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Nose: Strong peat and peat, but with WAY more going on. Here there is peat and earth for certain, but also smoke. The peat is a way darker tone then the McClelland’s and also much sharper on the nose. This is more of a dark green tone. I might also describe it as a bright baritone. There are floral and herbal notes floating in the background just out of reach: lavender? star of anis? chocolate? chili flakes? The smoke and peat do a wonderful dance moving in and out of frame. They are all on earthy and mossy tree notes. I could believe this to be young Lagavulin . . . but I would really bet Caol Ila. Simply fantastic nose both evocative, playful, rich and strong. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a bit of sherry cask involvement. Hard to believe it is all that at only 40%.
Taste: Sweet peat arrival followed by a hint of bitter smoke, almonds, and oak. Actually very woody the longer it lingers in your mouth. On the mouth . . . still Caol Ila in my book. Slightly more bitter (and sweet) then the McClelland’s.
Finish: Big peat fire . . . it takes a breath in and the lets you have it with a wave of peat and smoke. Fantastic! There are mossy logs here in this peat fire. It leaves your mouth more with ash and burnt tree limbs then sea salt. However, the sea isn’t far away. Totally ash-tray-mouth.
Complexity, Balance: I am certain this won’t hold up to further scrutiny against “real” south shore Islay bruisers . . . but today it really exceeds my expectations for complexity and balance. It was WAY more complex on the nose then I remember. However, that didn’t quite extend to the taste and finish. These were much more two dimensional then the evocative 3D nose. Still, the smoke, peat, and mossy earthen oak were nice. So big points for complexity tonight; off for balance
Aesthetic experience: I like the standard bottle shape. And I get the name and its history. Everything else is rubbish: 40%, cf, E-150a, that silly “gold medal” winner for who knows how long ago, and the Jim Murray quote from several years back. Well . . . I also like the price. The value for dollar can’t be beat in my peat-lover-book.
Conclusion: I usually pick up a bottle at Binny’s every time I visit my sister in Chicago (once a year). It was sold in the mid $20’s. Now it is up to $32.99! I would rather pick up Laphroaig 10yo for only $7 more! I also think that they change their distillery source from batch to batch. I am convinced I have had a batch that tasted like Laphroaig. However, my last two or three bottle I am convinced were Caol Ila.