Isle of Raasay, Label 5 Single Grain, Bladnoch and Kilchoman Loch Gorm on Taste; More Feis Ile Bottlings

Hello everyone

A bit of a delay this time as I‘ve been agonising over the whisky matches for my Feis Ile dinner menu for ages. Usual stress!

A clutch of things to taste arrived all in the same week. The promised sample of Cu Bocan #6 arrived a little late and there‘s already enough in this piece so I‘m holding it over till next time which is very end of this month.

First of all, the Islay of Raasay Selfridge‘s Exclusive (58.3%). This one has been matured in ex-PX sherry casks and it‘s a cutie. Selfridge‘s customers are in for a treat. Owner Alasdair Day tells me it‘s around 5 years old and, in my view, they‘ve packed a fair bit into it.

Appearance: Glowing amber with marmalade and orange wine highlights. Tears initially swift and close then slower and much stickier.

Nose: Soft smoke, some citrus zest; light dried fruits (the PX is not overwhelming) and dried apricot; some sea salt air; hint of peanut, sweet spices and oak. Wth water, creamier with a touch of leather and some green herbaceous notes; glace fruits and milk chocolate covered toffee/fudge.

Palate: Distinctly smoky (more than on nose); spicy and peppery with some tar/creosote and rich maltiness. Salty and sweet with a hint of leather glove (surely you‘ve used your teeth before to get gloves off?) and a bit vegetal on the first intake of air.

Finish: Long, smoky and peppery with a lingering sweetness and malt plus a dab of creosote.

Sadly this isn‘t going to be available to many of us – Selfridge‘s customers only. I‘m told the first delivery sold out but more stock was sent and there was still some in store end of last week. So if you‘re in London, you know where to go – if there’s any left. Maybe check that first.

Next up is Label 5 Single Grain Bourbon Barrel Scotch Whisky which comes in at 40% abv and fully matured for over three years in first fill bourbon wood. I was really looking forward to this one having had other samples of Stephen Woodward‘s blending talents in this last year. Did it live up to expectation?

Appearance: Warm, rich amber with caramelised orange highlights. Tears sticky and close then swifter and farther apart.

Nose: Demerara sugar from bottle. In glass, same brown sugar and a nice freshness. Sweet with a touch of candyfloss. A little orange oil and orchard fruit. Some oak wood.

With water, an increase in sugar and wood sweetness. More vanilla and a little waxiness. Light floral and a little earthiness. Overall, not hugely complex but very pleasant.

Palate: Some viscosity in the mouth. There‘s less on the palate than I got on the nose. Some wood tannins, sweetness, light fruit and a little bit of marzipan.

Finish: Sweet notes but dry with some oak astringency at the end and a touch of grassiness.

I think I can guess which part of the market is targeted here and don‘t think it‘s me. I reckon this will appeal more to novices and first time whisky drinkers and will be a great base for cocktails. It‘s quite a summery drink on its own, I think. Their information recommends on the rocks or in an Old Fashioned or with cola. It‘s available in the UK at 191 Asda stores at £20 per bottle. No mention of other markets, though Label 5 blended whisky is a big seller in certain EU markets. I‘d like to try this with more age on it and hope they‘re thinking about an older version if this establishes itself well enough.

The people at Kilchoman have been busy again with the launch of their Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2024 expression (and there‘s another new one coming soon with a sample on its way to me). This one is 46% abv and maturation is oloroso sherry butts, Distillation year 2014. Price around £80 – £85.

Appearance: Ripe, rich barley gold with brass highlights. Tears slow to form initially (Islay peaty oiliness) then faster and close together.

Nose: Salt sea air; some slight sulphur; lychee; not overtly smoky from the glass (more so from the bottle but still light); vegetal notes; white pepper and a fresh, grassy sweetness. Maybe even a touch of beetroot juice earthiness! As it sits, more wood notes develop and an almost sandalwood spiciness. With water, some soft smoke,; warm butter; light golden syrup and coffee grounds/dark chocolate.

Palate: Definitely smoky and peaty here; sweet maltiness and a slight yeast note; soft spices of clove and ginger; liquorice; oak and char. Some astringency.

Finish: Long with soft – medium smoke; sweet malt and liquorice; touch of wood char. Dry with oak tannins at the very end.

I‘ve rather taken to the Loch Gorm expressions and quite enjoyed this one too.

Two Bladnochs arrived and this column is already busy so I‘m going to include only my preference here which is Bladnoch Single Cask 2024/05 bottled at 49.9% abv. It was distilled in 2006 and matured in a sherry butt cask and is limited to 660 bottles. UK price is around £160 per bottle. Don’t be confused by the larger numbers in the photograph. It was distilled in 2006, as mentioned above and bottled in 2024. The smaller lettering shows it is 2024/05 from this collection.

Appearance: Bright, rich barley gold with highlights like an aged white Burgundy.

Nose: Quite light and fresh at first for a sherry maturation of this length; some florals; fruity; pear juice and a touch of custard. With water, some initial varnish notes; flatter at first then opens out to stewed fruit and custard again. Some vanilla and caramelised sugar; baked honey. Left in the glass, more baked honey and vine fruit with spices and coffee grounds.

Palate: Medium mouthfeel and very drying. Nice malty, grain sweetness; liquorice; oak tannins and pear skins with a little bit of smokiness plus some chocolate and warm spices.

Finish: Dry, herbal, liquorice and quite long.

Last mention this time goes to more Feis Ile bottlings announced since my last column here. Bruichladdich have both a Bruichladdich and a Port Charlotte on offer and pre-order bottles are already sold out. Some are still available at the distillery for sale on their Feis day. I‘m certainly hoping to get my sticky mitts on the Bruichladdich Rock‘ndaal 03.1. I find the maturation of it really enticing,  „…the spirit began its maturation life in quality bourbon casks. It was then recasked into a specific combination of Sauternes casks (12.5%), Austrian dessert wine casks (12.5%) and ex-brandy casks from Fernando de Castilla, Spain, which previously held Pedro Ximenez Sherry (75%)“. Yum! It‘s bottled at 50% abv and using 100% Scottish barley. Price is £100.The Port Charlotte Rock’ndaal 03.2. is a distillery first as the 20 Year Old heavily peated is the oldest expression of Port Charlotte to be released to date. This one is bottled at 54% abv and was matured 70% in bourbon wood and 30% in first fill Sauternes casks and priced at £225.

Lagavulin and Caol Ila have also recently announced and their Feis bottlings are two Lagavulins and one Caol Ila:

Lagavulin Skies of Fèis Ìle 29-Year Old: from a heavily charred Amoroso-seasoned American Oak hogshead cask. Limited bottling.

Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2024 10-Year-Old: An extra-heavily-peated flavour journey. Created by using malt with higher peating levels than usual and matured in refill, heavily charred and first fill ex-bourbon American oak hogshead casks.

Caol Ila Fèis Ìle 2024 13-Year-Old: “Bonfire peat from Caol Ila, resulting from a finish in ex-Ruby Port French Oak casks sourced from the Douro Valley in Portugal.”

We‘re told, All three bottlings will be available for purchase during the festival on a first come, first serve basis starting from their respective festival days – Lagavulin on the 25th May and Caol Ila on the 27thMay.Caol Ila is always an interesting dram but there’s an unpeated one to come later on which I’m waiting for. I do like unpeated Caol Ila and it’s a while since I got to try one.

So that‘s it for now. I‘ll be writing my end of month column on the ferry home after this year‘s Feis dinner. It will include my report on that as well as the Cu Bocan #6 tasting note.

Till then, happy dramming.




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