The Bowmore offering for Feis Ile 2009 had a limited availability of just 900 bottles (minus 12 that are kept in the Bowmore vaults for archive). It was distilled on the 14th of June 1999 and had a complex maturation in three types of wood: ex-sherry cask, ex-bourbon cask and a red wine finish.
Nose: big influence of the grapes. Harbour stuff as well: seaweed, boat rope. Some smoke. Hints of prunes, espresso and orange skin. Rhubarb. Soft balsamic vinegar. Somewhat reminiscent of the Bowmore Dusk (Bordeaux finish – which I didn’t like) but this is much better. Stronger and more complex. After adding some water: more orange notes. Too bad the typical lavender / perfume smell also grows stronger when diluted. Mouth: really powerful, the alcohol is a tad too strong. With water: tobacco and leather, blueberries… I would have sworn this was older than 9 years. Some cinnamon. The oak and cedar wood appears towards the end. Finish: spices, oak, berries.
I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to taste a Bowmore with a wine finish, but the result is in fact really nice and different. The wine is not at all overpowering and the sherry notes help to lift this dram.
It’s Sunday so let’s have a break from the Feis Ile bottlings and give you some news.
In celebration of their sixtieth anniversary since the launch in 1949, independent bottler Douglas Laing is releasing a series of 6 limited edition bottlings, one for each decade. They are single casks in a special retro version of the Old Malt Cask bottle design. This is the line-up:
• Macallan 30yo (rum finish)
• Laphroaig 21yo (refill sherry)
• Speyside Finest 40yo (Glenfarclas)
• Port Ellen 30yo (gimme gimme!)
• Glen Grant 30yo (sherry matured)
• Macallan 20yo (sherry finish)
Douglas Laing will release one bottling a month, from June until November 2009.
Coal Ila selected a 12yo cask for Feis Ile 2009. It was highly anticipated because it was the first single cask ever to be bottled by the distillery and because it was matured in European Oak (ex-sherry). It was distilled on December 12, 1996.
Caol Ila 1996 (58%, OB 2009, Cask #19313, Feis Isle 2009)
Nose: sparkling nose, rather minty. Fresh citrus on one hand, and darker, roasted notes on the other hand (coffee beans, freshly baked bread). Interesting duality. Smokey / peaty but in a rather subtle way, with a whiff of vanilla and Caol Ila’s typical sweatiness as well. Delicate farmy notes when slightly warmed. Chocolate notes from the sherry cask. Mouth: mmhhh, very nice. Banana at first, sweet attack with fruity notes (oranges too) fighting the peat smoke. A serious pinch of salt and seaweed as well. Again with a toasted edge, really delicious. Finish: peppered start with some cocoa notes. The sweetness evolves into a long, ashy aftertaste.
I was really impressed by this Caol Ila 1996 and I would definitely have bought a bottle (around € 85). Just wonderful.
This year’s Laphroaig Cairdeas was the first cask chosen by distillery manager John Campbell. Like the previous Laphroaig Cairdeas 2008 (a big hit both at Feis Ile and on eBay), this 12 year-old is bottled at cask strength and the remaining bottles were made available for Friends of Laphroaig after the festival. It was matured in Makers Mark bourbon barrels.
Nose: starts off on mellow peat smoke with woody undertones. Young wood, “pencil shavings” as Robert Hicks describes it. Some refreshing citrus, banana and red fruit. Very nice. Like last year’s Cairdeas: almonds and marzipan. Overall very creamy and rather sweet, with hints of burnt sugar. Mouth: starting on lemon, growing sweeter and more candied. Lemon pie. Roasted almonds, some espresso. Some liquorice and more spices than the Cairdeas 2008. Good stuff with a good balance (although on the dry side). Finish: long with diminishing sweetness, leaving the peat smoke behind and getting very dry in the end.
Personally, I think this is a major improvement over the previous Cairdeas. It’s smoother and fruitier but just as rich and intense. Excellent value for money as well (£ 40). People who are waiting for their Friends of Laphroaig bottle: it’s well worth the wait.
Feis Ile is the yearly festival on Islay. It’s not all about whisky, but traditionally each of the distilleries presents a special bottling only available at that time. The festival is over and I’ve had a shipment with most of this year’s releases, so let’s get dramming.
Over the next ten days, I’ll be reviewing the Laphroaig Cairdeas 2009, the first ever single cask Caol Ila (1996), the Bruichladdich ‘Oirthir Gaidheal’, both Ardbeg Toasted Oak single casks (1998), etc. Stay tuned.
The three will be released in the next couple of days and they will be reviewed shortly. In the meantime, check out our reviews of a few previous Daily Dram bottlings: Oat Mint (Tomatin 1965), Philo Raga
(Laphroaig 1998), Our Angel (Cooley 1999), Adieu Lina (Dailuaine 1973) and other Daily Drams…
Although Tomintoul launched single malt bottlings as early as 1974, in the current market it’s not one of the big players. Most of the production is used for blending and the distillery itself is quite industrial (built in the 1960’s and very modern).
This independent bottling by the sister company of The Whisky Exchange (better known for their series “Single Malts of Scotland”) is a marriage of two 40 year-old hogshead casks. Although the alcohol level is just 43,3%, it is actually cask strength.
Nose: very fruity, on citrus and exotic fruits. Huge notes of clementines (tangerine). Overripe oranges (zest) and kumquats. Apple juice (cider). Marmelade. Slightly solventy and floral as well (old roses). Vanilla. Honey. Typical old Speyside style yet beautifully fresh for a 40 year old. Mouth: interesting! Starts quite spicy and evolves to strawberry, pears and grapefruit. Sweet and delicately bitter. Honey and vanilla are still there. Some cinnamon and nutmeg. Finish: keeps a nice balance between sweet and bitter flavours. Pear. Clear oak influence but it doesn’t take over at any point.
Better on the nose, but still quite nice overall.
Around € 130.
Springbank claims to be the only distillery that performs the complete production process in its own facilities — including floor malting, maturation, and bottling.
There are many versions of this rather legendary Springbank 21yo. They were bottled in dumpy bottles during the 1980’s. After that, regular bottles appeared with a cardboard box and slightly different printing, first with a jagged label and then with a straight cut label. In 2005, the last batch was released (2400 bottles).
Springbank 21y (46%, OB mid 90’s, jagged label)
Nose: wow, one of the most impressive noses I’ve come across. Dry fruits (plums, apricot). A strong whiff of heather. Wonderful notes of old wood, dusty cellars. Just the right amount of sherry influence. Something of biscuits and sweet honey. Coconut? Cherries? Blueberries? Waxy notes as well and even a slight coastal edge. Hints of leather. Oh man, I could go on and on… Complex but so smoothly balanced. Mouth: liquid velvet. Fruity start, candied even. Developing on raisins and cassis. Heathered honey again. Growing spicier (cinnamon, vanilla) and oakier. Very nice touching of coal smoke, but really subtle. Salty liquorice towards the end. Finish: very long, regaining raisin sweetness.
Really excellent, although it’s a tad more spectacular on the nose than on the palate. This is high class. If you find a bottle of this Springbank, expect to pay around € 350.
This was post n°100 on WhiskyNotes (hooray), so it had to be something special, right?