New Whiskies

Batch 45: Fèis Ìle 2016 Part 2

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Batch 45

We conclude our in-depth examination of this year’s festival bottlings with offerings from Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Jura, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. Dave Broom, Martine Nouet and Richard Woodard give their verdicts.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bunnahabhain 16 Years Old Amontillado

    Score 8.0/10
    Scoring explained >
    Bunnahabhain 16 Years Old Amontillado
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A big, oxidised, nutty, marzipan-accented opening with some warm dunnage elements behind. There’s ginger snaps, then robusta coffee bean. Immediate, dry and almost crunchy. Brings that nutty, charred note ever further forward.

    Palate

    A soft, pillowy start with those off-dry savoury notes seen on the nose along with fruit compôte, nut and some gingery spice. Quite chewy mouthfeel with light drying on the sides of the tongue. Diluted shows real generosity, balance and an extra – and surprising – sprig of mint.

    Finish

    Dusty and nutty.

    Conclusion

    A beautifully balanced and medium-rich Bunna. Ideal for lovers of the 18.

    Right place, right time

    A coffee morning while otter-watching on the Sound of Islay.

    Dave Broom

    Bunnahabhain Moine 12 Years Old PX

    Score 7.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Bunnahabhain Moine 12 Years Old PX
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    An unusual opening of bread-and-butter pudding mixed with smoke. Sultana juice after rehydrating, then stewing fruits. More Sherried elements begin to come through alongside slightly odd Snofrisk/lactic elements. With water, there’s heathery smoke and cigar box.

    Palate

    Well-controlled peatiness and some wine notes, with just a hint of struck match in the background. Though slightly prickly with smoke, heat and cask, this gives a granular element which balances the sultana, raisin and gingery sweetness.

    Finish

    Soft, then drying. Smoked fruits.

    Conclusion

    This is Moine settling down and, while it might just need a little more time to fully cohere, I like this mix of sweetness and smoke.

    Right place, right time

    Just as things slip into sweetness there’s a catch in the throat. It can only be Kathleen MacInnes.

    Dave Broom

    Caol Ila 12 Years Old Fèis Ìle 2016

    Score 7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Caol Ila 12 Years Old Fèis Ìle 2016
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral (with smoke)
    Nose

    Smoky and earthy. Damp moss, creosote, farmyard. The typical Provence herbs specific to Caol Ila, especially wild thyme. Distant grilled meat notes. A touch of brine too, like a foggy morning over the Sound of Islay in winter. Water releases exotic fruit, touch of pineapple.

    Palate

    Silky (but raw silk). Crisp and frisky. Sweet too – vanilla syrup – but the alcohol gives a fizzy bite. White chocolate bar when a dash of water is added. The smoke lingers on the tongue with a dusty feel.

    Finish

    Dry, slightly astringent.

    Conclusion

    An assertive Caol Ila, the whisky of cold, blustery days. Water is needed to cut the edges. It does not have the versatile charm of the standard version. There is a dose of austerity in this whisky.

    Right place, right time

    Before heading out on a stormy day, to give you the courage to face the elements.

    Martine Nouet

    Jura Tastival 2016 Triple Sherry Finish

    Score 6.8/10
    Scoring explained >
    Jura Tastival 2016 Triple Sherry Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A slightly edgy and uncertain beginning, before spice and tanned leather come in, backed up by stewed fruits of the forest and darker notes of liquorice. Water brings ripe plum and sun-dried tomato skins, then treacle toffee and light mocha coffee.

    Palate

    At 51%, the prickle of relatively high strength, bringing in a slightly bitter edge of dark chocolate. Water helps enormously, soothing that bitterness, calming, sweetening and smoothing off the sharper edges. Still quite powerful and persistent. Needs time in the glass.

    Finish

    Slightly drying, but quite long.

    Conclusion

    Willie Cochrane’s last Tastival bottling as Jura distillery manager starts slowly, but rewards patience. Good, but not entirely coherent. Finished in Palomino Fino, Apostoles and Amoroso Sherry casks.

    Right place, right time

    Feria time in Jerez de la Frontera. The scent of a well-waxed leather bridle drifts in the warm spring air as the raucous crowd spooks a passing horse.

    Richard Woodard

    Kilchoman Fèis Ìle 2016 Release

    Score 8.8/10
    Scoring explained >
    Kilchoman Fèis Ìle 2016 Release
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Warmth from the outset, a richly Sherried character with ripe plum and peppery spices. Then we move into darker, more opulent territory with sultana and date. All the time, brooding, maritime smoke sits behind the fruit like a storm cloud on the horizon that never quite blots out the sun. With water, the skies brighten further – ripe tangerine and citrus lift.

    Palate

    Obvious iodine from the outset, brine-like, with the rich fruit giving an air of seaweed on warm rocks. Thick, almost treacly in texture, with rich spices and an elusive smoked meat character somewhere in the background. Water gives some added structure and a note of old books and burnished wood – but don’t add much or you lose the power.

    Finish

    Nicely poised smoke and Sherry.

    Conclusion

    This is a single Oloroso Sherry cask filled in December 2007 and bottled in May 2016. A grown-up, muscly Kilchoman, and hugely impressive.

    Right place, right time

    Browsing the tomes of an old library as the scent of seawater and kelp drifts in through an open window.

    Richard Woodard

    Lagavulin 18 Years Old Fèis Ìle 2016

    Score 8.5/10
    Scoring explained >
    Lagavulin 18 Years Old Fèis Ìle 2016
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    49.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Fresh and open. Gentle smoke, like the last smoke swirling up from a bonfire after a summer shower. Sea breeze. A distinctive freshly pressed cider note with a hint of apple blossom in the back. Intense but mellow.

    Palate

    A rich satin-like texture at the start, followed by a crisp, fizzy feel. The smoke is more intense, with a sooty touch. A sweet note of dried figs. With water, a lovely grassy twist. Curry plant (dune plant).

    Finish

    Long, still fizzy and refreshed by liquorice.

    Conclusion

    Bourbon maturation talks on the nose and Sherry whispers on the palate. A Lagavulin appeased and self-assured.

    Right place, right time

    Facing the sea, on a warm summer day, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass by your side.

    Martine Nouet

    Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask

    Score 7.6/10
    Scoring explained >
    Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Immediate burnt elements which could be both Madeira- and distillery-induced. The finishing cask makes itself known from the start, resulting in the slightly peculiar mix of stewed berries, red liquorice and seaweed. Water makes things drier, with treacle and a smear of Germolene, then a touch of firelighter.

    Palate

    Quite bold, albeit crisp, with more of a malty element developing. Some blood orange, but there’s also a green, angelica-like note in the background alongside arame seaweed. Then come silky fruits and a burnt butter element, clove and light.

    Finish

    Smoke, black fruits.

    Conclusion

    I was unsure of this when I tried it first, but subsequent tastings show there is some good layering. Laphroaig on the sweet side.

    Right place, right time

    Sitting on a wrack-strewn beach eating a summer pudding.

    Dave Broom

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