of whiskies which they sell under their BBR label. Counting the four that I had that evening it would bring the total number of BBR whiskies I had tasted up to a whopping 11.

I think that’s enough whiskies to form a general opinion on the overall quality and style of a particular independent. Sure there are some hits and some misses. But when the misses are overwhelming then one has no choice but to cast judgement.

And so I have cast. You, sir, are not to my liking.

Berrys SpeysideReserve

The first whisky of the evening was the blended Speyside Reserve. I’d love to know what reserve really means. So many distilleries use it to denote spirit kept aside for a special purpose. What I think it really means is I have no idea what this whisky stands for. Let’s put Reserve in the name and hope for the best.

The young whisky was quite bland and boring as was the speech by Doug McIvor, their Spirits Manager, who read off the cue cards at the beginning of the evening. After which he settled down for his meal and that was the last we heard of him.

Left to our own devices we decided to take the evening seriously and settled down to making some notes.

Note: All whiskies reviewed under were bottled at 46%

Nose: Hello rotting wet wood. Looks like a sulphured cask in here somewhere. Can’t be anything else. Quite overpowering if you ask me. Processed honey. Sugarcane juice. Sweet heather. Love hearts. They all try but the sulphur is a bit much.

Palate: Very light. Uninteresting. Bitter. That sulphur again. Quite spirity and raw. Tries to be sweet. Can’t. What a waste of time.

Finish: Let’s just leave this field blank.

Overall Score: 5.0


Berrys Girvan

The second whisky to be brought out was an 8 year old single grain Girvan. One of the comments left on my Twitter feed after I posted this picture was @WhiskyCliff saying the only reason Girvan existed was to remind us how good single malt really is.

I must admit I laughed a little at that.

Distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2014 (see I told you it was 8 years old) it’s not as bad as the comment that was made but let’s just say I’m not rushing out to get t-shirts with I [heart] Girvan printed on them.

Nose: ex-Bourbon barrels have given this a sweet vanilla essence. Faint nectarines. Neutral greens. Jolly Green Giant peas. Mild fennel. It’s not as bad as the previous one. Still no sparks, though.

Palate: Right then. Back into previous territory. Bitter. Quite savoury. Coconut. Vanilla. Hint of oak. Nope. No thank you.

Finish: Still bitter. Still not good.

Overall Score: 5.5


Berrys Caperdonich

Ah, what do we have here? A closed distillery. And my first Caperdonich.

Striking color on this one. The sherry seems to have done it’s job. And twenty years old on top of that. Here’s hoping.

Nose: Now that’s what I’m talking about. Nice. Very nice. Ripe bananas. Stewed red fruits. Stewed cherries that you ladle on a cheesecake. Cherry Cola. Dry arm chair leather. Pomegranate peel. Mint leaves. Seems like an Oloroso butt here. I really like this.

Palate: Nice oak. Maybe a tad tired but this is not the time to start being cynical. Lindt 70%. Cinnamon. Burnt caramel on creme brûlée. Not as good as the nose (thanks to the oak) but quite drinkable. Let’s order another dram.

Finish: Medium. Nice. Lindt with red chilis.

Overall Score: 7.5

Berrys Arran

I’m a fan of Arran. Not it’s number #1 fan, mind you. More a there’s nothing wrong with this whisky fan. So I was quite happy to finish off the evening with something that I kind of trusted.

But as Mufasa will tell you trust is a dangerous thing.

A seventeen year old bottled in 2014, matured in ex-Marsala casks and paired with my chocolate pistachio dessert. Bad idea.

Nose: Burnt caramel. Cabernet Sauvignon. Black grapes. Wait, what’s that? Is it sulphur? Maybe. There’s certainly something dodgy going on here. Black salt. Dry all spice.

Palate: Something is definitely off here. Not Defcon 4 off but off. I don’t like it. Caramel. Black peppercorns. Slightly spent oak. Not working for me.

Finish: Medium to long. Oaky.

Overall Score: 6.2

Bit of a disastrous evening if you ask me. The food made up for it, though.

My favourite part of the evening was when one of the serving staff insisted that Caperdonich was an Islay whisky. I merely nodded and smiled. Because, like most of the whiskies tasted that evening, what was the point?

Kilchoman Madeira Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 50%
Nose: 5.8 | Palate: 5.8 | Finish: 5.8 | Overall Score: 5.8

Review
I seem to writing only about Islay whiskies of late. Thing is I have a pocket book full of tasting notes after my trip to the Feis Ile that I have to commit to the site. So you’re going to have to bear with me for a while.

We managed to spend a fun few hours at the distillery indulging in, not only some whiskies but, chocolate desserts too. The Machir Bay brownie, I must admit, is better than any whisky produced there. Sure, that might be a slight exaggeration but every time I think of Kilchoman I think of that brownie. So draw your own conclusion.

Kilchoman have been quite busy of late adding experimental expressions to both their core and special range and the one I was most excited about getting my hands on was the young ‘un matured fully in Madeira Casks.

Back in 2011 the distillery filled 17 casks which had previously held Madeira wine and set them to rest. Then in 2015 they managed to extract 6,100 bottles from those casks and put together what is, in my opinion, one of the more average Kilchomans’ I have ever tasted.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 50% ABV

Nose: Nope. Don’t like it. Really spirity. Feinty spirits. Quite sharp. I’m missing the delicate robustness that I’m accustomed to with Kilchomans. Quite woody. There is some vanilla and toffee sweetness. Touch of garam masala. For some reason this one screams young. And it really shouldn’t given how pristine Kilchoman are with their spirit and casks. 5.8

Palate: Equally spirity. Equally upsetting. Muddle of sharp pin pricks with an almost apologetic fruitiness. Sorry, nothing to see here. 5.8

Finish: Medium to who care anymore? 5.8

Overall Comments: Well, what can I say? I’ve decided I don’t like these wine maturations. Especially Madeira. Laphroaig struggled with it with 2016’s Cairdeas. It was not a total disaster like this but still nothing spectacular. I don’t know if a few more years will do the trick or only make it worse. Honestly, I don’t know if there’s any stock left over to even know. And, frankly, I couldn’t care less.

Overall Score: 5.8

Kilchoman 2008 Vintage

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 8.0 | Palate: 8.0 | Finish: 8.0 | Overall Score: 8.0

Review
It’s been a really long day. Nothing that would kill me, mind you. Just that the sometimes the rigors of daily life can eventually catch up with you. And that’s when you need the escape. That one happy place you can go to and pretend nothing around you really matters.

And for me that place is Islay.

Especially now given how fresh my memories are of that wonderful place. The clean air, the calming green and simply the thought of being surrounded by so many amazing whiskies.

On our second day on the island I convinced the others to head on down to Kilchoman for, not just their whiskies, but their sinfully delicious Machir Bay soaked chocolate brownie. If there is one thing you must do before you die is try that dessert in the distillery cafe. It is just absolutely divine.

After stuffing my face with a tasty roast beef sandwich and the famed brownie I sat down with something else that was equally divine and also made at Kilchoman. The seven year old 2008 Vintage.

This is the first time Kilchoman have released a whisky this old for the general public. Though, I’m not counting the one-off 10 year old released a few months ago for a cancer charity auction in support of, then distillery manager, John MacLellan. He sadly lost his battle against the same disease three months ago. RIP good man.

The Limited Edition 2008 Vintage is a vatting of fresh ex American bourbon barrels filled in July 2008 and bottled in August 2015. Seems like older Kilchomans are just as tasty as their younger siblings.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 46%

Nose: That signature Kilchoman toasted barley. And the equally familiar smoke. Then there’s that typical Islay grist. Cereal-y with a soft layer of peat. A hint of green lime. Melon. Touch of oak. Green berries. Another classic Kilchoman nose. Still seems quite young and sprightly even though it’s a good 18 months or so older than the oldest Kilchoman on the market. 8.0

Palate: Crisp barley. Nice solid oak. That Islay smoke. Vanilla. Dries mid-palate. Now a little sweeter. More chocolate. More fruit. Very creamy mouthfeel. It’s not overly complex but I didn’t expect it to be. Just the classic Kilchoman flavours coming through nicely. 8.0

Finish: Long. Drying. Touch of oak. Black pepper. 8.0

Overall Comments: I love this distillery. Love everything about it. And so I’m probably a little biased. But then again I’m a sucker for good old-fashioned bourbon barrels done right. Clean crisp flavours where I can taste the distillery. And this one ticks all those boxes for me.

Overall Score: 8.0

Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 55% | Colour: So dark!
Nose: 8.8 | Palate: 9.2 | Finish: 9.0 | Overall Score: 9.0

Review
Yes, I know. A million bloggers have already written about this one and I’m super late to the party. I have an excuse, though. I’ve been sick for a while and, frankly, quite busy with putting together my documentary Every Dram Drunk.

I’m calling it a documentary but, as my friend rather sarcastically pointed out, it’s actually just a pathetic attempt on my part to validate yet another boys trip. I can’t help but fear she’s right but, hey, you know what they say. Opinions are like butt cracks. Everyone has one.

Anyway, the whisky at hand.

Now Ardbeg have started doing this thing where they create two versions of the same whisky to release during the Feis. A Committee bottle and a Festival bottle. They did it last year for the first time with the Perpetuum and now this year with the Dark Cove. Usually the Committee bottle has a stronger ABV compared to the Festival release. While the Perpetuum had a 2% difference in ABV this years’ release has a whopping 8.5% difference!

The Committee release is bottled at a punchy 55% and the Festival release at a mere 46.5%

I wish I could understand the logic of it. I mean if the whisky is meant to be tasted at 55% let it be. Don’t go about watering it down to create more stock. Look, the Festival release is pretty darn decent by any stretch of the imagination but the Committee at 55% is a completely different animal.

And that’s what was sitting in front of me my first day on Islay.

After warming up our palates with the tasty Lagavulin 8 we ordered this one while sat at the Old Port Bar at the quaint Port Askaig Hotel.

There’s not a lot of literature on this one and even at the distillery everyone was quite vague. All they kept saying was this one has a lot of dark sherry in it. Apparently it’s a rare kind of sherry from Spain. But that’s all I know. Anyway.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at, as I mentioned earlier, 55%

Nose: Bam! Big big nose. Reminded me why I was in love with Ardbeg for the longest time. Touch mossy at first but then relaxes into a smoky haze. Wet barn. Wheat biscuits. Bung cloth. Cracking peat. Black fruits. Lots of toffee. Red peppers. Cinnamon. All-spice. Rather sweet on the nose. Love this bold approach. The peat and the dark sherry, whatever the hell that is, works beautifully together. 8.8

Palate: The true test of a whisky is on the palate and this is where this one comes through in spades. The 55% is the right strength for this spirit. Massive flavours. Solid oak. Cinnamon. Quite oily. Salty. Dark chocolate. Wait, bitter chocolate. Almonds. Toasted wood. Sticky toffee pudding. Liquorice. Dark fruits. This is unapologetic. Love it. 9.2

Finish: My hastily written notes say mad spice! So I’m going to have to go with that. Mad spice. Caramel. Smoke. 9.0

Overall Comments: Beautiful whisky this. While the Festival is nice in it’s own right the Committee is the one to beat. Reaffirms my faith in this distillery to produce knockout flavours. This one also marked the start of a memorable boys trip to the Festival and, thus, has a special place in my heart.

Overall Score: 9.0

Lagavulin 18 Feis Ile 2016

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Distillery/Brand: Lagavulin | Region: Islay | ABV: 49.5% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 8.6 | Palate: 9.0 | Finish: 8.8 | Overall Score: 8.8

Review
For our trip to Islay for the whisky festival this year I ended up getting t-shirts printed with Malt Activist emblazoned on the front and the words The Perfect Dram / Feis Ile 2016 printed on the back.

Other than shameless self-promotion the idea was for the group to visit the island in search of the perfect dram. While there’s probably no such thing we did come quite close. Some in terms of the emotional draw they had for us and some simply for the quality of spirit.

This 18 year old from Lagavulin was one of the top contenders for The Perfect Dram simply because of how insanely good it was.

Lagavulin18 001

Having reached Islay a day earlier everyone woke up excited to an overcast day to visit their first distillery together. After parking two miles down the road we made our way to the small courtyard in front of the visitors centre where congregated over 300 odd whisky fanatics with half of them in line for the Feis bottle.

With waits of well over two hours to secure a bottle we said no thanks! and wandered around the grounds killing time before our Whisky & Bites tasting with a gentleman by the name of Dennis Mulder.

First we took part in a blind tasting (which I’m pretty sure I won – I’m just waiting for them to contact me) and and then spent twenty minutes watching a cooper put together a barrel. So far this was turning out to be a great day.

Lagavulin18 003

After countless drams of Lagavulin 16 and the Double Matured down at the warehouse it was finally time to meet Dutchman Dennis Mulder who was going to conduct the Whisky & Bites Masterclass. As we trooped into the malt room where the tasting was taking place the clouds burst again and showered us one last time before we went inside.

That would be the last time for four days that it would rain again.

We were ushered inside and were greeted with two extremely long tables where sat around 50 odd people. In front of each one were five drams. From L to R : Lagavulin 8, 16, Double Matured, 12 CS 2015 and this beautiful 18 year old released as this years’ Feis bottle.

In addition to the whiskies the entire table was lined with different types of bites and we were encouraged to pair each one with the different whiskies. There was dark chocolate along with milk and a rather fatty white chocolate. Strong mint drops, pancetta and pecan nuts made up the other edibles on the table.

I only wish that the food pairings were specific rather than a free for all but it was our second day on Islay, the first distillery open day, in fantastic company among friends and so there was little reason to be fussy.

Lagavulin18 004

All of us decided to sample the 18 before any of the others especially before corrupting our palate with all those bites.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 49.5%

Nose: The faintest of smoke. Delicate peat. The 18 years have really mellowed the spirit down. But it’s brought out so many other flavours. Crisp lemon. An even crisper lime. Small nectarines. Milk chocolate – but just a touch. Green apples. Green papaya. Olives. Let it sit and there’s a touch of something floral. Like white wildflowers. This turns to geranium after a bit. Beautiful nose. A very nice layering of aromas. If I didn’t have four other drams and 45 minutes before the session ended I could have sat with this for a while. 8.6

Palate: Bold. Strong. Full bodied. Coats the entire palate with a toasted white pepper oak. Sooty. Strong vanilla. Very creamy. Herbaceous. Those citrus notes are back. The lime. Lemon. And the nectarines. Confident palate. Doesn’t muck about with too many flavours. Everything is concise and in the right proportions. The best part. 9.0

Finish: Medium to long. Touch of oak. Nice and oily. Makes you want to chew it for a while. 8.8

Overall Comments: Lovely dram this. Just wonderfully crafted. Strong flavours all composed quite masterfully. Once again I am guilty of being partial to these set of reviews (the Feis bottlings) only because I have such vivid and fun memories of tasting these whiskies during my time on the island. But I won’t apologise for that.

Overall Score: 8.8

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 Feis Ile

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Nose: 7.6 | Palate: 7.8 | Finish: 7.6 | Overall Score: 7.7

Review
I think the picture in this review sums up the perfect whisky drinking experience for me. Sitting outside the visitors centre at Laphroaig, overlooking the cold waters of the North Atlantic as they lazily washed over the grey rocks and, most importantly, two extra glasses for sharing my whisky.

The morning had dawned beautifully and we were all set to experience Laphroaig’s rather popular tour, Water to Whisky. This is where they take you out to the distillery’s water source, visit the peat bogs to cut some peat and then give you the opportunity to hand-fill a bottle down in the legendary Warehouse 1 from a cask of your choosing.

As everyone was prepping and getting their wellies in order I snuck three drams of their latest Cairdeas out for a quiet sip before heading out. (On a side note, let me tell you there is probably no distillery on Islay more generous with their drams than Laphroaig. You can literally drink to your hearts’ content at the bar inside the visitors centre for no charge.)

As my two other friends joined me we toasted to what turned out to be a an absolutely wonderful day of whisky drinking and exploring. But I will talk about that in a later post.

In the mean time we had in front of us a rather unusual Laphroaig. To the best of my knowledge this was the first time Laphroaig had experimented with a Madeira cask so, needless to say, everyone was quite excited.

This particular Cairdeas is a vatting of first-fill bourbons which have then been finished off in a Madeira hogshead. The result is a departure from the traditional Laphroaig flavours. My sample is from an open bottle and served at 51.6%

Nose: The sharp peat jumps out first. Quite spicy. A bit of oak. Becomes sweet and sour after a while. I don’t know if I’m getting influenced by the label but there’s red fruits in here too. Red berries. Raspberries. Liquorice. And finally that familiar Laphroaig iodine and seaweed that I was searching for. Dries with a touch of water. This is a good nose if you ask me. Just short of being fantastic but good in it’s own right. 7.6

Palate: Hmmmmm. This is where the Laphroaig distillate comes through more. Well rounded and crisp. The oak is there and it’s been dry-rubbed by those same red berries. The liquorice is back. And it’s back with some dark chocolate. And, as with the nose, the seaweed and iodine make a last minute appearance. It’s sweet and sour at the same time. Once again, like the nose, it does not blow my mind but I’m happy to drink it. 7.8

Finish: Smoky. Earthy. Hint of those red fruits again. 7.6

Overall Comments: I love Laphroaig. In fact I love pretty much everything about them. Especially the tour & tasting guides who go out of their way to make you feel special. This new Cairdeas is a departure from the typical Laphroaig house style but I think it works even if it doesn’t blow my socks off. I’m more than happy to drink this all evening. Preferably at the distillery’s visitor centre.

Overall Score: 7.7

Lagavulin 8

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Distillery/Brand: Lagavulin | Region: Islay | ABV: 48% | Colour: Chardonnay
Nose: 8.2 | Palate: 8.4 | Finish: 8.0 | Score: 8.2

Review
It was raining when we landed in Islay. Cold and persistent. It was a day before the whisky festival was about to start and things were looking damp.

When you live in a place like Dubai where they actually have to fire water pellets into clouds to get some rain, believe me, weather like this is like dying and going to heaven. Only problem was we had a number of outdoor activities planned for the week and rain was going to be a problem if it persisted.

But as luck would have it the rain stopped the next morning, the clouds opened up and the sun shone like it had never before for the rest of the week. But that’s a story for another day.

Lagavulin 002

After checking into the Port Askaig Hotel (our first stop) we freshened up in our rooms (Mull & Rum – don’t ask me why) and headed down to the Old Port Bar for a bit of food and, of course, some whisky.

After being greeted warmly by the bar staff we settled in our seats and chose, instead, to start the evening with an Islay Ale. I quite like Saligo which is a sweet and rather mild beer. Much more to my liking compared to the darker ones. Besides I didn’t want to ruin my palate too much. I had the Lagavulin 8 looking back at me from across the bar.

I’m a huge fan of Lagavulin and I’m pretty sure I have yet to taste something from them that I don’t like. I may like some less than others but if there’s a distillery that’s got it’s craft down to the proverbial T it’s this one.

And what’s more they are unafraid. It’s 8 years old, the label screams. And there’s a reason for that you snobby bastard.

Alfred Barnard, the famous brewing and distilling historian from Britain, undertook an epic journey across Ireland, England & Scotland researching for his famous book ‘The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom’.

It was at Lagavulin or Lagganmhouillin, as I like to call it, that he tried an ‘exceptionally fine’ eight-year-old from the distillery. And it is to commemorate this event that the spirit inside this bottle is of this particular age.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 48%

Nose: Soft. Smokey peat. Quite a bit of salt. Fishnets. Kelp. White pepper. Lemon rind. Lime. Cardamom seeds. Brine. Hint of aniseed. Touch of green herbs. Sugarcane juice. That lovely Islay grist. This is quite a wonderfully sooty nose. Lots of spent ash. Quite typically Lagavulin with a feistiness that I love. 8.2

Palate: White pepper pin pricks. Then the sugars crumble beautifully. Toasted barley. Not very very sweet. Lots of soot and ash. Limoncello. Dry ginger. This is so nice and complex. 8.4

Finish: Nice and satisfying. Drying. Touch of spice. 8.0

Overall Comments: This is such a solid whisky, I tell you. Really liked everything about it. The fact that it’s young and sprightly and carries this much flavour really works for me. It’s very reasonably priced on top of that. So all in all a great start to the trip. Despite the rain.

Score: 8.2

Lagavulin 003

Bowmore Vintage Feis Ile 25 Years Old

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Distillery/Brand: Bowmore | Region: Islay | ABV: 55.7% | Colour: Ruby Gold
Nose: 8.2 | Taste: 7.7 | Finish: 7.7 | Score: 7.9

Review
Bowmore has never really tugged at my heart strings even though I’ve given it enough opportunities. Though I must admit, of late, there have been some shining moments which have made me sit up and take notice. Most notably it’s Tempest series which is only going from strength to strength.

I stumbled upon the first release by chance and six releases later am still a fan. I think their Laimrig is also very nice. The Devils’ Cask too. Though I fail to understand it’s allure to so many people willing to shell out big bucks for it on the second hand market. It’s something like £500 on some whisky sites. It’s 10 years old guys and tastes very much like the cheaper Laimrig.

While some of their special releases do hold my attention it’s the core range that disappoints me the most. The 12 all the way through the 25 are lacklustre drams in my opinion. Of course I’ll be courting a backlash from the die-hards but so be it.

Anyway.

So there I was sitting in the Bowmore tasting room at the distillery on their open day with four drams laid out in front me.
Bowmore 25 tasting pic

We had signed up for a single cask hand-fill tasting during our trip to the whisky festival and, never mind that it was 10.30 in the morning, all of us were sitting there rubbing our hands in anticipation.

From L to R we had a 2014 15 year old first-fill bourbon hogshead single cask, then a 13 year old Oloroso Spanish Sherry Oak, this years hand-fill the 17 year old matured in a PX butt and finally, as the surprise dram of the morning, this 25 year old Feis bottling.

I know a number of people who had lined up outside the distillery 16 hours before the gates opened to get hold of one of 200 bottles released. I was not one of them, mind you. But, hey, more power to you if you were and congrats on your purchase!

After tasting the first three (all very nice, by the way) we made our way to the star of the show. This cask strength 25 year old was first matured for 12 years in first-fill bourbon and then transferred to a Claret Wine cask for another 13. The result is an extremely sweet and spicy dram which just might have been over-powered by the wine influence.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 55.7%

Nose: So sweet. Almost sickly sweet. Though just about manages to not be cloying. Just. Mulled wines. Hint of oak. Touch of all-spice. Black peppercorns. Soft red apples. Mushy red fruits. The nose is quite distinct, thanks to the Claret Wine. Though, this may have been a disaster if kept for another year. But it’s not. I think it’s nice. 8.2

Palate: Very creamy. I like the mouthfeel. Gets quite dry mid-palate. Those red fruits are back. Raspberries. Almost jam like. Cinnamon. Milk chocolate brownies. With water the ash comes out a bit more. As do the spices. I don’t like it as much as the nose. I think the Claret Wine influence is mighty strong and I like to taste the integrity of the spirit. Still, feels nice on the palate. 7.7

Finish: Very long. Very drying. With a late resurgence of oils. 7.7

Overall Comments: So what do I think? I like it. I’ve heard it being slammed by some critics. Even some friends. But I’ll chalk that up to creative differences. I don’t think it’s worth waiting in line for 16 hours to spend £350 on it, though. But it’s not a disaster as some claim it to be. And, to be honest, the real reason is that I was in Islay sitting inside Bowmore tasting this with close friends. And that means a lot. Enough to award this more points than it actually might deserve. Deal with it.

Score: 7.9