Our last “scotch” tasting for 2015 will be a smoky affair! I’m done procuring the bottles for the tasting and can tell you that we have our greatest lineup yet! I’ve upped the ante for this meeting to 8 bottles! One from every distillery. As per usual, it’s a mixed selection of local and exotic whiskies ranging from $70 to $190, most of which is cask strength, as it should be! Here’s our lineup in the order they’ll be presented.
Bunnahabhain Ceobanach – 46.3% ABV
The Bunnahabhain Distillery was founded in 1881 near Port Askaig on Islay. The village of Bunnahabhain was founded to house its workers. The Bunnahabhain is one of the milder single malt Islay whiskies available and its taste varies greatly from other spirits to be found on the island of Islay, off the west coast of Scotland.
Ceòbanach is a copper gold liquid with an unusually rich, complex character marrying ex bourbon cask sweetness with intense Islay malt peatiness and subtle hints of the sea. As with all Bunnahabhain expressions, Ceòbanach is unchill-filtered meaning that nothing is added or taken away, leaving the whisky exactly as nature intended.
Cooper’s Choice Caol Ila 23 y.o. Cask 1033 – 46% ABV
Bottled under the name Cooper’s Choice, the Vintage Malt Whisky Company’s aim was to produce a range of malt whiskies from Scotland’s finest distilleries and to make them available to independent wine and spirit importers throughout the world. All whiskies are from single casks of malts at different ages; casks that wouldn’t otherwise be bottled, or worse, blended. Coopers are those who make and repair casks!
Caol Ila is one of the lighter Islay whiskies, pale in colour, with peaty, floral and peppery notes. In addition to being sold as a single malt, it is used heavily in blends such as Johnnie Walker. Since 1999, the distillery has also produced a non-peated whisky.
Bowmore Black Rock – 40% ABV
The Bowmore distillery, which lies on the South Eastern shore of Loch Indaal, is one of the oldest in Scotland and is said to have been established in 1779. Bowmore Distillery sources as much barley as possible from on the island of Islay. Bowmore whiskies are well known and readily available as they have a solid core range and many other special releases.
Looking out the window of Bowmore Distillery, the Black Rock of Islay rises majestically out of Loch Indaal. Matured predominately in ex-Spanish sherry casks, it is a delicious balance of peat smoke, treacle toffee and orange from first sip to last. Black Rock is special release only available in travel retail stores.
Kilchoman 2010 KWM Cask 440 – 60.4% ABV
The distillery is situated on the western side of Islay, near the small settlement of Kilchoman. The location makes it the most westerly distillery in Scotland. The distillery began production in June 2005, and was the first to be built on the island of Islay in 124 years. They’re the only distillery in Scotland that produces whisky from malting to bottling! A true craft distillery.
The distillery’s nearly flawless spirit and rigorous oak policy have ensured that their young whiskies can compete with the best in the world. Distilled in 2010 and matured in an American Ex-Bourbon Barrel at 5 years of age it is another cracker! Only 221 hand numbered bottles are available at cask strength.
Lagavulin 12 y.o. (2012) – 57.5% ABV
The Lagavulin distillery is located in the village of the same name and established in 1816. It is said that the distiller at Lagavulin attempted to copy Laphroaig’s style. Since the water and peat at Lagavulin’s premises was different from that at Laphroaig’s, the result was different, indeed! The Lagavulin 16 is their flagship whisky.
The 12th release of 12 year old Lagavulin from Diageo’s Special Releases range. A perennial favourite, balancing price against a punchy cask strength edition of whisky from one of Islay’s most mysterious distilleries. Matured in refill American oak casks and bottled at cask strength.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015 – 51.5% ABV
Laphroaig distillery is an Islay single malt Scotch whisky distillery named for the area of land at the head of Loch Laphroaig on the south coast of the Isle of Islay. Laphroaig calls itself one of the most strongly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies, and is most frequently aged to 10 years. Variation on finishes include the Quarter Cask, Triplewood and the Cairdeas. In 1994 the Friends of Laphroaig Club was established, members of which are granted a lifetime lease of 1 square foot of Laphroaig land on the island of Islay. The annual rent is a dram of Laphroaig which can be obtained upon visiting the distillery!
Released during Fèis Ìle 2015 and marking the distillery’s 200th anniversary, for this special edition of Laphroaig Cairdeas Master Distiller John Campbell used 100% floor malted barley (from the distillery’s own small malting floor) and used only the two smaller, older stills during distillation! It was matured in ex-bourbon casks for around a dozen years.
Ardbeg Perpetuum – 47.4% ABV
Ardbeg Distillery is a Scotch whisky distillery in Ardbeg on the south coast of the isle of Islay, which began producing legally in 1815. The distillery uses malted barley sourced from the maltings in Port Ellen. Ardbeg seldom release whiskies with age statements. They often bottle their whisky at a higher ABV than the minimum 40%, and they do not chill filter their whiskies. Ardbeg has always produced a very sought-after single malt, despite its production scale being less than half that of its neighbours: Laphroaig and Lagavulin. In my opinion, their Uigeadail release is probably their best value at $100.
Ardbeg’s 2015 Ardbeg Day Bottling has been created by Dr. Bill Lumsden from a mix of stock. In celebrating the distillery’s 200th year they have decided to dip into a wide range of stock. Some have compared this whisky to the Roller Coaster, in terms of its creation.
Bruichladdich Octomore 7.1 – 59.5% ABV
Bruichladdich is a distillery on the Rhinns of the isle of Islay in Scotland. All the distillery’s whiskies are sold as single malts, with those designated Bruichladdich being unpeated, those designated Port Charlotte being heavily peated and those designated Octomore being super-heavily peated. Bruichladdich has on the largest selections of core range and specialty whiskies in their lineup. They also like to source all the barley from Islay.
The Octomore farm from which the whisky was named, sits on a hill overlooking the village of Port Charlotte near Bruichladdich. Octomore is considered to be ‘the most heavily peated single malt whisky in the world’.