Our final dram of our monsoon malt evening was my bottle of Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%, bought to join an undisclosed distilleries session.
The story of Vintage Malt Whisky Company‘s Finlaggan is deliberately unclear. As an independent bottler, Brian Crook‘s team has managed to pull off a feat of balancing quality with price for their brand ‘Finlaggan‘ while shrouding in mystery whether they are from many or a single anonymous distillery. Most speculation favours a single distillery – with names bandied about including Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Caol Ila.
The name Finlaggan comes from a loch on the north side of Islay, just west of Port Askaig and the whiskies under this label are intended to “embody the spirit of Islay” with three core NAS expressions: Old Reserve 40%, Eilean Mor 46% and Cask Strength 58%.
They also bottle Islay Storm, which strikes me as clearly Kilchoman – an opinion shared by another fan of the distillery.
I had the pleasure of sampling the Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% three times with other whisky aficionados and again last night in an impromptu, informal random yet most enjoyable evening at home. While the different tasting notes are all variations on a quite similar theme, together they represent an interesting exploration of an exceptionally affordable, quality dram.
1. The Single Cask – Open bottle
- Nose – Tar, asphalt, leather, grass, flowers, quite sweet yet also oddly shy and slightly mute
- Palate – Sharp leather, warm balanced evolution, rather tasty
- Finish – Sweet spice liquor
It may sounds like a contradiction but it was indeed oddly muted and shy – I couldn’t help but suspect the bottle was open too long with oxidation taking its toll.
2. The Bombay Malt & Cigar (BMC) Club – Closed bottle
- Nose – Pudding, overripe bannoffee pie, coconut, Jamaican sugar cane, lemon curd, nutmeg, spice, dry leaves and hay, vegetable… and yes, a curl of delicious smoke
- Palate – Peppery peat, sweet, great mouthfeel
- Finish – Smokey bitter ash chased by cinnamon sweet
- Water – It softened the whisky considerably, bringing out juicy fruits – particularly peaches
Our guesses? After an initial speculation may perhaps be Caol Ila, Bowmore… settled on Laphroaig. But of an older style.
3. Monsoon malts and more – Open bottle from BMC evening
- Nose – Light leather, slight iodine, chocolate, roasted sesame seed, so sweet
- Palate – More smoke than heavy peat, utterly delicious, one to enjoy rolling around your mouth
- Finish – Lovely long smoky cinnamon finish
Rolling around on our palate, considering all factors… our guess was Lagavulin.
The Vintage Malt Whisky Company has this to say about their Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%:
- Nose: Lovely pungent peat smoke. Smoky bacon with a touch of old leather
- Palate: Rich sweet smoke. Iodine, lemon zest with a beautiful mouth coating oiliness. Waves of tarry peat
- Finish: Peppery peat. Soot and ash. Long and warming
No matter the impression, its a marvellously tasty dram at a most affordable price. Definitely gets full marks for value.
Purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London for £48.95 in 2017.
Other whiskies sampled in our Mumbai monsoon malts evening included:
- Eddu Silver 40%
- R & B Distillers – Borders Single Grain 51.7% & Raasay “While We Wait” 46%
- The Exceptional – Blended Grain Scotch Whisky 43% & Blend Small Batch Scotch Whisky 43%
- Highland Park 12 year 40%
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A brilliant bottle indeed! I reviewed it a while back, calling it “a yeasty Islay whisky full of smoke, meat and spirit”. Since I always found the mystery around Finlaggan quite exciting, I also went on to do a little interview with them. It turned out quite a fun read. As for the distillery producing the spirit, I once did a little “experiment” and drank Finlaggan Cask Strength side by side with malts by Laphroaig and Lagavulin, looking for similarities. I found Finlaggan to be much closer to the Lagavulin than the Laphroaig. Might be interesting to do the same with heavily peated Bunnas and Bowmores too. 😉
It is indeed a brilliant bottle!! Excellent value for the quality of the whisky. While we didn’t compare side by side with Laphroaig or Lagavulin, I’d also agree my final ‘vote’ would veer towards Lagavulin. Would indeed be interesting if you get a chance to compare it with other Islay drams too!!
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