Hosted by Whisky Lounge, for this unique TBWC Islay tasting, we are on board the Irene. We are told a little about her whilst drams are poured.
- Three weeks after her launch on 29th June 1907, Irene was making regular cargoes of bricks and tiles from her owners’ works which provided her main trade. Return cargoes were always sought, and included corn, flour, cattle feed, stone, coal, scrap iron, and even live pigs.
- In September 1961 she went to the Hamble for conversion into a yacht and acquired a large and unsightly deckhouse.
- In 1965 Irene was bought by private owners who in June of that year motored her to the Thames where she was moored at Brentford. The voyage was not without incident for, passing under Hammersmith Bridge, the bowsprit drove upwards after striking a girder and broke through the pavement above, fracturing a gas main. It was rush hour but the bridge had to be closed, and gas supplies to 10,000 homes in south London were cut off.
- For the next ten years she was primarily a houseboat, with the hold converted into accommodation.
- In 1998 she sailed to the Caribbean and was based there on charters, accommodating guests in two twin and three triple cabins.
- On 3 May 2003 she was gutted by a fire, of unknown cause, which blazed for eight hours before she sank, in Marigot Bay, St Maartens. She became an insurance write-off, but her undaunted owners decided that they would rebuild her, in what became an epic process spanning seven years.
- She attended festivals in Bristol and Whitehaven in summer 2009. Returning from Whitehaven she encountered force 6/7 winds and had to put into Fishguard with a sprung bowsprit (which needed replacing). Further work continued in 2010 to complete the accommodation to the standard required for chartering. In April 2011 she embarked on a full sailing season from her Bristol base, with a trip to Bordeaux, attendance at festivals in Whitehaven, Belfast, Bristol and Gloucester, private charters, and participation in the Waterford to Greenock Tall Ships race. [Info courtesy of www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk]
Our main host is the TBWC man himself, Dave Worthington [pic above]. Dave is Boutique-y’s first & only full-time staff member and one of the loviest people you’ll meet. He encouraged me to start blogging, and on 3rd October 2016 the Whisky Loving Pianist was born. For this Islay-themed TBWC tasting, we start East Coast.
TBWC have found some cracking Bunna’s in the last three years. Dave tells us batch #4 was distilled around the time Bunnahabhain was mothballed from 1982-84. I have tried this before but don’t recall at the time.
- N: We get started with a deliciously calm, soft sweet nutty oily nose.
- T: A pleasing and comfortingly familiar whisky, though it doesn’t sing quite as sweetly as TBWC’s unforgettable 33yo batch 3 [Blog]. Water neither spoils nor elevates it.
- F: Soft woody spice.
- C: This amazing event itself makes the biggest impact. Nevertheless,..
,… this Bunna scores a highly respectable 87 [again].
Bowmore 15yo  TBWC Batch #8 [btl #116/904] 48.3% [50cl] WB88.17
- N: I think I’m slowly getting to know Bowmore. It seems to work well at 15-18 yo when the often-tender distillate isn’t dominated by monster [sherry] casks. This one is distillate led. We must be talking bourbon cask maturation here, though there are these Christmas spices commonly associated with ex-sherry casks. We’ve Bowmore’s subtle 15-25ppm peat smoke also.
- T: Clynelish-light if you will with a very natural & soft mouthfeel, sweet & salty oyster sauce with sweet citrus and a certain floral edge. Evolves more creamy & milky with mineral workshop vibes.
- F: Mint & lavender herbal with teasing smoke.
- C: Better than the official festival bottling? [blog] – certainly!
Scores 88 points
Caol Ila 6yo  TBWC Batch #3 [372 bts] 52.2% [50cl] WB86
Back to the east coast with this youthful refill sherry number.
- N: Embracing Islay in style, we dive into peat world with sweet vegetal briny olives and a light dirty side.
- T: Light and drinkable neat. I don’t get a great deal but the spirit is certainly sustaining.
- F: Light-dirty briny vegetal, the peat nearly at full steam. The distillate is a little too vigorous for me though that/those refill[s] have given plenty too in only six years.
- C: Refreshingly, a whisky for drinking not for flipping.
Scores 83 points
- N: Sherry finish? PX? There’s plenty of cask action that’s for sure.
- T: This is a funny one, a mixed bag. Underlying we’ve a dirty oily bourbon-matured malt with a PX finish – at least that’s how it comes across to me. Also, it’s peat-fresh leaning slightly detergent-y & vegetal for sure. A big swig improves the mouthfeel and delivery no end. Embrace this one wholeheartedly without the need for airs or graces.
- F: The peat comes through firmly now, fresh & dirty and with a herbal cocoa tail.
- C: I feel like I’d score this differently every time, but as it turns out i’ve also had this before and gave it exactly the same score.
Scores 85 points
[Bruichladdich] Octomore 8yo  TBWC Batch #1 (796 bts) 50.4% [50cl] WB87.75
The majority of Boutique-y’s whisky stock comes from private collectors like this one. Bruichladdich sold lots of casks to private investors and enthusiasts at the turn of the century. This is TBWC’s first batch and is made up from two wine cask-matured [or finished?] Octomore’s – Tempranillo & Pauillac.
- N: Vegetal diesel oil, but different from the unpleasant & distracting fumes pumping out from our vessel or the one alongside. Also, I get oysters on toast, samphire and fruits galore, all within a coastal vegetal context.
- T: A hilly journey with lots of pleasing taste centres. Sweet complex herbal ice cream all sorts,…
- F: Herbal sweet vanilla Cornetto finish.
- C: Surprisingly this doesn’t require any water, but then it’s not as strong as many official Octomore’s.
Scores 88 points easily.
TBWC Islay #2 25yo TBWC Batch #1 48.7% [50cl] WB88.81
Dave thinks this is an Ardbeg, due to his understanding that Ardbeg has a particular ‘stable’ note.
- N: Could be an Ardbeg. Peeps mutter differing opinions.
- T: Squidgy bourbon-y-sweet herbal vegetal << maltiness.
- F: Speaks now of a sourish vegetal barley sweetness and salty seaweed popcorn with a strong yet welcoming herbal fresh aniseed tail. Could this be a Laphroaig? I’ve really no idea.
- C: If it is Ardbeg, £155 is an excellent price for a 25yo, but there’s absolutely no reference. Many think Caol Ila. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil Frankweiler [wiki], or what?!
Scores 88 points
With thanks to everyone involved.