Bottle Polishing: An Islay Trio

In no particular order, we start with a Bowmore I first tried and subsequently bought at last year’s [2018] Campbeltown Festival [WLP].


Bowmore 2001/2018 17yo Cadenhead ‘Cameron’s Choice’ hogshead 54.3% WB89.92[51] tOMoH8/10

From a cask that was drained by the Cadenhead team within one hot hour [WLP87].

valinching is hot work

  • N: A pungent compact-savoury > sweet-floral-sour malt with a straight cereal barley vibe > > bitter < sour fruits and meaty > coppery = porridge-y > > dry spirituous smoke.
  • T: An intoxicating mix that dynamically changes with every sip. Overall, sun-dried aromatic rose & violet leaves with flowery-sweet-malty-peat following thereafter. Later, after plenty of changes, rose to ginger, fruits, sweet veg [juiced carrots],… and some bitter herbal action on the turn.
  • F: A consistently & spirit-y softly smoky medium-length finish with sandy < soil, an unusual sweet pasty > coppery meatiness with cocoa/easter egg/hot chocolate > malty ash,…. that kind of thing. A bitter/sour pervades the finish with nettle leaf & ashy-dry gravy stock, dry sweet-ish Smarties casings and touches of fruit juice at the death. Lifts off sweet-savoury offering hints of a varied fruit platter.
  • C: A whisky that will be popular not only for the fact that it offers so much. If you’re looking for a powerful spirit-led yet thoroughly balanced, well tempered & dynamically complex dram [with no time spent talking about oak or vanilla], get on board. On a subjective level, I struggled with the palate at times but that’s by the by. Provisionally scores 88 points.

LAST 10cl

Bowmore 2001:2018 17yo Cadenhead Cameron’s Choice hogshead 54.3%.jpeg

  • N: All-strong/encapsulating, yeasty ethanol > slightly butyric vodka & orange yet also with sweet > light/white meaty < floral > fauna > and earthy notes. What was the previous cask contents? It would seem quite the driver at times.
  • T: Intense-sour-floral-sweet,…. developing to a grainy savoury-sour-bitter < < dryish sour complex, with an eqully complex dry-salivating floral citrus-dry unravel. Same same with leafy-floral/yeast things all moving around. Lots of action on the palate that’s not so common in my book.
  • F: Complexity meets whisky’s bare ingredients, finishing rightly dry after plenty of salivating-dry [chilli-heat] action with a leafy-sour. Imagine chewing on a privet hedge leaf and a belladonna chilli with a sprinkle of matcha powder – interesting ideas towards more food discovery. The most desirable pepper/vegetal/sour finish then awaits.
  • C:  You just can’t argue with this one [I think Jenna was set up with that Aberfeldy]. An idiosyncratic and volatile festival bottling that some may rightly crave years after the event. I spot plenty more things during the last few sips but I’ve provided enough detail for this one.

Scores a firm 88 points


Laphroaig Quarter Cask [2019] Ob. [btl code: 5010019640161] 48% WB85.11[803] & WB86.37[1361] WF84[’16] WM90[1]

Laphroaig Quarter Cask.jpeg

  • N: The nose took a few weeks to open up, and open up it did with plenty here for a recipe/shopping list. Who’s for soft-tannin acorn-varnished ciabatta with slivers of smoked pizza ham & > horse meat and a fragrant toasted oily herbal dressing? Sweet brine over waxy dirt on the turn – oh yeah.
  • T: Loving all the ripe & confectionary bananas. It’s not exactly oily like earlier bottlings have been, but there’s a moorishness here all the same. Dry and oily, how is that? Water adds a slicker and bitter-ish dry peaty mouthfeel. Doesn’t sustain too long.
  • F: Those resins are well leashed but keen. We certainly gain much from those wee quarter casks without much detrimental payback.
  • C: Hugely enjoyable NAS Islay at the right price. I’ve had this at 83 and 88 a few years before. In 2019:

Scores 85 points


Caol Ila 18yo [2018/19] Ob. 43% WB86.30[862] [WF]87 WM85[6] Ralfy88 WLP86

Early this year I wrote [with regards to an 11yo Caol Ila WB] ‘I’m reminded how much I love Caol Ila almost everytime I have it‘. It’s weird then that I rarely buy it,… maybe because it’s always there? I bought this because the price was insanely good. Let’s see where the official 18yo is at in 2018/19.

Caol Ila 18 43%.JPG

  • N: Dry yet moorish cereal-sweet barley with subtle onion-y > > pickled onion-y, peaty & husky desiccated coconut-y aromas.
  • T: Dry-not-dry husky creamy smoky < barley with oily/buttery coconut topped off with a herbal/candle wax, vanilla essence-d icing and a curious combo of boot polish and pub style pickled whelks, a splash of cider and an even smaller splash of lager-lime top. How very 19,… you choose the decade.
  • F: Light-smokey barley, dirty lemon-y oily garage floors, some coppery > iron fillings,… concluding with husky peaty dry barley with light black tea, remnants of nicotine and just a hint of menthol-y Jif/Cif-like dry lemon. Finishes true on sweet malted barley.
  • C: Over time it showed itself as a dependable deliver-er and yet totally unmoving as if the life had left it before it had even reached the bottling plant. It did however really improve after being poured into an empty glass with the remnants of an Old Elgin 8yo [WLP]. It was the caramel banana > molasses that gave it some body/balls. Maybe this and Deanston 12 would work for a Douglas Laing Double Barrel?

Scores 86 points







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