Review: CAOL ILA 12yo – #59 hit

The 12 year bottling of Caol Ila is one of those whiskies that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. In most people’s views it does not rank with the top players like Lagavulin, Ardbeg, and Laphroaig. Some even mistake it to be a highland whisky. I agree that it lacks the intensity and heavy smoke that characterize the more popular brands from the island. However Caol Ila 12yrs is a very accomplished whisky in its own way. While it defends the spirit of Islay with its mildly peaty notes it also delivers an amazingly high content of sweetness. Most discernible is the subtle notes of citrus fruits, dried apricots, and honey. In addition to balacaol-ila-12yoncing the peat in a very delicate fashion the sweetness is also accompanied by malt, spices and…..fresh dirt. This prevents Caol Ila from being too sweet and give a great depth to it. The only slightly negative I can come to think of is the finish. Even though it starts off with a nice touch of spicy malt it slowly turns into a very noticeable vegetal note of green beans.

VERDICT: One glass quickly became two and before I knew it I had had five drinks. This pretty much says it all. It is very approachable and you don’t really get tired of it. Well not after 5 glasses anyways. I like the way the peat is balanced with notes of dried fruit, something that makes this whisky a great beginner-Islay.

  (7.2/10)

Advertisements

Review: LAPHROAIG Quarter Cask – #51 hit

laphroaig_whisky_distillery

The first thought that ran through my head when I opened my Laphroaig Quarter Cask the other day was “how come I never tasted this whisky before”. Even though I know that this dram is highly regarded among Islay enthusiasts it has never occurred to me that it could be so different to other whiskies from the same island. Having enjoyed several Ardbeg whiskies throughout the years, including Supernova, I never believed that Laphroaig would bring anything new to the table. I was dead wrong.

This whisky makes me reminisce about those carefree Easter Sundays you spent as a child on the beach. Not because of the heaps of seaweed that had washed up on the shore but more because of the huge bonfires that were lit that day every year. Scattered ashes and smoke were everywhere and your nostrils were filled with the aroma. Besides this ever-present smoke there is a very apparent medicinal flavor. I am still a biLaphroaig-quarter-caskt undecided whether I feel it is too much. Meanwhile you have pepper tingling on your tongue and a woody presence underneath the bed of smoke. There is a late arrival of fried bacon, hazelnuts, and dark chocolate. This is a rather unusual combination but still accomplishes to balance the smoke and peat in a very delicate way. On the finish the smoke turns into earthy notes that almost taste like….moulds?

VERDICT: Definitely one of my favorite Islays. What I like the most about Laphroaig Quarter Cask is its ability to be both exceptionally smooth and creamy while delivering an overdose of smoke and peat. The only thing preventing it from reaching my number one is the medicinal notes and the mouldy finish.

  (8.3/10)

Review: BENROMACH Peat Smoke – #57 hit

The Benromach distillery is Speyside’s smallest and is run by only two distillers. Still they manage to release between 150.000-250.000 liters of alcohol each year. The other day one of my friends left me a half full bottle of Benromach Peat Smoke. This very unique batch has been distilled from malted barley with a phenol level of 53ppm which puts it in the heavy peated category. Generally you say that if it is made of barley of more than 30ppm it is heavily peated, around 20ppm medium peated, and below 15ppm lightly peated. CBenromach peat smokeonsidering that the nose can detect peaty flavors down to 0.1ppm I was expecting this to be somewhat of a smokebomb. This is not the case though. While I sat there waiting to be overwhelmed by cresols, xylenols, guaiacol, ehtylphenols and other phenolic compounds, notes of honey and vanilla opened up on top of a very gentle bed of smoke. At the same time it delivered generous contributions of liquorices with hints of orange peel followed by a tingy bite that diminished quickly. The absence of the heavy peaty attributes – normally characterized as burnt, smoky, and medicinal flavors – came as a surprise. Nevertheless the peat is still present but very well balanced by fruity and sweet notes that are very common to Benromach. Something that really impress me though is that this very batch was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2012. Seldom have I tasted a whisky below 12 years that was worth drinking.

VERDICT: There are especially three things about this Speyside worth mentioning.

1)      The texture is very round and creamy.

2)      The combination of the sweet and the smoke works very well.

3)      At an age below 12 year I would have expected it to pack a much bigger punch.

  (6.8/10)