Islay Tasting; Celebratory Whiskies from Douglas Laing; Tiree Whisky Launch Success; Mortlach’s New Collaboration
Meant to be a couple of days earlier than this but life conspired against me. A few weeks ago I received a sample of Kilchoman 16 Year Old. Good grief! It seems hardly any time since the distillery was opened but I guess I’ve just been around a long time. Also, I promised in a previous column that I would revisit Octomore 14.2 as it wasn’t my preference of the three received a little while ago so I’ve done that too.
Let’s look at Kilchoman 16 Year Old first. It’s bottled at 50% abv and is peated to 50ppm. Twenty-one casks were chosen, mainly bourbon with a little bit of ex-oloroso sherry.
Appearance: Rich old gold/light amber. Old brass and tawny highlights. Tears initially swift for a peaty Islay whisky of this age then slower, more clingy in the glass and more widely spaced.
Nose: Floral and leafy notes at first. Some barley sweetness and medium smoke. Ripe melon; touch of light vine fruit (baked sultanas) as well as orange zest and slightly overripe apple juice. With water, still fresh for a 16 year old whisky.The smoke and orange softens. Some wood char; spent embers, still slightly smouldering. Some caramel sweetness; chocolate roasted barley; waxy. Soft oak spices and a dab of vanilla. All balanced and quite mellow.
Palate: Quite rich smoke and charred oak with some sweetness. Hints of varnish and licorice. Richly roasted barley and coffee ground bitterness. Not too mouth-drying.
Finish: Long, smoky, wood char and a waft of sweetness.
Despite it being far more peated and at higher strength (which I softened by addition of water, obviously), I did re-try the Octomore 14.2 from Bruichladdich first as it’s a younger whisky. On this second run of nosing, I still found it youthful and quite light though I tried it on its own and not with its two “siblings” this time. I also found a touch of chocolate as well as a slight resinous note. More overtly peaty than the frst time and no spice except a little touch of mace. On the palate, the slight flatness I found last time was gone and I put that down to trying it right after 14.1 last time. I got a little more sweetness from barley and rich maltiness than before and more smoke with a char aftertaste. Plenty of char and toasted barley in the finish. It is long, though still a shorter finish than 14.1 in my view. It’s a good whisky and I did like it but it wasn’t my favourite of the three sent to me. However, I’m sure there will be plenty of you out there who prefer this one or 14.3.
End of last week, I received samples of two casks which will be those used for the first malt whisky release distilled on Tiree by Ian and Alain at Tiree Whisky Company. The spirit still has some time to spend in cask and will also go through a marrying process but I’ll do the nosing and tasting of the samples for my end of year piece. Good news for Tiree is that they offered the first 400 bottles of their first release as a kind of en primeur some weeks ago and the offer sold out in an hour and a half! Great encouragement. There will be around 900 bottles in the first release when it’s ready in January 2025 and the remaining 500 or so bottles will be offered for sale at time of bottling.
Douglas Laing & Co. are getting in early for Chinese New Year. It will be the year of the Dragon and they have several new bottlings to celebrate the Wood Dragon in 2024. The offerings from their Exceptional Cask Releases are an Old Particular Craigellachie 10 Years Old, an XOP Bunnahabhain 35 Years Old and an XOP Carsebridge 46 Years Old.
Each bottling has been distilled in a previous ‘Year of the Dragon’ in 2012, 1988 & 1976 as follows:
Old Particular Craigellachie Single Cask Single Malt – Vintage 2012: Year of the Water Dragon
XOP Bunnahabhain Single Cask Single Malt – Vintage 1988: Year of the Earth Dragon
XOP Carsebridge Single Cask Single Grain – Vintage 1976: Year of the Fire Dragon
The other offering is a Cask Strength edition of Rock Island, finished in fiercely charred ‘Crocodile Casks’ is announced. It’s, “Packaged in a unique crocodile skin premium tube, with artwork from renowned Asian designer and tattoo-artist, Milkabean. RRP: £55.00 / 65.00 EUR.”
Their tasting notes are:
Experience ashy bonfire embers, grilled pineapple and soft peat smoke on the nose.
Anticipate waves of sea-salt, caramelised sugar and BBQ’d banana.
The finish has remnants of smoke with brown sugar, coconut and salted caramel.”
Sounds good to me but no sample this time. It’s usually a tasty dram so one to try if you usually like this range. It’s also not expensive.
News of another Douglas Laing offering arrived just too late for my last piece. It’s XOP Scallywag Tormore 35 Years Old limited-edition bottling. “As part of our 75th Anniversary celebrations, this spectacular bottling is one of 285 available globally and is presented in the signature XOP glass bottle and black suede gift box along with a certificate of authenticity.
Cara Laing, Director of Whisky commented: “This limited-edition Single Cask Single Malt is a celebration of time, skill and the artistry of whisky-making. A toast to luxury, a nod to tradition, and the perfect embodiment of our 75th Anniversary celebrations—this exceptional bottling is a testament to our commitment to excellence and one we are extremely proud to share.”
I was pleased to see them featuring Tormore here as its a brand I worked on years ago and it’s a delightful Speyside offering. If you get the right expression it’s great with chocolate cake or some chocolate desserts too. Their tasting notes are: “A sweet symphony of vanilla essence, decadent dark chocolate, and spiced oak on the nose. The palate delivers a velvety journey where juicy red berries dance alongside warming cinnamon spice and candied orange peel. The grand finale is marked by an elegant and enduring finish, leaving lingering hints of zesty orange and the indulgent essence of freshly baked fruitcake soaked in sherry.” That would do for me though the price is considerably higher than my current capabilities – retailing for £750.00/€866.00 on www.douglaslaing.com and in selected specialist retailers.
My last mention for this time is of Diageo partnering with world-renowned designer Philippe Starck as Creative Director for Mortlach single malt. I’m a big fan of much of Starck’s work in furniture and homeware design and we have a few pieces at home but found myself wondering what he and Mortlach were actually going to do together. What is the need here? The two quotes we have are:
“One of the most visionary contemporary creators, Philippe Starck, joins Mortlach as our true partner and we are proud to be the first Scotch whisky brand he has ever worked with. Together we will venture into creative new heights, reinventing what whisky will represent to a generation, reimagining and rebuilding the spirit of Mortlach.” – Pedro Mendonça, Diageo’s Global Reserve Managing Director
“Mortlach is the result of a scientific genius, Alexander Cowie. Since its creation, the brand has been inventing and exploring new territories, crafting whiskies that are incredibly rich without any gimmick or anything superfluous. This was a strong shock for me, as Mortlach clearly already belonged to the future. The evolution story of Mortlach takes a leap forward into modernity, with the elegance of nature and the magic of science at the service of humanity.” – Philippe Starck, Mortlach Creative Director.
Well, I have to say I’m no further forward as a result of reading these. I’m swithering towards pretension as both quotations are rather vague but I am intrigued so there’s a bit of excitement too. We’re told the MORTLACH x STARCK debut collection (of what – whiskies, accessories, events, other, all of these?) will be revealed in Spring 2024 so I’m certainly looking forward to finding out more.
I won’t be back till between Christmas and New Year so do enjoy the first part of the festive season (unless you’re in the U.S. and have already got Thanksgiving out of the way). See you later this month and have fun with your celebratory dramming.