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

youth to power, or too powerful?

Here’s an article we liked about the new prevalence of younger whiskies among distillery expressions:
Four Year Old Whisky Comes of Age.

I think this is a great trend. Laphroaig is on top of it with the genius of the Quatercask bottling (a vatting of whiskies 5-9 years of age). These younger, (sometimes) cheaper bottles balance out the trend toward rising prices in general.

But I think it is indicative of several things:

    1. whisky is more popular overall, and since the response-time of the industry to trends is considerable (eg, Laphroaig just now released its response to the ca. 1990 popularity of the Macallan 18), having a ready supply of whisky is critical while the whisky boom lasts.
    2. more people are more familiar with whisky and whisky appreciation; whereas folks used to judge a whisky by its age (due to lack of understanding, often), now the informed whisky consumer knows that age is not the determining factor of a whisky’s quality.
    3. And yes, more care is being put into younger whiskies than might have been a long time ago (again, see Quatercask, Ardmore Traditional Cask, etc). Wood has been much more carefully considered over the past half-century, enough that distilleries are realizing that just a few years is enough to round out the spirit in the right kind of cask.

I’m a fan, but what about those high-priced, premium young whiskies (the Supernovas, Port Charlottes, and Octomores)? Gimmickry, or simply the high-end of the young-whisky market and worth the cash?

Comment request: your favorite whiskies 9 years old and younger.

Also, stay tuned for a review of some young Laphroaigs later in the week.