Letting Go #11: Harris to Lewis

Leaving Hushinish [WLP#10], the drive North to Lewis provides some stunningly varied and dramatic scenery,…

Harris to lewis

,… and one incredibly remote tennis court!

Tennis court.jpeg

I arrive at Ardroil beach early evening, finding the toilet, washing, and dining facilities closed yet the kitchen [which includes the donations box] open. Go figure! There’s also a disabled toilet that incorporates a walk-in shower and it’s accessible with a radar key. Result!

Ardroil beach and the surrounding area is stunning. Looks like there’s plenty to explore. I imagine I’ll be stopping here for a while.

Samalens flightWhilst waiting for the last of the ‘hillmen hunters’ to leave the site, I prepare tonight’s malternative flight: armagnac from Samalens in Laujazan, Gascony. I acquired this tasting pack for next to nothing at auction. The closed pamphlet contains the usual brand flannel: ‘inventing a new way of making armagnac’, ‘original ‘single grape’,…. ‘exclusively from uni-blanc grapes’, ‘unique ageing process’,… all standard stuff it would seem, from the perspective of a whisky loving pianist relatively new to armagnac. Serge presents an altogether less cynical, more positive [and democratic, perhaps?] perspective:

WF: ‘Samalens, a large and well-reputed armagnac house, starts to follow the path created by some cognacs ‘single estate’ and just launched some Scotch-inspired ‘single distillery’ bas-armagnacs. Everything screams ‘malt whisky’, including the Compass-Box style bottles and the wording in English (single grape, single distillery and so on). Even more unusual: these armagnacs are partly double distilled – whilst most armagnacs are distilled using column stills – and start their lives in new oak before being transferred into used casks‘.

My tasting pack contains the 8, 12, and 15year old expressions. From an armagnac advent calendar I bought a few years back, I also have alongside, oh, another Samalens 8yo – ha!


Samalens 8yo [<2019] Ob. 40% [5cl] WF83

Samalens 8yo

‘80% double distillation, 20% continuous distillation’.

  • N: Delicate/soft nose with confectionary aromas that remind me of the more lavish travel retail outlets in Turkey that openly provide try-before-you-buy treats. Notes then of Turkish Delight, pistachio honeyed somethings, rose water, marzipan,.. that kind of thing.
  • T: Light and pleasant. After the initial slightly innocuous spicy wave, comes liquorice into,…..
  • F: ,… oaky teas, slightly burnt vanilla sugars, and spices. A quick-mover this one.
  • C: The continuous still distillation action is most noticeable in this youngest expression. Rather light, slightly innocuous yet pleasant, pretty much covers it, though there’s little wrong here.

Scores 79 points


Samalens 12yo [<2019] Ob. 40% [5cl] WF85

‘50% double distillation, 50% continuous distillation’.

Samalens 12yo.jpg

  • N: Along similar lines to the 8yo, and sharing the same abv, this 12yo possesses more presence/weight/volume. As well as more goodies from the travel retail bazaar, we’ve moved on to a nearby delicatessen/coffeehouse. In addition to what the 8yo provided, we add maple syrup-covered waffles to our shopping list, a touch of cherry liqueur, Falernum, a very subtle earthy [Angostura] note, cinnamon hot cross buns, blueberry muffins,…
  • T: Like the 8yo, there’s a slightly spicy middle, though this ones arrival is far silkier [and maltier?!?], and with considerably more body to ride the waves. Add only a drop or two of water and this thing sails through without a bump, delivering a characterful soup of broad undefined armagnac-y flavour.
  • F: After a creamy caramel move towards bitter molasses latte, we’ve oaky cherry and dried apricot fruits with more grainy oakiness and a milky coffee conclusion.
  • C: This is a significant step up from the 8yo.

Scores 82 points


Samalens 15yo [<2019] Ob. 40% [5cl] WF85

‘50% double distillation, 50% continuous distillation’.

Samalens 15yo.jpeg

  • N: Again, like with the 8yo, we’ve another step up from the 12yo. The family resemblance remains, but overall, this 15yo reflects a richer intensity of all the flavours the 8yo, and to some extent the 12yo, displayed. We have moved on from the airport bazaar and the delicatessen – taking with us a take-out caramel mocha – to an indoor Eastern market in Istanbul or Mysore in India, perhaps. With an array of colours, cake mix soon becomes the order of the day, flavoured with a few baking [coffee] essences and additional walnut pieces. Then comes the liqueur-like suggestions and other top tones reminiscent of old OBE’d Scotch blends & some slightly dank old rums.
  • T: Adding to the lactose-y mocha/latte vibes, we’ve a more rounded mouthfeel and thickening mouthful. Compared to the 12yo, earthy/bitter tones begin earlier,… 
  • F: ,… stretching over to milky/creamy bitter-ish coffee with a dash of hazelnut/walnut liqueur, liquorice,… earthy bitter [cinnamon-grainy] spices. There’s something gacky about this at the end, much like you can get after consuming a generic milky coffee.
  • C: There’s not much between the 12 and 15-year-old. I’ll give this the edge, but there’s not much in it.

Scores 83 points


As the sun begins to set over the bay, I pour a Guillon-Painturaud Vieille Reserve cognac [WLP189/WLP289] to remind myself of journey, form, and finesse – qualities accompanied by a considerably higher price-tag in comparison to a 15yo Samalens.






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