tasting notes: Caol Ila 10 year from Gordon & MacPhail

G&M Connoiseurs ChoiceGordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 10 year (dist. 1995)

Alc/vol: 46%
Color: just-slightly-bronzed gold
Legs: med. beads, slow drop
Nose: buttery pastries in paris, a crackling fireplace in winter, dark chocolate, ripe red fruits, and oranges, all wrapped up in an ocean breeze
Palette: coal, spices (nutmeg), more chocolate (milky now), and a sweetness like buttered veggies (butternut squash seems to be it) grilling over a charcoal flame
Body: a bit oily and quite fulfilling in the mouth; lots of texture (can a mouthfeel have “complexity”? – I think so)
Finish: a long, lingering chocolate éclair eaten in front of the fire
Overall: I was happily shocked when I first tasted this, and the retaste confirms everything: a well cared-for independent bottling of an often underestimated Islay. While it is as enjoyable to me as anything, it doesn’t quite have the complexity of a Talisker 10, Ardbeg 10, or Highland Park 18. Nevertheless, this dram is absolutely a peaty, smokey treat.
Score: 8.9/10

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An Independent Bottling of Laphroaig 6 year: Signatory Un-chillfiltered

Laphroaig 6.5 year Un-chillfiltered, bottled by Signatory (dist. 2000)

Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask no. 3671; Bottle 104/726
Alc/vol: 46%
Color: yellowish-amber
Legs: med-large beads, slow drip
Nose: big chocolatey peat at the fore, with oats and hay, then flowers, and finally a healthy slice of pecan pie
Palette: the peat and semi-sweet chocolate combo remains up front and dry, with a considerable chalk-eraser dusting of smoke on the mid-palette, balanced by an oatmeal maltiness and a hint of rhubarb tartness. All with a touch of medical bandaging woven throughout.
Body: big body; very dry, nearly powder
Finish: warming, long, with the powdery mouthfeel persisting
Overall: while not quite as phenolic or salty as the OB 10 year, smokier and peatier, perhaps. Deliciously dry, with a farms-at-sunset flavor. The sherry mixes in subtly, as if it imparted a hint of sweetness and then escaped quickly. A rival to the Quatercask, though not as complex. Only a scintilla of transmogrification by the sherry refill butt, this is very young Laphroaig at its best.
Score: 8.8/10

Two Indie Highland Park 13 years

During my run of HP tastings, I decided to indulge in a couple of independent bottlings of the stuff. The first is from Signatory’s Un-chillfiltered series. The second is by an excellent bar in Chicago, Delilah’s, done specially for their 13th anniversary (and, thusly, only available to you if you visit the Windy City’s northside).

Highland Park Signatory Un-chillfiltered 13 year (dist. 1993)
Bottle no. 34/339, matured in a Hogshead
Alv/vol: 46%
Color: very pale gold, like a white wine
Legs: medium beads, pretty slow drop
Nose: floral, rose petals, sea salt and brine, alcohol, cold biscuits, honey and cranberries developing with time
Palette: warm honey up front, lots of rotted wood, a smokey note buried in there (what I imagine used charcoal tastes like), some apple turning to apple cider, then to vinegar.
Body: medium-full bodied, slightly metallic feeling
Finish: medium-long finish, woody
Overall: I remember liking this one more… maybe it went bad in the bottle (but after just one year opened?) Still, good nose.
Score: 5.75/10

Highland Park 13 year old, special Delilah’s bottling from a 2nd fill sherry butt
Proof: 115.4
Color: deep cherry red
Legs: sm. beads, med. drip
Nose: cherries, marshmellows, orange creamsickles, alcohol
Palatte: lots of berries, honey, malt, and a light smokeyness with definite hints of bacon; the sherry fruitiness is balanced nicely by the honey to create a deep berry flavor, rather than just light fruit.
Body: full with a slightly rounded mouthfeel despite the alcohol
Finish: nice, long, leaves the stain of cherries, strawberries, and other berries, along with some charred oak just behind the tongue.
Overall: Great. Much more enjoyable than the Signatory. Complete opposite, straight away from the color on down. So much sherry, what with the straight bottling from a 2nd-fill cask and all. But, the HP flavor profile (deep and intense) was able to handle all that sherry quite nicely, providing a very berried but yet balanced treat. So if you’re ever in Chicago…
Score: 8.6/10