New Whiskies

Batch 149

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Batch 149: Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Peat's Beast

As we prepare for this year’s Islay Festival, Dave Broom has a sextet of smoky Islay single malts to get us in the mood: two each from Caol Ila, Kilchoman and Peat’s Beast.

The brace from Caol Ila come from Gordon & MacPhail’s rebooted Connoisseur’s Choice range, including a ‘fruity, smoky treat’ from a Hermitage cask finish and a cask strength bottling that is, in simple terms, ‘a belter’.

Moving onto Kilchoman, the distillery’s 2018 Loch Gorm edition displays a muscular side to the Islay single malt that is both ‘robust and rewarding’, while its Port Cask Matured variant is also a winner, despite its bright pink colour and it not being ‘yer average Kilchoman’.

To close, two of the fiercely smoky Peat’s Beast bottlings, starting with a Cask Strength offering that displays an enigmatic freshness, followed by an Islay-sourced 25-year-old that finishes things off with a bang. A long, lingering, layered example of an aged peated whisky.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Caol Ila 2004 Hermitage Cask Finish (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Caol Ila 2004 Hermitage Cask Finish (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Big, smoky, barbecue notes cut with sweet black fruits (damson, stewed prune), giving the effect of sweet glazed ham. The fire continues to smoulder and, in time, seashore elements develop. The effect is both robust and bouncily appealing. There is a sulphury edge, however, when water is added, and this slowly starts to dominate.

    Palate

    Immediately smoky, with charred meaty notes retronasally. It’s pretty hefty for a Caol Ila, but has the distillery’s distinctively oily mid-palate, allowing things to slide into the centre of the tongue, where the burnt crackling effect can be fully discerned. Then it spins off in a new direction with refreshing green elements. It doesn’t cope too well with water.

    Finish

    Roasted fruits and smoke.

    Conclusion

    Keep it neat and it’s a fruity, smoky treat.

    Right place, right time

    Keep that fire burning to get Cracklin’, Rosie.

    Caol Ila 2000 Cask Strength (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Caol Ila 2000 Cask Strength (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    More bracing than the Hermitage finish, with an almost saline effect that calls to mind shore breezes and a slight vegetal/herbal element. There’s a whiff of paraffin as it starts to open, alongside white pepper and top notes of geranium and star anise. The smoke builds steadily, so give it time (if you can) to allow it to become richer, softer and oilier. When water is added, you are down on the shoreline, tangled in sweet kelp.

    Palate

    An instant and massive smoky impact with gunpowder, dried sage/oregano, smoky bacon and hickory that develops into spice and bog myrtle. When water is added, more floral elements start to emerge and the smoke becomes more scented, but without losing any power.

    Finish

    Creamy, smoky, long.

    Conclusion

    Big, profound and deep. A belter.

    Right place, right time

    While knee-deep in seaweed, I Had a Kiss of the King’s Hand.

    Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2018 Edition

    Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2018 Edition
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Smoky from the off – kindling, firelighter – then light smoked trout and beach bonfire. Some pear-like notes add the necessary sweetness, alongside cooked agave and pimenton. This is Kilchoman in muscular guise, with touches of kelp and old banana skin. Water doesn’t diminish the impact, but does add an earthy funkiness.

    Palate

    A light start, which seems surprising given the bulkiness of the nose. It leads off with smoke, which gives a drying effect before some clove kicks in, along with Kilchoman’s mid-palate softness. The two elements then move together to add weight and suppleness to the back-palate along with iris, heather and hot sand.

    Finish

    All the elements resolve themselves here, adding a rounded complexity and length.

    Conclusion

    A robust and rewarding Kilchoman.

    Right place, right time

    Heading to the beach, singing a Surf Song.

    Kilchoman Port Cask Matured 2018

    Kilchoman Port Cask Matured 2018
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Bright pink and very vinous, this plunges you headfirst into buckets of red fruits: strawberry chews, pomegranate and forced rhubarb with an added creaminess. The smoke is masked by this sweet overload, though water helps to release it – and some cranberry.

    Palate

    If the smoke is a latecomer on the nose, it is immediately apparent on the palate, along with a real peppery heat. This does need water and, when it is added, a balance is finally achieved between the OTT fruitiness and the peat. There’s now a mix of vanilla sponge, strawberry jam, beetroot and drying smoke.

    Finish

    Fruity juice, rosehip syrup and peat.

    Conclusion

    It’s not yer average Kilchoman but, somehow, it works.

    Right place, right time

    Islay turns into Fire Island and you don’t know Which Way is Up.

    Peat’s Beast Cask Strength

    Peat’s Beast Cask Strength
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Light floral elements are the first thing to come across here, along with an aroma that somehow brings to mind cool marble. It’s hard to believe this is cask strength. Ok, there’s some heft, but it is pretty closed aromatically. When water is added, there’s a cereal element, light woodsmoke, some lemon peel, melon and, weirdly, greater heat.

    Palate

    Rounded, perfumed and quite minty to start with, the smoke a sensation rather than a dominant element and, as with the nose, no great heat. The mid-palate has a thicker feel, with a light grip alongside that bonfire-like smokiness in the back. Water brings pineapple to the front, more of the smoke and some Wintergreen-like heat.

    Finish

    Lavender elements, lightly acidic.

    Conclusion

    Fresh, smoke-accented and vibrant.

    Right place, right time

    As enigmatic as a Blue Marble Girl.

    Peat’s Beast Islay 25 Years Old

    Peat’s Beast Islay 25 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A mature and well-integrated nose, with the peated element still in evidence: pipe smoke, creosote, peppered mackerel; then dried orange peel, rich toffee and black fruits. Things edge towards supple leather, but the deeper notes are balanced by fragrant smoke. When water is added, you get a touch of banana skin, kippers and nori. Broad, slightly oily and complex.

    Palate

    It starts with exotic woods, cocktail bitters and that orange peel element. There’s a light astringency, but it is balanced by oiliness and dry smoke. In time you get just-lit sandalwood incense and, with water, some dried red fruit bite which counteracts the slightly drier smoked element and leathery maturity.

    Finish

    Long, layered, lingering and balanced.

    Conclusion

    A great example of an aged peated whisky. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    Weatherbeaten but still alive, a Hemingway’s Whiskey.

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