Islay Iterations – Finlaggan Old Reserve 40% + 58%

After kicking off our evening with the classic Lagavulin 16 year, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai turned to an independent bottler with their Finlaggan entry level expression.

Owned by the Vintage Malt Co based on Glasgow, their Finlaggan trio covers increasing strength from their Old Reserve at 40% to their Eileen Mor at 46% to their Cask Strength at 58%.

We just so happened to have two out of three to sample, of which the Old Reserve was an unopened bottle and the Cask Strength had alas oxidized rather considerably since it was 1st opened in May 2017.

The distillery(ies) shrouded in mystery, the only thing clearly admitted is these are single malts from Islay.

So what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Finlaggan Old Reserve 40%

  • Nose – Not quite so much bacon as the Lagavulin 16, more ripe pears, wood, some kaccha guava, fresh grass, honey sweet, cured meats, taking on a faintly metallic quality with brass or copper, then coriander
  • Palate – Raw, light, pleasant, goes down deceptively well, woody, bit spicy, the peat is there but nicely balanced and restrained, that metallic element gave way almost to a medicinal quality yet with a very light touch
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice, buttery coconut oil, star anise, cognac honey

There is a lighter touch to the peat in this Islay – while not complex it is an easy drinking dram – pronounced a good Bombay summer whisky.

Just to compare, here is what the Vintage Malt Co folks have to say:

  • Nose: Earthy smoky peat and salty ocean Breeze
  • Palate: Pungent peat smoke, chewy sweet malt, pepper, tar and a touch of iodine
  • Finish: Long and warming. Smoky ashes of the peat fire

In our tasting progression, we moved on to the Ileach – also from Vintage Malt Co – then the open Finlaggan Cask Strength. Here is where tragedy struck… where once upon a time this was a marvellous malt, spending nearly a year in the bottle in the heat of Mumbai did it no favours. A not so gentle reminder that for enjoyable whiskies… just share and enjoy!

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%

  • Nose – Very sweet, salty, grassy, milk
  • Palate – Spicy smoke
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice, burnt coconut

It had lost so many elements that made it both interesting and appealing. You can read what I’d thought from a few previous tastings here or check out what the Vintage Malt Co folks have to say:

  • 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

I couldn’t help but wonder if the Eileen Mor 46% might just be the “sweet spot” in the middle – bottled at what some call the “connoisseurs” strength – enough to bring out the full character yet balanced with sufficient water to make it eminently shippable. Perhaps one of these days I’ll have the opportunity to try it.

What else did we explore in our “Islay Iterations” evening?

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Islay Iterations – Lagavulin, Finlaggan, Ileach and Laphroaig

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!

What did we sample in our Islay Iterations?

  • The classic Lagavulin 16 year 43%
  • Then our 1st undisclosed distillery independent bottler Finalaggan Old Reserve 40%
  • Followed by our 2nd independent bottler with a more powerful cask strength Ileach 58%
  • And just for good measure, added an open Finlaggan 58% to the mix
  • With a shift from Lagavulin to Laphroaig with the port cask finish Brodir 48%
  • Some ladies continued on with the Laphroaig Select Cask… whereas I must admit my sipping and sampling of the initial set was more than enough for me!

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“The Whisky Guessing Game” at The Single Cask, Singapore

Having an opportunity to ‘try something different‘ seems to be the hallmark of most whisky aficionados journey. What better way than through bottlers not disclosing the distillery… here follows the tasting notes and speculation from an anonymous Islay whisky flight experienced at The Single Cask in Singapore.

Cask Islay 46%

  • Nose – Citrus smoke, sweet brine
  • Palate – Ash, peat, oily, sense of being a bit sticky, doesn’t travel well
  • Finish – Bitter… makes you want water!

Cask Islay is a small batch release from A.D. Rattray and you can read what they have to say here.

Islay Storm 40%

  • Nose – Softer than the Cask Islay, fresh grass, fruity apples, cereals, barley oat porridge, followed by a nice sweetness
  • Palate – While it didn’t have much body, there was a fresh green dimension and actually quite interesting, warming into vanilla custard with smoke, sweet peat, sea salt, eminently enjoyable
  • Finish – Very nice finish, surprisingly long

The folks behind this bottle is The Vantage Malt Whisky Company and you can read what they have to say about Islay Storm here.

Dun Bheagan Islay 43%

  • Nose – Briney citrus, tannins
  • Palate – Bit of spice, some body, the peat was actually quite balanced
  • Finish – Sweet spice with cinnamon

IanMacLeod Distillers created the Dun Bheagan collection to feature a range of single casks.

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%

  • Nose – Tar, asphalt, leather, grass, flowers, quite sweet yet also oddly quite shy and mute
  • Palate – Sharp leather, warm balanced evolution
  • Finish – Sweet spice liquor

It may sounds like a contradiction but it was oddly muted and shy – can’t help but suspect the bottle was open too long with oxidation taking its toll.

Again, the folks behind this marvellous dram are The Vantage Malt Whisky Company, with more details about their Finlaggan range available here.

All were interesting. All would be quite affordable in the UK and not pocket destroying in Singapore. I kept coming back to the Islay Storm, whereas my companion was particularly partial to the Finlaggan.

And our guesses?

  • Cask Islay 46% Our guess? Caol Ila
  • Islay Storm 40%? Zero doubt it was Kilchoman… by a mile! And interesting to try at 40%. Sipping it also sparked my companion’s memories of his 1st visit to the distillery
  • Dun Bheagan Islay 43% Most likely a Lagavulin
  • Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% Probably a Laphroaig

If anyone can prove or disprove any of our speculations – would love to hear!

So there we have it… a wee whisky flight and a most enjoyable evening in Singapore.

The Single Cask is located at 01-25 Chijmes Caldwell House, 30 Victoria Street, Singapore 187996 / info@thesinglecask.sg / +65 6837 0953.

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