Saturday, 30 April 2016

Islay Adventure (Tasted: #282 - 285)

When an offer to sample four different Islay bottlings was put up on Dram Full Sydney by Nicholas of whisknick, I jumped at the offer. In the line up were four bottles that Nick brought back from his Scotland trip, including:
  1. Port Charlotte Valinch Heavily Peated - a DIY bottling that is available to visitors of the Bruichladdich distillery
  2. Laphroaig 10 Original Cask Strength - this is the one expressions I've heard mentioned quite a few times, positively
  3. Bowmore Hand-Filled - filled with 17yo Bowmore whisky aged in a Bordeaux wine cask; and
  4. Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Reserve - having had the regular Perpetuum release on Ardbeg Day, it was good to compare the two. 
The night itself was unassuming, being hosted at Tokyo Bird, the local yakitory / whisky bar in downtown Sydney. It was a night about the four whiskies and the good company of other Dram Full Sydney members.

Port Charlotte Valinch Heavily Peated ex-Oloroso Sherry Cask (63.2% ABV, 10yo, bottle 348/680, Islay, Scotland, not commercially available)
One should get rather excited when presented with a bottle of Port Charlotte, or Octomore or Bruichladdich for that matter. Over the years, under the helm of recently retired Jim McEwan (who we met back in 2014), different expressions from the three Bruichladdich lines continued to impress drammers. This Port Charlotte 'Valinch' ex-Oloroso expression was no different - though being a DIY bottling range, sadly, one must return to Islay for a refill. So with the malt heavily peated, yes, complex and enjoyable, certainly.

Colour: Gold

Nose: The nose is filled with jamon, yes, Spanish Iberico jamon and caramel ice cream. The sherry and oak carries through on the whiff.

Palate: The palate is nice and complex and cask strength big. There's the big douse of peat, cherries, strawberries followed by a briny note and black pepper spices that come out at the end. 

Finish: Extremely long, peppery with a hint of brine. There's a slight oak in there too.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Bowmore 'Hand-Filled' - Bordeaux Cask (57.3% ABV, 17yo, Islay, Scotland, no longer commercially available)
I was excited to taste this special Bowmore and as with the Valinch, I knew that this might have been the only opportunity to taste this particular Bordeaux cask matured expression (unless of course, I make the trip to Islay). The use of a Bordeaux cask reflects the slightly different path this Bowmore takes when compared to its traditional lines. Similar to the recent release of the Mizunara Cask Finish last September (which Martin tasted here), it seems that Bowmore is in the midst of experimenting with different non-traditional casks over the past few years.

Colour: Almost cough syrupy; amber / red

Nose: The nose is sweet, vanilla, mascarpone and lemon cheesecake

Palate: The palate carries through the citrus 'tropical' note with plenty of lemon and lime on the first taste before becoming extremely peppery and mellowing out into a sweet cheesecake. I can't seem to pick up the light Bowmore peat, where has it disappeared to?! The age of this particular malt may shed some light on the whereabouts of the peat. The palate is exciting nevertheless.

Finish: Just like the PC Valinch, the finish on this is extremely long.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Laphroaig 10 'Original Cask Strength' (56.3% ABV, 10yo, Batch 007, Islay, Scotland, $1,880HKD)
One of the favourites from Laphroaig's core range - a cask strength play of its highest selling, ever-classic, Laphroaig 10. This was my pick of the four expressions on the night.

Colour: Copper

There are loads of Laphroaig peat notes on the nose, just like its classic brethren, this Laphroaig stands out as a Laphroaig. The salty, maritime, damp forest woody notes are heavily present on the nose. Though what I also found on the nose were a subtle layer of sweet strawberry and tropical fruits.

Palate: The higher ABV hits you quite strongly, followed by the strong maritime notes from the nose that are mixed with the peppery spices. The heavy Laphroaig peat note comes at the end, as combined with a hint of malty vanilla.

Finish: Extremely long and the peat smoke, along with the residual spices linger for some time and more.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100.

Ardbeg Perpeetum - Distillery Reserve (49.2% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, no longer commercially available)
The Distillery Reserve of the Ardbeg Day release which saw a combination of bourbon and sherry cask-matured Ardbeg whiskies bottled at a slightly higher ABV of 49.2% (as opposed to the standard release ABV of 47.4%). As Martin confirmed with Dr Bill himself last year, the whisky in both bottlings is the same, with the exception of the higher ABV in the distillery reserve. 

Personally, between the two releases, I found the Distillery Reserve offers slightly more on the nose and on the palate. The longer finish also makes the Distillery Reserve that tad more enjoyable than the standard release.

Colour: Light brass

Nose: The nose is familiar to the standard release, with the added peanut brittle followed by hints of wet moss with hints of iodine, sea brine and oh, peat that comes through quite gently. I also noted a touch of wine gum as the peat settles.

Palate: The palate on the Distillery Reserve carries a slight sweeter overtone, I get cherries and berries. The touch of vanilla, blends with the sweet notes before opening up to the dark chocolate, brine and the light peat smoke. In comparison with the standard release, I quite like the Distillery Reserve release given the slightly altered and sweeter palate.

Finish: The finish is long, I feel that the finish continues on for some time (it might be due to the slightly higher ABV). Similar to the standard release, the finish is mouth-coating and sweet with light spices.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

The night took all of us on a journey through Islay and with all the unique bottles, it was certainly one hell of a night. Thanks to Nicholas for organising.

Hendy (Sydney)

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