Google The Islay Odyssey 2015 Day One

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

February 2, 2015



The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Day One

We arrived late in the afternoon in Bowmore and did just a bit of warming up in the Cottages, with Alsatian tartes flambéed, foie gras, Munster cheese (pass) and this mixed bag of whiskies. Expect more serious stuff from tomorrow on.

Wonderful interpretation by artist Hans Dilesse->



Haig & Haig ‘Five Stars’ (30 under proof, OB, blend, +/-1915)

Haig & Haig ‘Five Stars’ (30 under proof, OB, blend, +/-1915) Three stars and a half An amazing WWI Haig. The back label says that they were using this regular bottle shape because the famous ‘pinched’ one was in short supply during the war. We’ve heard David Beckham’s great-great-grandfather used to love it. Colour: gold. Amazingly limpid. Nose: a basket full of ripe orchard fruits and mangos. Flabbergasting freshness, with only a touch of pinesap. Coal smoke arises after two minutes, smoked almonds, whiffs of carbon paper, marzipan, cough syrup... This nose is almost perfect. Mouth: a little less complex, narrower, more on raisins, retsina, a wee dustiness, something slightly stale… There are also notes of old Cointreau, some soft spices around caraway, garam masala… Finish: sure it’s not the longest ever, but it’s not getting completely flat and cardboardy at all. An achievement after all these years. Comments: the Five Stars used to be sold as a premium version – and indeed it was excellent, despite the fact that it’s probably at around 35% vol. after having lost quite some alcohol. SGP:442 - 84 points.

PS: the price was on the label and it was 13 shillings, so 65 pence, but the average wage at the time would have been £5 per week (thanks Colin).

John Begg ‘Gold Cap’ (OB, blend, +/-1936)

John Begg ‘Gold Cap’ (OB, blend, +/-1936) Three stars and a halfNothing to do with Islay, I know. No ABV on this old bottle of Lochnagar’s John Begg. It was bottled by appointment to the late King George V. Colour: gold. Nose: this old baby rather has a lot of shoe polish and soot, before it gets a little flattish. Old papers, old spices, old wooden boxes, these sorts of things. A funny feeling of old spicy aquavit. A little too much OBE. Mouth: very spicy, a little drying. Oranges and a lot of cinnamon and white pepper, then more and more caramel and praline, which is nice. Never stops improving after five minutes, with more and more spicy orange cake – and caramel. Finish: quite long, spicy, with herbal teas and the same spices. Comments: more oomph than in the Haig. I liked the nose of the latter a little better, and preferred the palate of the former. SGP:451 - 84 points.

And now, the Islay-driven blends

Black Label 5 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-1970)

Black Bottle 5 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-1970) Three stars An early Black Bottle in a tall straight bottle, without the traditional bulky shape. This very one had been imported to Portugal. Colour: gold. Nose: this baby’s rather more aromatic, but also dirtier than both the Haig and the Begg. Some leather, some soap, a feinty side, beer and cardboard… I have to say we’re disappointed. Mouth: ah this is much better. The peat is quite big, I find some sweet vegetables, sweet carrots, then bitter oranges, a bit of earth and gravel… It’s a pretty powerful old young one. Finish: good length, sooty, with a little dry tea. Some barley sugar. Comments: mixed feelings. The dirty earthiness is a little unpleasant, but it really improves after a few hours of breathing. SGP:464 – 82 (was 77 when just opened) points.

Islay Mist (OB, blend, UK, +/-1960)

Islay Mist (OB, blend, UK, +/-1960) Four stars and a half No ABV on this early Islay Mist either. Some great information on the back label, especially the fact that there are only three malts inside, namely Glen Grant, Glenlivet and Laphroaig, plus some ‘soft grain whisky’. It’s also said to be older than 8. So 8. Colour: gold. Nose: a big fat nose, peaty, earthy, slightly floral (roses and orange blossom), with some roasted malt and notes of ‘old fur in an old wardrobe’. Mouth: absolutely excellent, as peaty as plain Laphroaig from the old days, with the expected tropical fruits, mangos, passion fruits… An amazing power. Some camphor as well, cough syrup… All perfect. Finish: long, superbly peaty and orangey. A little aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: superb. No wonder these old Islay Mists are legendary. It literally killed the poorer Black Bottle. SGP:454 - 89 points.

Logan’s (70°proof, OB, White Horse, blend, 1950s)

Logan’s (70°proof, OB, White Horse, blend, 1950s) Four starsThe label says ‘Logan’s Extra Age Superb Old Scotch Whisky’. Rumour doesn’t disagree. It’s also said that this whisky, just like Mackie’s Ancient Brand that used to share the same bottle shape, does contain a fair proportion of Malt Mill. Ahem… It also says that it’s ‘entirely free from any artificial sweetening, flavouring or other foreign matter’. Good. Colour: pale gold. Nose: not that far from the Islay Mist, just a tad more rubbery and burnt, and a little less fruity. A little more on hay. Some greasy coal as well, graphite… Some sides do remind us of older White Horses (spring cap). Some dark chocolate. Mouth: very punchy, with this kind of sweet peatiness that’s quite ‘Lagavulin’. Oranges and cloves, some good tarry dirt, notes of burnt coffee… Globally greasier than the Islay Mist. Finish: long, drier, with more coal, perhaps. Comments: another superb blend. The lower strength may have handicapped it a bit after the Islay Mist. SGP:444 - 87 points.

Somebody just decided to have some malts…

Bruichladdich 1965/1981 'Centenary' (53%, OB, decanter)

Bruichladdich 1965/1981 'Centenary' (53%, OB, decanter) Two stars and a half We had the lighter version at 43% in November last year, but it had gone flat, possibly because of loose cork – and the corks are large on these decanters. Colour: amber. Nose: very bizarre, ridden with pinesap, paint, fresh putty and all that. It’s almost as if it was matured in pinewood. Crème de menthe. Funky stuff! With water: killed. Overinfused mint tea and lavender soap. Mouth (neat): really astringent, heavily mentholated, gingery, with a lot of retsina again… Weird, very weird. With water: rather better now, thanks to oranges coming out (crystallised). There’s even more crème de menthe, though. And maybe kumquats (there). Finish: long but extremely mentholy. Comments: I had already found this heavy menthol in the 43%. Sherry transport casks made out of chestnut? I find this baby pretty difficult but I know some friends love it. SGP:271 - 78 points.

Bowmore 16 yo 1972 (43%, The Prestonfield, cask #1036/1039)

Bowmore 16 yo 1972 (43%, The Prestonfield, cask #1036/1039) Four stars and a half We’ve already tried this sweet baby back in 2004. Time to revisit it, don’t you think? Colour: gold. Nose: a tiny metallic side and many many tropical fruits, plus a wee bit of cardboard. A little orange blossom, some leather… It’s not a big, explosive nose, some would even say it’s slightly weak. Whiffs of fermenting grass as well. Mouth: much more like it. Classic fruity Bowmore, with raisins in the background. Rather more grapefruits than mangos and buddies. Tends to improve with oxygen, just like many freshly opened old bottles of Bowmore. Finish: medium long, more on peelings and green tea. A part of the fruitiness is gone now. Comments: not a lot of peat in this easy drinking Bowmore. The 1965 in the same livery was on another planet, but this is still excellent. And very drinkable. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Bowmore 34 yo 1972/2007 (48.4%, OB, for Globus 100th Anniversary, Switzerland, Hogshead, 100 decanters)

We also revisited this baby:
Bowmore 34 yo 1972/2007 (48.4%, OB, for Globus 100th Anniversary, Switzerland, Hogshead, 100 decanters) Five stars I find it rather bigger, and harsher, and actually (even) better than seven years ago. A little less civilised. Who needs civilisation? 93 points (up one point).


Another variant of an old friend...

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, duty free, 1l, 1987)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, duty free, 1l, 1987) Five stars Rotation 1987, this ‘unblended’ version should be quite something. Colour: gold. Nose: pristine whistle-clean tropical fruits and peat smoke plus fresh almonds. An old friend. Enough said. Mouth: over to Jonny: f**k my a**e. Thank you Jonny. Finish: a bit drying, not the very best part. Like eating ashes and grapefruit skin. Comments: a very punchy version that’s got plenty of fruits. Brilliant. I know, that was short. SGP:657 - 91 points.

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, duty free, 1l, 1985) Five stars A slightly earlier version, extremely similar. Maybe a tad more grapefruity, as they say in Congo. A little better, actually, even better chiselled. SGP:657 - 92 points.

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, UK, +/-1985)

Lagavulin 12 yo (43%, OB, UK, +/-1985) Five stars The well-known version that was sold between the 12 white label and the first 16s. Colour: gold. Nose: a fantastic tarry and leathery nose, appropriately dirty, full of seaweed, tarry ropes, old hessian and cider apples. Mouth: perfect dirty nasty and yet compact and focussed palate, with a touch of lime over liquorice and dirty waters (or something like that). Finish: long, both fat and very precise. Quite an achievement. Comments: a classic. SGP:457 - 92 points.

Oh and another go at this other glory…

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB for Bonfanti, short label, mid 1970s)


Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB for Bonfanti, short label, mid 1970s) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: one of these whiskies that are both focused and wide, heavy and light, aromatic and elegant, civilised and rough. In short, Laphroaig Bonfanti. Mouth: fruity fireworks. Mangos and pink grapefruits aplenty, on a fattish peaty foundation. And this kind of very specific minerality. Wet concrete? Finish: long, a citrusy blade. Comments: one of the whiskies that any whisky lover should try to taste once in his life. SGP:557 - 94 points.

Stay tuned…







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