The whole idea behind Bruichladdich’s Micro-Provenance (or MP) series is to demonstrate the difference to be found between casks when starting at approximately the same place. Through this journey, one can explore the evolution of a single malt, comparing and contrasting…
Last in our North Star trio was a whisky from its 2nd series simply named “Islay”. We sampled it blind and were floored by the reveal with an introduction to a new independent bottler who certainly seems to be bringing quality and value to his selections.
Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles
Nose – A sour peat… dare I say it… almost headache inducing? Certainly highly medicinal. Which then slipped into ham, pineapple, mellow with a very different character than how it began, lemon tart, musk melon, some spice… shifted again this time into smoked sweet grass, green coffee beans, cut hay, quite vegetal, dry forrest
Palate – Starts exceedingly smooth then SPICE. Had a phenolic Islay style sweet peat not the palate with smoked pepper ham, with more fruits like grilled pineapple and apricot
Finish – Sweet, slightly briney and ends with something we couldn’t quite name… after going on and on and on…..
Water – Wow! What a difference! It really brought out the best qualities – the nose took on a peak smoke with dark chocolate and cherries, the palate augmented the sweet peat with a berry dimension and the finish then revealed beneath the salty sweet ash a light citrus sweet
As the last of our trio, we joked that perhaps the theme of the evening was spice, sweet and slow things down as each whisky took its time to fully reveal its character.
Our talk turned to speculate the origins of this dram. For all it was sufficiently distinctively Islay to fall in that camp. But which one? We veered towards Caol Ila which, though not actually stated by the bottler, may very well be the case.
The extra fruitiness that emerged behind the peat made sense once I learned the whisky was finished in a pair of ex-sherry octave casks.
Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 58.7% 1 of 198 bottles
Nose – PEAT, oily, sulfer, soapy, capsules… like walking into a doctor’s or chemist shop, iodine, steam engine, musty… then started to shift character revealing waves and waves of cinnamon, plums, mosambi juice, dark juicy fruits, black cherry, cinnamon apple juice, sour cherries…. kept evolving shifting from fruits to a slightly oily soot, like sacred ash, then a bit lactic, old flowers like malas after a day or so… then dark chocolate… and yet another element revealing such a delicious BBQ honey bacon, lots of smoked meats, light tar… followed by coffee, creamy yoghurt… an absolutely unbelievable nose
Palate – Sweet roaring spice, lots of sweet peat, stewed chewy fruits, then sweet meats and BBQ. Has good body, lots of character, oodles of spice yet still beautifully balanced between all the elements.
Finish – Chocolate cinnamon with a slight orange zest with a “hold” that really stays… dry
Water – Brilliant with! Becomes so sweet, lovely honey bacon with a mandarin perfume twist on the nose, silky smooth with a lovely rolling cinnamon sweet on the palate and fantastic finish.
We began to speculate, while it clearly had peat, we thought it wasn’t an obvious Islay dram, yet still likely Scottish. It has a gentle peat quality, pronounced, firmly there but with a subtle hand.
Thinking about the cask, we wondered about french oak? Something that gives a good kick like the way the virgin oak does for Spice Tree.
Again we guessed cask strength and absolutely loved the way water gave it even more “something.”
One remarked that it was a bit “naughty” in the nicest possible way…
Could any of us pick out that it was Ardmore! Not a chance… and that too from a new independent bottler? Impossible.
July brings monsoon rains, vacations and often a slightly slower pace of life… and yet this month still had a rather admirable set of whisky tasting experiences. And even though technically only 1 of our 3 Mumbai whisky tasting groups “officially” met, somehow gatherings over a dram still happened… read on…
The Whisky Ladies decided to go on a wee Islay exploration. But this was no ordinary exploration… we focused on select Islay iterations…
It began innocently enough with our host sharing she had her favourite Lagavulin 16 year tucked away for her session.. followed by another Whisky Lady picking up an Islay independent bottle from an undisclosed distillery… which I just happened to have an open cask strength version of… followed by another Whisky Lady picking another Islay – again undisclosed distillery… Added to the mix was a contrast of a Laphroaig with a port finish that then somehow sparked unearthing another Laphroaig expression.
Which translates into an initial plan to try 3 bottles that morphed into a set of 6!
Next up in our “revisit” evening was a cask strength single cask whisky from Kavalan, part of their Solist line.
We sampled completely blind, revealing only after much debate and speculation.
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090608029A Bottle No 269 of 485 58.6% (Bottled 2017.10.02)
Colour – The colour was remarkable – so dark it was more like coffee with a rich ruby hue than whisky!
Nose – Pure sherry, coffee, lots of rummy, plummy notes, complex, chocolate, dark fruits, weighty, kept thinking of chocolate covered raisins, sweet spices, caramel toffee
Palate – Unexpected. Packs a punch – and not in an entirely good way. Sulfur, rubber – as in burnt rubber tyres, dry bitter, tannic, lentil, neem
Finish – Spice sherry
Water – Completely changes – much more coherent, the bitterness a bit tamed, the red fruits came out even more
To be honest, we really struggled with this one. It had elements of a few different familiar whiskies but not when put together. And it just didn’t work somehow either. The nose was so incredibly promising but the palate…. frankly seemed “forced”. The colour also had us puzzled – it was so dark to provoke speculation that something was decidedly different.
With the reveal there was surprise! Particularly as we’d just sampled a Kavalan Solist Sherry mere months earlier.
Generally we’ve all had very positive experiences with Kavalan Solist – with the Sherry being their signature rich, complex, robust whisky. However this one simply didn’t hit the mark for us.
This was by no means our only brush with this particular whisky… however that’s the thing about Kavalan Solist Sherry, each cask is unique.
What do the Kavalan folks have to say?
Colour – Dark and mouth-watering raisin
Nose – Clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well
Palate – Rich, oily and full with pleasant dried fruit and spices that linger on in the mouth plus a hint of fine coffee
Here are a few others sampled over the last year or so….
One of the things I really appreciate about our original Mumbai tasting club is that our default is to sample blind. What the means is even something we thought we knew, we have an opportunity to rediscover.
Which was exactly our hosts theme – to revisit whiskies we all know – or at least we thought we did!