Tag Archive: Islay


Ardbeg: Drum (Islay Single Malt Whisky: 52% ABV)

Visual: Very clear and light. Mix of fast and slow medium sized streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Heavy peat. Lightly waxy. Slight salt. Waxed fruit. Slight sugar cane. Fresh brown bread. Ripe banana. Banana leaves. Water adds nail polish and dried meat.

Body: Banana. Oily. Oily peat. Caramelised sugar. Rum. Palma violets. Water adds banana yogurt. Peat. Grapes.

Finish: Caramelised brown sugar. Molasses. Cherries. Rum. Peat. Banana and banana leaves. Waxy. Pear drops. Banana custard. Fatty sausage.

Conclusion: This feels like the most unexpected of experiences for me. It is a tropical tasting Ardbeg. It comes in with such a punch of a peaty aroma, but then drops you into smooth (and yes still peat influenced) perfection behind. It punches peat out, punches out waxy and heavy, burnt brown sugar and oily notes. It feels initially like it is going to be one to punch your teeth out.

On that first sip instead it comes in with subtle waxy, oily notes below the peaty weight, and leaves a touch of room which is nigh instantly filled by the rum coming in. It floods in with spicy and dry notes backed by lots of burnt, caramelised brown sugar and even molasses like notes.

More than that, what makes this seem so utterly different is that it has so much banana character added into this – waxy banana, mashed banana, banana yogurt, banana custard. Lots of banana notes really selling the tropical imagery and working so well against the spicier rum notes. Very sweet, always present behind the oily, peaty character.

Heavy peat, heavy sweet, thick waxy mouthfeel, meaty weight. It has full Ardbeg weight but is so sweet, rum touched and vibrant behind that. This is a legend, so polished, weighing the Ardbeg character but unlike any Ardbeg I have tried before.

It is something I never expected – a dessert meets Ardbeg peat whisky. It is both different and amazing, If you get the chance, and it is not silly money, try it. Genuinely great

Background: Final of the five whiskies tried at Independent Spirit‘s Uber Whisky Tasting. Ok, there was a sixth bonus one, this was the last official one, ok. This is this year’s take on the annual Arbeg Committee Release and one I was very excited to try – a rum finished Ardbeg! Going for stupid amounts of money if you try and find it online now, I was so chuffed to see it in the tasting so I could give it a go. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best.

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Douglas Laing: Bowmore XOP 21 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 56.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear greened grain. Mid sized streaks come out from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Smooth peat. Light moss. Very smooth and clean. Oily fish skin. Lightly medicinal. Batter. Water changes little.

Body: Oily fish skin. Sweet apples. Smooth. Cinder toffee. Grapes. Light ash. Slight salt. Water adds more grapes and some smoke.

Finish: Cinder toffee. Oily fish skin. Seaweed. Crème brulee. Slight ash. Grapes. Water adds more smoke, slightly peppery.

Conclusion: This is so clean, so smooth for the abv, so polished. It has got salt, slight medicinal character as you would expect from and Islay, but low peat and no fancy barrel ageing altering the flavour. What you get is very smooth vanilla, tinned tropical fruit and grape notes that speak to a very long time in a bourbon barrel. It doesn’t act unusually, but it does have the standard notes delivered ultra smoothly.

The lighter touch lets green fruit notes come out and mix with the lighter medicinal character. If you are worried from this description that the whisky is going to be too light for you, let me reassure you that there are still notes such as an oily fish skin heaviness, notes that bring a thicker character to a gentle alcohol weight whisky. For people who have tried a lot of Bowmore I’d say imagine a mix of the 12 and 18 year, taken the best elements of the two, smoothing massively and putting out at higher alcohol strength and polish.

Water smooths it out even more if you can believe that making for a very easy to sip Islay, but it doesn’t open up any new notes. Now it tastes nowhere near the abv it is pushing out, even taking into account the water, so smooth, with the only flaw is that it doesn’t stand out with any unique elements. It is not super different in flavour to the younger expressions but it is very polished and enjoyable. A very refined take on a classic.

Background: What is there to say for this one? – fourth of the five whiskies tasted at Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber Whisky tasting night. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best. So, I have had some bloody good experience with the XOP range from Douglas Laing. Also, seriously, I love Bowmore, though they do such a wide range of expressions it is hard to know what you will get in any bottling. To paraphrase one of my favourite quotes on Bowmore – If you can’t find a Bowmore expression you enjoy it may be time to ask if whisky is for you. This one of 317 bottles taken from a single cask.


Bruichladdich: Micro Provenance Cask Evolution Exploration: Sauternes 2006 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 58.4% ABV)

Visual: Light clear gold. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Cloying sweet apricot. Dessert wine. Pears. Grapes. Light rubber. Water adds wine gums sweets. More water adds slight salt.

Body: Pears. Almost evaporates on the tongue. Water brings out dessert wine. Vanilla. Light tannins. More water adds dried banana, more apricot. Even more water adds vanilla and slight salt.

Finish: Pears. Dry. Mineral water. Alcohol air. Water adds vanilla. Toffee. Dessert wine. Wine gums.

Conclusion:This is so strong yet sweet. The expected dessert wine and apricot notes come out from the neat spirit, yet more than that you get subtle pear and grape notes underneath, I’m guessing native spirit characters accentuated by the sweetness to give more complexity than often comes from this sweet and sometimes overpowering barrel ageing.

Neat the strong alcohol means that it almost evaporates off the tongue, giving no peat, no salt or any of the expected Islay character. It is clean, slightly rubbery, but with gentle fruit over an impressive alcohol weight but restrained burn. To get the spirit to stick around and to get the slight Islay salt character coming out you need to add a fair amount of water, but don’t worry, it can take it.

Even with water it is so very clean in the spirit character, lots of dry yet sweet dessert wine, and that gentle fruit, with the pear and apricot given more room to roam. The lack of overt Islay character is matched by a lack of lot of the Bruichladdich style. Instead you get lots of subtle complexity from the oak, lots of depth in those sweeter flavours for the water to bring out.

If it had more influence from the native Bruichladdich spirit then I would have no hesitation in recommending this as an absolute stonker. As is it is a very nice show of oak ageing, especially with water, and has wonderful subtlety in its weight.

Background: This was the third of five whiskies at Independent Spirit‘s Uber whisky tasting. I love those things, a chance to try five whiskies I might not otherwise get to try. As always with tastings like this it was in a social environment so I may have been influenced by people around me and the notes may be slightly shorter than usual. Hope you still enjoy. Anyway, this one is from Bruichladdich’s cask experimentation, made with optic barley and aged in the unusual Sauternes which in my experience adds a lot of sweetness to a whisky, so should be interesting seeing how it interacts with the Islay character here.

Lagavulin: Feis Ile 2018: 18 Year ( Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 53.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Peat. Soft champagne. White grapes. Beef broth. Cherry pocked digestives. Dry black liquorice smoke. Burnt rubber. Salt touch. Menthol liqueur. Sulphur. Water adds very light aniseed. Slightly more evident alcohol. Dry white grapes.

Body: Smooth. Dry. White wine. Light white chocolate. Oaken. Water adds cake sponge. Smoke. Soft lime. Dried beef and beef crisp dusting. More white chocolate. Toffee. Soft cherry.

Finish: Dry oak. Smoke. Alcohol air. Dried beef. Champagne. White grapes. Water adds pepper. Vanilla. Thai seven spice. Malt toffee. Cherry pocked biscuits. Beef crisp dust. White chocolate. More water adds vanilla and soft apricot.

Conclusion: Ok, let us start with how this is different to my usual Lagavulin expectation, via what those expectations are. So, my expectations for Lagavulin are that it will be big, meaty, peaty, weighty and complex.

This is drier, but does not feel lighter with that. Instead it emphasises what taste more like white wine, clean notes. Instead of heavy peat it feels more the dry smoke side of things, similarly dried meat instead of chewy slabs. There is room for subtle fruit notes to come out. It is still Lagavulin but restrained in how it punches out the notes. Still Islay, still big, but the heavier Islay meaty, medicinal, peat and salt notes feel calmed compared to the younger 16 year. It is a take that took me a short while to get used to.

Without water it suffers from being too much on the dry side, which alongside the ..ok, not lighter …brighter? Cleaner? Any which way, the different flavours seem to suffer in the higher alcohol environment. Ok, but overly oaken and the dryness makes it seem harsh.

So, yes, water play is definitely needed for this one. With water the smoke is still less peaty, and the beef still is dry, but the white wine notes rise to become slightly yeasty Belgian beer influenced and fuller champagne notes. The other elements have more room to roam and softer, with subtle red fruit coming out around the edges.

Grapes and soft fruit, across light salt hints now match the dry, smoke, dried meet and champagne. Still Lagavulin but a fascinating different take. Fascinating thought it is, I will have to admit. Lagavulin 16 and Distillers Edition are both better and cheaper. Then again those two whiskies are masterclasses in how to do a good Islay. This feels like an interesting alternate universe take. So, get the 16 and Distillers Edition first, if they are to your taste, and you have money to spare, this is an interesting one.

I love seeing what can be done with the spirit in this one, but it just makes it different, definitely not better. That is not to say this is bad – I have yet to encounter a bad whisky from this distillery – but it is not up with their usual amazing high quality. Still a fun one to dissect.

Background: I fought with myself so much over if I should get this. I genuinely love Lagavulin. Probably my favourite distillery, and one that has a relevantly restrained number of releases. Thus, a nice 18 year old release, especial a limited release that I would normally have to travel to the Feis Ile Islay festival to get, caught my eye. On the other hand it was just a tad expensive for an 18 year of whisky, mainly due to people having to head to Islay for that festival to grab it. As you can tell I eventually weakened and bought it. Otherwise this set of tasting notes would be admission of stealing. Grabbed from Independent Spirit ,this has been aged in Refill American oak hogsheads, Rejuvenated American Oak hogsheads and Bodega European Oak butts. This is bottle 4199 of 6000 bottles. I put on Akala – Knowledge Is Power 2 while drinking. I freaking love Akala, such a wordsmith and cutting in his political critique in his raps.

Elements Of Islay: LP9 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 54.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark bronzed cherry.

Nose: Smoke. Charred dry grass. Gunpowder tea. Moss. Black pepper. Spicy. Tar. Sherry. Light menthol. Water adds dried tea leaves, tannins and sulphur. Smoked bacon.

Body: Cherry. Intense peat. Thai 7 spice. Black cherry. Thick. Water adds orange crème touch. Mulled wine. Cloves and turmeric. Smoked bacon.

Finish: Thai 7 spice. Tarry. Smoke. Intense. Bitter red wine. Plums. Oily charring. Bitter cocoa. Water adds cloves. Mulled wine. Spiced orange skins. Lots of smoke.

Conclusion: Ok, this is intense. I have been spoiled with intense, aged smooth but peaty Laphroaigs recently of which this is the latest wonder.

This one has lost some of the medicinal Laphroaig character , but more than makes up for it by pushing a) A smokey peaty thing – very burnt greenery, burnt moss and general just smoke intensity. It shows a drier, more herbal smoke than is usual with Laphroaig – giving it a peppery and intense kick.

Against that is super spicy mulled wine and bitter red wine character that takes that pepper note and throws handfuls and handfuls of spice in after it. Holding these two heavy sides apart is a thin red line of sweet cherry and black-cherry which just about keeps everything in control.

Water brings out even more smoke, if that can be believed, smoked bacon notes come out as a rewarding extra to the main body in addition to subtle variance in the existing flavours.

Unlike the also awesome Laphroaig XOP 18 year I tried recently, this does not feel like a traditional Laphroaig in all things, just with extra boost from barrel ageing character. This feels like it keeps all the soot, smoke and peat from from Laphroaig – that is true – however the more medicinal elements seem to be lost under the spicy red wine like character. It is equally amazing, but different in how it expresses it. XOP is more traditional, this is more experimental. Both are great.

Another top notch, immense Laphroaig.

Background: Ok, wow, this was not one I expected to get to try. Independent Spirit had it on at a tasting I couldn’t make it to, and all the bottles sold out very rapidly. However they very kindly let me have a small sample to try and holy shit this is one that sounds awesome. Very many thanks! Distilled in 1998 this must be around 19 ish years old Laphroaig , aged in a single Pedro Ximénez Sherry Butt and bottled at cask strength. I tried this after getting back from seeing Progress Wrestling in Manchester for one of the best shows I have ever seen from them, so was on a high already. Put on some IDLES to listen to as Jim Smallman from Progress got me into listening to them due to tweeting about them, so they were on my mind. Awesome band.

Kilchoman 2018 European Tour Bottling – Machir Bay Cask Strength (Islay Scottish Single Malt Whisky: 59.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale brackish grain. Slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Peaty. Oily character. Light menthol and moss notes. Peppermint. Water adds dust balls and soot. Slight salt.

Body: Thick. Oily. Toffee and caramel. Thick peat. Oily charring. Oily chocolate. Oily peppermint cream. Water makes creamier. Salt touch. Honey. Sweet apricot. Sauternes wine. Sherry trifle.

Finish: Peppermint cream. Peat smoke. Light charring. Water adds dessert wine notes.

Conclusion: this is not what I expected, not at all. The extra abv seems to have utterly changed how the Machir Bay whisky expression comes across.

At normal abv strength this seemed slightly light back when I last tried it – very enjoyable and complex but gentle. This booms with oily thickness in feel, matched with huge honey to trifle sweetness. Everything feels like it is delivered in a oily fashion – oily peat, oily chocolate, oily charring, and now added to that is a completely new element -oily peppermint notes. This minty menthol to peppermint character is fresh yet creamy and adds both a sweetness and a slight natural mint leaves that I did not find in the standard expression. It makes it feel fresher, bigger and more greenery touched, adding to and massively changing the overall character.

This Islay character Kilchoman have become well known for is more subtle here than in a lot of their expressions. It is smokey, slightly salt touched, but the huge, thick oily and sweet character used here means that the sea breeze and peaty characteristics are less prominent that usual. Instead the apricot spirit note I have noticed at the back of Kilchomans before is now pushed to the forefront here in big dessert wine like flavours.

Oddly considering what makes this so different is what the extra abv brings to the game, this actually works better with water. Only a few drops are needed to bring out the best, so it is still a lot higher abv than the base expression, but those few drops make it smoother and really bring out the sherry trifle complexity from below the oily character.

Again the distillery does brilliantly – a sweet dessert wine meets Islay whisky that is rewarding on every level. Highly recommended.

Background: Second of the samples I was given by Independent Spirit for doing notes on, many thanks! They had done a Kilchoman tasting night I had to miss, but kindly let me try this – an exclusive bottling for the 2018 tour. It is a cask strength take on the Machir Bay which I was already a fan of. This was tried directly after the prior Kilchoman tasting, so I was still listening to the new Spektrmodule podcast.

Kilchoman: Loch Gorm 2018 (Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Moderate gold colour with fast thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Smokey. Lightly salty. Sea breeze. Raisin loaf. Charcoal dust. Spicy. Turmeric. Seaweed. Water adds greenery and moss, plus a mix of rocks and salt.

Body: Sherried raisins. Smoke. Dried smoked beef. Paprika. Light custard sweetness. Drying alcohol. Water adds cherries, makes very smooth. Peaty. Light apricot.

Finish: Soot. Salt touch. Dried smoked beef. Overcooked streak. Malt loaf. Water makes beefier in a broth style. Malt chocolate and a red fruit touch.

Conclusion: This is both distinctly forceful Islay in its style, and yet somewhat restrained with great subtly being showed in the openings this provides. The sherry use isn’t overpowering, but instead interwoven throughout the whisky to add light extra spice, and a little extra sweet dark and red fruit character. It adds a gentle sweetness that smooths the edges of a solid Islay core.

So, lets talk about that solid Islay core then. It is restrained but still evocative of the sea breeze and wet salted rocks of Islay, showing sooty smoke and dried beef to overcooked steak meaty roughness. So, distinctive as an Islay but not leaning into the punching medicinal or peat assault of the more intense ends of the scale, just weighing in with a character that brings imagery of a seaweed laden rock pool and wild island character that the region espouses. It is very well done, layered and expressive.

Water brings out more subtleties from the spirit – cheekier red fruit, but more tellingly an apricot sweetness that seems to belong to the spirit itself rather than the sherry ageing. An odd element but one I have seen in the background of a couple of Kilchoman now. The Islay character is still the core, but the more restrained expression lets a surprising amount of lighter notes through to play.

This is very good indeed – as mentioned in the background, I had the choice between buying a bottle of this, or the port aged cask, and I really feel I should have bought this expression instead back then as this is very impressive.

Subtly understated, rewardingly solid – this is a Kilchoman that brings weight and range from the sherry but is not lost to it. Very highly recommended and my respect from this distillery is rising with every expression I try.

Background: This is the first of two samples I was given by Independent Spirit for doing notes on, many thanks! They had done a Kilchoman tasting night I had to miss, but kindly let me try this, a sherry aged take on the spirit. This came out at the same time as the port cask, and back then I decided to go with that expression over this one. Time to find out if that was the right choice. Warren Ellis had put out a new Spektrmodule podcast – a collection of ambient and haunting music, so I put it on while doing the notes.

Douglas Laing: Provenance Single Cask: Bunnahabhain 10 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Single Cask Whisky: 10 year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Clear, slightly greened brackish hue. Very light coloured.

Nose: Thick, salty, slightly viscous oily notes. Brown bread. Fish oils. Light broth. Wet rocks. Greenery. Water makes more salty, smoother, more rock notes.

Body: Honey. Rocks. Salt. Alcohol warmth. Gentle peat. Slight dry medicinal to strong alcohol character. Mature cheese, peppery. Butter fat. Water makes smoother, saltier, drier and less sweet. Vanilla and vanilla toffee. Slight lime.

Finish: Brown bread. Dry. Dry vodka. Gentle peat smoke. Water adds slight lime, vanilla and white chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, Bunnahabhain is generally an unpeated whisky, I know that. This still tastes lightly smokey, ok? I cant lie on that one! It isn’t a meaty smoke character. But there is still some. Anyway, got that out of the way.

Neat it is a thick, kind of fish skin oils touched, slightly alcohol warm thing with big honey sweetness against a salty, rocky Islay character. The higher alcohol feel makes it a tad drying, which doesn’t quite match the sweeter character but it makes a simple, comparatively gentle Islay flavour set with a nice oily, thick mouthfeel.

Water does a lot of good, removing the harsher alcohol notes and the accompanying dryness, but it also strip out the more interesting flavours. The sweetness becomes more gentle and the odd oily, butter fats and peppery notes are lost.

Water makes it the easy drinking Islay, still showing a light peat smoke (I have no idea how), gentle sweetness and light salt. Easy to drink but most of the fun is lost. Id say the more interesting texture and flavour of the neat whisky makes it worth the slighter harsher notes that come with it. Give it some time to air, to get rid of some of the rough fumes, but drink neat – it makes for a reasonable attempt at a balance.

It isn’t a standout of the Islay world, but it really shows the non chill filtered style with a very nuanced mouthfeel that would otherwise have been lost. The slight mature cheese notes seem to be one of those extra elements and one I find fascinating. Apart from that it is generic light side of Islay flavour, good mouthfeel and some rough notes.

Not bad, not must have, but a decent take on the light end of Islay.

Background: Been digging these hip flask sized Single Cask bottlings for a while, a chance to get to know a whisky reasonably without dedicating the cash to a full bottle. Though I have had so many now I needed to ask for help from the lot at Independent Spirit so I could look up online which ones I have already done notes on. Bunnahabhain is an interesting one, a generally unpeated Islay. Not one I have had a huge range of experience with so this was chance to try and sort that. I’d been watching Kaizo Trap tons recently so put on some Leslie Wai music while drinking. Mainly Paradigm, the track from Kaizo Trap. This was distilled Oct 2007 and bottled Dec 2017.

Douglas Laing’s XOP Laphroaig 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Single Cask Whisky: 18 year: 56.8% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed with slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Peat. Charcoal. Strong alcohol. Salt. Sultanas. Moss and seaweed. Medicinal. Dry cake sponge. Kippers. Brown sugar. Water adds smoke and oily notes.

Body: Sherry. Strong alcohol. Charring and soot. Medicinal. Salt. Charred nougat. Salt. Water adds cherries. Dry red wine. Huge peat. Tannins. Raisins. Slight peach. Grapes. Plums.

Finish: Soot. Dried beef. Numbing alcohol. Malt chocolate. Iodine. Water adds tannins. More malt chocolate. Nut oils. Tofu. Vanilla toffee and chocolate toffee.

Conclusion: Usually Laphroaig loses some of the peat and medicinal intensity as it ages, losing some of those elements that make the younger spirit so very identifiable. For what it loses there it however gains greater subtlety, smoothness and complexity.

This does not lose the intensity in any way, shape or form. It is sooty, peaty, dried beef, salt, seaweed and medicinal all in one, all punching out at the brutal cask strength. The sherry ageing, usually so dominant in whisky, tries to push to the fore. It brings, oddly enough, dry sherry notes as well as the more expected red wine notes, but they are backing the intense Laphroaig character, not leading it or controlling it.

Neat it is a brutally intense experience – there is sweetness coming like nougat that has been quickly charred somehow – harsh, with oiliness coming in from kippers to nut oils seeping under that. It feels as much as it tastes, with hard to place savoury notes weighing in heavily to ground it.

Now, if that kick is too much there is always water to play with, and the high abv gives a lot of room to do so. It still keeps the medicinal and sooty character, but brings out layers of dry red wine, sultanas, cherries and even odd fruit notes, before heading back into a dry and medicinal finish.

Now, I tend to wait a week or so after opening a bottle to do notes these days, seems to clear out some rough notes, so I’ve had this a few times now. Caught at the wrong moment this can be quite closed as a whisky. The intense alcohol, charring and smoke can close off access to everything else, and sometimes is seems even water play can’t open it up. Other times, caught at the right moment it has all the goodness of a young Laphroaig, some quarter cask notes, matched with rich red fruit and a mix of red wine notes that makes it utterly exceptional.

I love it – it is a super intense ride of Laphroaig and more. However, even loving it, it is a ride of high points and low points depending on how it is reacting today. For the high points I am happy with it, as when it is on it us bloody amazing and I have not seen such a mix of intensity, Laphroaig character and wood character work so well before. However at the cost, something that may be not super reliable on the high may not be worth it for you.

So, look at the cost, look at the info here, make up your mind. You call.

Background: Ok, this is very expensive even for an 18 year old Laphroaig, and those are not exactly common. I was allowed to try the tiniest of sips of a sample at Independent Spirit and it blew me away, but there was no way I could get it at the time. Then I received a cheque saying an audit had revealed I was owed money and well, so now I own a bottle. I don’t believe in fate, but if I did then it definitely wanted me to have this whisky. Anyway, cask strength, in a stupidly over the top box which is so wasteful, but I would be lying if I said I did not find cool. I am a hypocrite, grr, down with wasteful packaging! Anyway, I was nervous breaking this open, hoping it would hold up to my memory – especially after buying the darn thing! Anyway put on some old, more goth era Lacuna Coil while drinking. Still like their more metal newer stuff, but it seems to waste the vocal range that the singers have – old school is where it is at.

Kilchoman: Port Cask: 2018 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed with a red to rose wine hue. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Oily. Burnt tyres. Potpourri. Rose wine. Toast. Petals. Ash and smoke. Cold cellars. Brown sugar.

Body: Strawberry. Tingling alcohol. Dusty. Charred toast and brown bread. Soot. Water adds peat, cherries, perfume air, soft cherryaid and salt.

Finish: Dusty. Toast. Salt. Red berries. Muted red wine. Malt drinks and malt chocolate. Water adds toffee and caramel. Riesen chocolate chews. Soot. Dried apricot. Cherries.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a lot better than my first encounter with it at a whisky tasting night. It probably helps that this time it isn’t the fourth whisky in the rotation, plus it has had some time to breath. Anyway, back then I was worried that I had grabbed a dull one and had it waiting for me at home. Now? Well let us see.

Neat it is still lacklustre and a bit closed. It is a mix of sooty and perfumed in the body, which was weird as it had a very enticing oily aroma enticing you in, just seeping slowly over the lip of the glass, but the actual sipping of it gives none of that. Without water that closed nature means you get very little of the port influence. It actually felt kind of toast like – quite drab.

Water makes a big different. It is still slightly closed and more sooty than peaty, but now it has subtle red fruit in the body, and that element raises more the more you add extra water into the mix. I find it odd as it is muted in the red fruit and muted in the Islay characteristics – both individual elements feel weak, but together it is more than the sum of its parts. The subtle red fruit behind soot works better than I would have imagined it would. Grounded, ash over muted red wine and cherries. Still not great one, but somehow these elements come together to accentuate each other well.

So, not as good in my opinion as the demand for it would suggest, especially before giving it some time to air where it was very closed. Now, well it is a solid sooty, smokey whisky against good use of port. Well with water at least. I respect it, but can’t say I would recommend it highly against the other Islays or even the other Kilchomans. Interesting as one of the little done port aged Islay, but far from a must have.

Background: Had this for a short while before trying – I had to grab it fast as it is one of 10,000 bottles and they flew off the shelves. Kilchoman has been a lovely new Islay distillery, and I’m generally a fan of Port Cask ageing so it seemed like a must buy. I was a bit nervous though – after buying it I had tried it at an Independent Spirit Uber whisky tasting and found it kind of average- plus on immediately breaking this open the first dram seemed similarly mediocre. Still, as I do with whisky these days I left it a week or so after opening before doing notes – lets see if a bit of time to breath has helped it. Put on some of The Royal They while drinking – their mix of quirky tunes yet solid lyrics delivered often in a more upbeat sound than the actual message would lead you to expect has made me a fan.

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