ISLAY – The Isles Of Liquid Smoke

Here are a selection of my personal favourite young whisky’s from the region;

**NOTE: Bottles come in 700ml and 1000ml bottles.

***NOTE: Bottles tend to be much more inexpensive when bought in duty free stores.

  • BOWMORE 12 – 40% ABV

Here is a whisky that is a hidden gem of the isles. While not as well known as Laphroig or Caol Ila it retains a place in the hearts of any whisky drinker. What started as a compensation for a fire burning the house of Daniel Cambpell, to the tune of £9,000, a result of the malt tax riots, has today become the Bowmore distillery under his grandson. It is a classic example of how a distillery can get into the fabric of a community, while its walls protect the neighbouring village from the lashing waves of the sea, it has provided the inhabitants with many a living from fishing to farming barley to giving birth to a successful linen mill.

PRICE – Rs 3285/- (700ml)

NOSE: Rich toasty oak, thick with the smell of smoke, slight orangy finish

PALATE: Light Salt, heavy smoke, sweet herbs

FINISH: Build up of smoke with chocolate like finish

CONCLUSION: Balance between smoke and salt

*ABV – Alcohol by Volume

  • LAPHROAIG 10 – 40% ABV

A member of the Kidalton trio and formerly owned by Sir Peter Mackie who owned Laguvlin. On losing the agency of Laphroaig in 1907 he built a replica with the same malt mill, water and still and even the same distiller !! But alas there is something about the stills here, the heavy rooted smokiness of its distillate that is unique in its own. As John Campbell the Manager of the distillery says “Its something even scientists try to explain but cant”. Also unlike many distilleries, it provides 20% of its own malt with its floor maltings. Unlike the other two members of the trio it focusses on tarry notes and heavy smoke. It developed this style under Ian Hunter in 1924 who used peating and drying at low temperatures to give it its unique taste. Makers Mark® a US based Bourbon brand supplies the distillery with its oak casks which mellow the whisky with its unique vanilla notes.

PRICE –  Rs 3285/- (700ml)

PRICE – DUTY FREE : Rs 4961/-

NOSE: Smoke and sweet oak, slight notes of pine

PALATE: Smooth soft with vanilla but quickly escalating to smoke

FINISH: Long light smoke slightly peppery

CONCLUSION: Balance between smoke and oak

  • ARDBEG 10        

Well here is an example of how a once great distillery underwent the process of metamorphosis. Undoubtedly it being a member of the Kidalton trio, it retains its reputation of being highly smoky and sooty. The distillery in the 1970’s continued its expansion and production despite a steady fall in sales. In 1982 it started shutting down with a number of other plants in the region, so much so that by the 1990’s it reached the position of being called a ghost town. Bought by Glenmorangie in 1997 for a whopping £7,100,000 it is now undergoing a sort of rebirth. The old owners were known for very inconsistent batches. Now, variations over years is something an avid wine lover would come to expect from his product, but not a whisky drinker. For this more consistent methods and the incorporation of first fill american oak has been encouraged.

PRICE – Rs 4800/- (700ml)

NOSE: American oak,  vanilla but a hit of seaweed and hand sanitizer

PALATE: Sweet with some pepperiness but built into smoke

FINISH: Smoky and tofee like

CONCLUSION: fair wood and smoke

  • CAOL ILA 12

This is perhaps the least smoky of all the single malts produced in Islay. It was the third and final project of Hector Henderson in 1846 failing in two other distilleries. Personally how he found  merits in setting up a plant tucked next to a cliff with perhaps the quickest tidal changes in Scotland is any ones guess. The result however was a distillery that prides itself in blending its products to give a product with just enough smoke but ample amounts of salinity. In saying that however the distillery has run a number of years with no peating and consumers have noted how certain years will give the smokiness away for a more green (fresh) character to its products despite its reputation to blend out of habit.

PRICE – Rs 4869/- (700ml)

NOSE: Oily like bacon with hints of smoke and even juniper berries

PALATE: Quite saline with a smokiness and oily undertone

FINISH: smoke pure and simple

CONCLUSION: salinity, oil and smoke blended masterfully

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