Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 2011 Tasting: Islay Night

Now, regular attendees might argue that we've had Islay nights before, and even that Max and I heavily bias our procurement that way. They wouldn't be entirely wrong, but I will point out that our last tasting didn't have any Islay at all. Perhaps our January 14th effort was partly to catch up on that, and we tackled 3 whiskies from different Islay distilleries. It proved very popular, and we had a solid 14 people out. Stevens distinguished himself by doing his second round of 3 in about 3 minutes; and the Bakish boys for doing their last two in just over twice that. Max distinguished himself by having one of the fastest checkouts from Trudeau Airport ever, and arriving to scotch club within about 20 minutes of his flight from Pearson touching down.

Big cheers to Max & Pat for hosting, and again to Max for procurement. I remembered to congratulate Allard on Scotch Club #10, but didn't realize until I did the tally for this post that it was also #10 for Derek as well, sorry buddy! Also thanks to Erin for the great baking once again.

Attending: Me, Max, Mark, Allard, Derek, Dara, Kevin, Norm, IanM, Joe, Jesse, Pat, Stevens, Nick

Kilchoman Summer 2010
Islay's newest distillery, or at least the first new distillery opened in some 124 years. They are a farm-based operation that grows their own barley and does their own floor maltings, and seem to really pride themselves on their traditional techniques. Only the fourth release from the distillery, we weren't really sure what to expect from such a young and untested whisky. It turned out to be the second-favourite of the night, more or less square in the middle between the others.

Nose: Good phenol over fruit, solid smoke, and maybe a little bourbon.
Palate: Smooth arrival. Fruity up front and prominent cereal notes and then some big phenol comes to the fore.
Finish: A little raw and young, but great phenol and lingering wood are quite pleasant.
Overall: Good whisky, but not great. Still a little raw and not very high on the complexity charts. Then again, this whisky is only 3 years old and I'm more than a little intrigued to see what will be coming out of those casks over the coming years. 8.5/10

Bunnahabhain 18
Known as Islay's mildest distillery, they use lightly peated fires to roast their barley and very pure spring water for a spirit with far less smoky, phenolic character than the rest of the island's distillery. We thought it would be a good idea to use this to break up what might be overwhelming levels of peat for some, and I was eager to sample one of those rare Islay distilleries I haven't tried yet!

Nose: Sherried fruit, creamy notes. Tiny hint of smoke under all that.
Palate: Smooth, almost watery arrival. Sweet and juicy, with fruit and spice before rising oakiness and a hint of peat smoke.
Finish: Several cord of wood seem to packed into that wee dram, with a hint of smoke underneath all that lumber. A little raw for its age, to be sure...
Overall: Far from a fantastic dram, and certainly no bargain. Very Speyside-like in character, but a rather mediocre one. 8/10 at best.

Port Charlotte 8
Having done the 6-year old, and the 7-year old twice, everyone in the room apart from Nick was really looking forward to this one, and it was narrowly the favourite of the night. A perennial scotch club favourite, we've been lucky enough to chart the development of the original 2001 distillation through 3 years of aging. Have to say I'm really looking forward to whenever the next distillation hits the market and to watching this spirit over the coming years and even decades...

Nose: Sharp, the bourbon really jumps out. Big peat and some unexpected (but not unwelcome) vanilla.
Palate: Arrival is a little sharp like the nose. The roasted malt sugar background soothes it just as the peat and phenol go for a romp. Great balance.
Finish: A lot more oak than previous editions. Great juicy sweetness giving way to lingering phenolic smoke. Long as all hell, complex, and extremely satisfying.
Overall: Most of us found that the 6 was better than the 7, and those better than the 8. Not that this isn't a great whisky, but they've set some rather unreasonable expectations for me with previous bottlings. 9/10.

1 comment:

  1. 3 whiskeys in 3 minutes....never again. In fact, 3 minutes is also roughly the time it took me to go from coherent and spatially aware, to sloppy drooling mess during the 1 hour car ride to the in-laws.