Ardbeg released two experimental casks for Feis Ile. Both were filled in toasted oak. This is usually American white oak that has been processed and toasted by burning a fire inside of the cask. This can be minutes or hours depending on the temperature. Different temperatures highlight different flavours in the end result.
Nose: pencil shavings, cigar boxes. Tobacco. Reminds me of old bourbons. Really delicious. Quite some vanilla, orange and peppermint. Coconut and red berries even. Mouth: salty attack, hints of peat but very subtle compared to Ardbegs house style. Very sweet and round development. Milk chocolate with some cinnamon topping. Toffee. Truckloads of cocoa. Roasted coffee towards the end. Very balanced. Finish: oak, vanilla and caramel.
Now I have to say I enjoy a decent bourbon from time to time (unlike the majority of single malt afficionados, or so it seems). This Ardbeg combines relatively docile Islay flavours with some of the typical bourbon notes. It does not contain much peat and is completely different from every other Ardbeg. One to try for sure.
Bunnahabhain released a peated expression for Feis Ile 2009, chosen by Master Distiller Ian MacMillan. It’s a 2003 vintage (although there’s no age statement on the bottle), finished in oloroso sherry butts for three months in sea-facing warehouse n°7.
Mòine means “peat” in Gaelic. There was
a similar bottling for Feis Ile 2004.
Bunnahabhain ‘Mòine’ (58,4%,
OB 2009, Feis Isle 2009, 642 btl.)
Nose: starts off with a coastal kick. Salty and slightly sharp. Peaty with big roasted undertones (cocoa, espresso, bread crust). Sweet coal smoke with a delicate lemony edge. Hints of paint. Reminiscent of new-make. Rather weird and slightly off-key. The Lindores guys thought it was immature, which is correct, but I still appreciate it for being different and for having this “dark” side. Mouth: very sweet. Sugar coated peanuts. Salty notes as well (liquorice). The liquid version of the nose really (dark roast, yeast, close to new-make). Finish: sweet at first but getting ashier and drier. Roasted nuts again.
This may not have been the highlight of Feis Ile for some people, but I think Bunnahabhain proposed something unique here. Not new-make but not mature whisky either. Love it or hate it. By far the worst value for money of this year’s festival though (€ 120 for a 6 year-old?).
Don’t worry, I don’t know how to pronounce it either. Oirthir Gàidheal means “Coast of the Gael” indicating the gaelic roots of Islay people (together with Basques and Catalans).
It’s a 16 years old Bruichladdich, distilled on the 22nd of April 1993 and filled into a refill sherry butt. It’s a valinch, which means it’s bottled directly from the cask by the customer. The actual outturn is therefore probably lower than the predicted 1000 bottles.
Nose: quite a malty start, but it opens up on fruity notes (peach, honey, berries covered in white chocolate) with (false) hints of peat (see below). Some fresh mint and grapefruit. Mouth: a lot punchier, quite some barley and still a few peaty associations (or so it seems), some sour notes, a bit of yeast and baked bread. Walnuts. Finish: nutty again (macadamia), peaty and again quite sour. Getting really dry in the end.
Enjoyable enough but not the best Feis Ile 2009 bottling nor the best Bruichladdich.
Update/ The reply from Bruichladdich’s Mark Renier made me want to taste it again. It turns out the sharp barley together with some false information about the dram’s properties (here and here) tricked me into thinking it was peated while it’s not. Apologies. It proves that the learning process never ends and that the power of suggestion should not be underestimated.
ps/ The second release of the Octomore has been bottled. It’s peatier than the first release (now 140ppm) and it will be presented in a box (I think I liked the tin better). There will be 15.000 bottles. Check the Laddie Blog for pictures. Oh, and PC8 will be the last in the PC… Port Charlotte series (30.000 bottles).
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.