If you are thinking about going to a Whiskylounge ‘Blind Islay Fury’ tasting [and i recommend you do], then don’t read on. Otherwise, let’s begin!
‘Blind Islay fury’ is a blind tasting organised by Whiskylounge. I believe they are visiting most of the major cities around the UK with it. It’s the first tasting i’ve been to where you get a detailed handout of all the drams after the show, saving the desperate scramble around the bottles afterwards. Brilliant!
First up: Springbank 10yo  Ob. ‘Marrying strength’ [Bottled for Cadenhead] 49.5% WB88.43
- N: This is solely from bourbon casks i believe, bottled for Cadenhead [whisky shop]. It’s not a big smoker, leaning more towards thick & sweet creamy fruits. Bowmore? In time the grasses appear followed by the barley. Kilchoman? Adding water means the phenols dissipate bringing the esters to the foreground – am i right? Floral orange blossoms before giving way to the active and strong oak. I’m reckoning 8-10 years, possibly in 1st fill bourbon and/or active 2nd refills.
- T: The peat is pleasantly chivalrous in giving the barley full freedom of movement. There’s quite some dryness on the palate which indicates it’s easily around 10 years old. The mouthfeel is so different with water – creamy, lush barley, a touch salty.
- F: Waxy-dry longish barley finish and youthful to the last.
- C: Hmm, so what is it – the Laddie 10? It reminds me more of the Kilkerran 12 WB than anything from Islay. Low and behold it’s not an Islay malt at all but a Campbeltown after all, and it all makes sense. This is really decent barley spirit regardless of its red herring status in context of the tasting.
Scores 87 points
- N: Rather in a similar vein to the Islay-less Springbank albeit less fruity [>raisins] and favouring more the mechanical whiffs of heavy machinery workshops alongside onion-fresh vegetal and hammy farmyard notes.
- T: Very dry arrival, one that cries ‘water’. Even so, it stays endlessly dry and rather one-dimensional but i think the previous, robust Springbank WB is still lingering. The subtleties of this dram will have to be gleaned when time and conditions are more favourable. Woody-fresh chocolate notes herald the later stages,…
- F: ,… continuing dry & smokey, a touch medicinal with nuts & chocolate.
- C: On the one hand this reminds me of that ghostly Girvan WB that was,… 52 years old. Now it’s been revealed [as an 18yo Lagavulin], on the other hand its hard to believe it possesses that age, it being so light and airy – although i heard Lagavulin tends to favour 3rd fill cask activity for their core 16yo yet this is a combination of American oak and Bodega european casks! What do i know, it’s a interesting one.
Scores 86 points
- N: Toffee fruit sugars – cognac cask? Sugar cane, molasses – Rum cask? It’s farmy and vegetal with a sweet, sugary smokiness and a sweet BBQ meat marinade [sticky ribs with hoisin sauce], balanced against notes of Tipp-ex, putty and grout. Good nose.
- T: Here’s another big Islay whisky where the smoke is not obtrusive, starting sweet before moving straight to vegetal. The development spins all around the flavour wheel with notes of putty, deep old sherry char and sweet plasticine,…
- F: …sweet vegetal and smokey cognac. Lots of types of smoke here, from the maltings to the heavy cask charring. It doesn’t evolve exactly, it’s more about those numerous revolutions around the flavour wheel.
- C: Doesn’t stop spinning. I like it, it’s a fun one and a good one. I feel i’ve had it before but i can’t put a name to it, but the chemist amongst us nails it – a free dram to him.
Scores 87 points
- N: This appears the strongest of the mystery drams so far. It has to be up towards the [abv] 60’s. Sugary, sweet vegetal, sweet gherkins, smoked meats, farmy [straw bedding=goats], and a touch of medicinal dressing make for another good nose. Laphroaig?
- T: I thought i’d killed it with water but thankfully it came back, just. Again there’s a medicinal touch but not before heaps of farmy woody tannins flow in. There are some prickles to endure too despite all that water.
- F: Hornby train set oil, yeah – and then even more. It finishes with a good dryness, vegetal chocolate and curry spices.
- C: I’m guessing its another 18yo again, Maybe Caol Ila but maybe i’ll go for Laphroaig. Bah i went the wrong ways, its a 12yo Caol Ila, and the best so far for me.
Scores 88 points
On to number 5.
- N: An initial hit of melted vanilla ice-cream with a topping of tutti-fruity sauce & skittles followed by a particular smokiness – Madeira, PX? I also detect lentil [gram] flour, smoked candy=chocolate, fruity plasticine, fruity erasers, rehydrated kale, yeast flakes, figs and large char notes. What a nose!
- T: Big on meats and heavy charred vegetal smoke. Is this a Bruichladdich experiment, Octomore territory perhaps?
- F: Eventually moves on to conclude with light minerals and a long sustained vegetal-sweet smokiness.
- C: Scoring wise i have to be careful here, the weird and wacky ones often leave a good first impression before the novelty wears thin [I got caught out with that bizarre BenRiach Heredotus peated PX number before WB]. I’m not really sure about it overall, but what a nose. I’ll go with this being a wacky Bruichladdich experiment or maybe a Madeira finished Laphroaig.
Scores 86 points
On to the final dram. Kilchoman 2010/2016 Ob. PX finish cask #785/2010 [271 bts] 57.7% WB88.78
- N: This follows on nicely from the sweet Laphroaig with more fig-rich sweetness, heather-blossom honey and a slight green olive brine note. It’s very sweet overall however.
- T: Massive, big, inspiring, exhausting,……all sorts. its no mean feat having six smokers in a row, not sure i’ve done it before. My palate feels over stimulated by these fancy festival treats.
- F: Finish,… not as much as expected given its boisterous middle. It’s clean modern barley base finish should have been a Kilchoman giveaway right here.
- C: Ah, ok we have finally arrived at the PX fairground after all. Let’s handle this with care as PX can often put up plenty of smoke & mirrors up front [like Madeira], but this is [fairly young] Kilchoman spirit with provenance assured, so hmm – a well executed funky whisky no less and a fine conclusion to a well presented tasting hosted by Zoe from Whiskylounge. Many thanks!
Scores 85 points