Comparing Islays

Peat smoke turns oak-aged barley spirit into something sophisticated and sublime in so many different ways.

You know them and you love them, but could you tell a Laphroaig from a Lagavulin? How does Kilchoman the fabulous new home-brew compare with a cool Caol Ila? Which do you pick to match the mood?

If you’ve never lined up a nice row of Islays to try them side by side, well, let’s just say that once you’ve tried it, you’ll probably want to keep doing it. We’ll probably take this a step further in one of the next tastings, to look at one or two of our favourites in more detail.

Many have tried, but none have achieved the heights of these guys when they’re on their game. This is your chance to really get to grips with the big smokies, and burn them into your sense memory.

Another 6-bottle tasting, all reasonably priced and easily available.

Sign up here: http://bit.ly/MnC-Sept2012

Cost: £15
Time and date: 7.30 Wednesday 12 September
Place: The Lord Nelson

The mouth watering line-up:

Caol Ila 12 Year Old
“This version shows its character the best, a nose that mixes seashore and grass with a distinct hint of smoked bacon. The peatiness isn’t dominant, but flows throughout the palate, scenting, lifting and subtly changing the mix. A delicious oiliness makes it a great food whisky.” Mr D Broom.

IWSC 2010: Gold Medal, Best in Class; Best Single Malt Whisky Under 15 Years Old
IWSC 2012: Gold Medal

Kilchoman Machir Bay
The first ongoing bottling from Kilchoman, Machir Bay is made up of first fill bourbon matured whisky finished in oloroso sherry wood before bottling.

IWSC 2012: Gold Medal

Bowmore Tempest Batch 3 (cask strength, 10yo)
Dare we call Bowmore the affordable Islay? Well we’ve taken it up a notch:
“After the final judging session for this year’s World Whisky Awards, I discovered that the whisky I had rated second highest out of all the finalists was one of the cheapest drams on the table – Bowmore Tempest Batch 2.  It had only been beaten in my scores by the Yamazaki 1984, which ended up as the overall winner and costs more than ten times as much. When I tell you that I think I prefer the new Batch 3 over the Batch 2, you can deduce how much I rate this whisky.” (TWE Whisky blog)

Lagavulin 16 Year Old
“A classic example of how smoke isn’t a blunt instrument that covers everything in a fog, but an element that works with all the flavours produced in distillation and maturation. Lagavulin isn’t ‘smokey,’ its peat moves into a weird territory of Lapsang Souchong tea and pipe tobacco, fishboxes and kippers. It smells of laurel and light cereal, but is always sweet. The palate shows more creosote, with hints of kelp and a little touch of iodine. Complex.” D Broom.

Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 & 2011: Non-Plus-Ultra Award (Daily Drams)
World Whiskies Awards 2012 – Best Islay 13 to 20 years
IWSC 2012: Gold Outstanding Medal

Laphroaig Triple Wood
Formerly a travel retail exclusive, the popularity of the Triple Wood has led to it being launched into the general market. The whisky starts off maturing in regular bourbon casks, before being moved to Laphroaig’s bespoke quarter casks for a time. The whisky is then finished in Oloroso sherry casks to gently sand off any remaining sharp edges.

IWSC 2012: Gold Medal

Ardbeg 10 Year Old
Probably the highest-quality ‘entry-level’ single malt on the market, and the distillery many Islay connoisseurs would choose as their favourite. A whirlwind of peat and complex malty flavours, this is an exuberant, in-your-face whisky to be cherished.

Whisky Bible Awards 2012: Best Single Malt Scotch of the Year, 10 Years and Under