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Finlaggan Old Reserve

Average score from 5 reviews and 14 ratings 77

Finlaggan Old Reserve

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Finlaggan Old Reserve

I already tried the Finlaggan Original Peaty and the Cask Strength version, but this Old Reserve is new to me. The contents of this single malt are subject of debate. One swears it is Lagavulin, the other believes it to be Caol Ila while a third tries to convince me it is a Laphroaig. Well, we all agree it is an Ileach.

The nose is young and powerful and immediately offers a grand smokiness from the peat. Reminds me a bit of chili peppers on the barbecue (which I can recommend, by the way). Loads of earth and subtle honey. A bit of lime zest. Hint of pears and anise. Touch of plasticine. I love it already.

Darn! So watery on the palate! Luckily it is tasteful. Again immediately peaty and smoky, but less than on the nose. This gives the honey and pears more room. It even turns quite sweet after the peat subsides somewhat. I get a nice hint of salted peanuts, which I find quite funny.

The finish is medium long on bittersweet notes, honey and smoke.

Quite a good whisky for such a ridiculously low price, but it could do with a bit more body. Thanks Pat! (PS. I believe this to be a young Lagavulin).


Finlaggan Old Reserve had peat written all over it. Even to a point, where it got a bit one-sided. Especially the nose was a bit dull, even though it was strong.

It's actually quite rare for a peaty whisky to get only 20 points from me but this one I had to give such "low score".

Finlaggan's source has been a guarded secret but it has to be something young from Islay. Lagavulin or Laphroaig perhaps, because of the iodine feel?

Finlaggan Old Reserve is definitely The Sorcerer's Apprentice. There's been some magic waiting to happen that of course, didn't happen because the "training period" (=maturing) ended too quickly.

Nose: First there was hints of not so nice ashtray that turned into nice burnt coal but then it got strongly peaty and stayed that way. Peat and once again peat!

Taste: Earthly and peaty with some iodine effect in the mix. Sweet stuff with some oaky hue.

Finish: Surprisingly short. Sweet peat flashes by with some hints of dry oak.

Balance: Feels young and just like a prototype of some finer peaty whisky. But because it's peaty, I still like it...as far as I can remember, so far only one peaty whisky has had under 80 points from me (Kilchoman Machir Bay). So it's an easy task to win in my book, if you're manufacturing peaty stuff.

I have to admit that I did "tackle" my first glass of Finlaggan quicker than you should so here's a great review by Ralfy. He got more from Finlaggan with patience. I'm glad I still have little bit left, so I can continue with Finlaggan perhaps on the weekend...


I'd still pick this over any blend with the same pricetag. Great when you want to introduce peat to a new whiskydrinker without spilling your precious malts on someone who doesnt like peat anyway. Have you tried the original peaty as well?


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.

I found this to be a very interesting drop and I have to wonder if the average rating would shoot up if the distillery was known. My bet is that this is a very well known spirit with the difference being in the casks and maturing (or less of).


The Finlaggan Old reserve is a single malt from Islay from the Vintage Malt Whisky Co (independent bottler). We know it is from Islay, but the actual distillery is kept as a mystery. Some people says it is Lagavulin, others says it is Caol Ila or Laphroaig. It is a no age statement malt and from the tasting I did, it is very young (under ten, maybe six!). Since the youngest Lagavulin I have tasted is a 16 years old, I really don't know how a young Lagavulin should taste. So I won't try to guess from which distillery it comes from.

Nose: Peated and peatier ! It is from Islay and it is young, no mystery here! It is a greenish peat with some rubber and coal in it. After the nose get used to the peat and the smoke, I identified some fruits (pears?) and a sugary note that reminds me of spiced honey.

Palate: Peated a lot ! taste less young than the nose, but the big peat shows the lack of maturation. fruits and honey starts to show off after a few seconds

Finale: medium short, but the peat is so present, that you think it is longer.

It is a very nice big peated malt for a very affordable price (I paid 35 US$). For all Islay fans out there that want a cheap peated everyday dram, it is a good choice, but the complexity of older peated malts is not there.

I suspect that there are more than one mystery distilleries. That Finlagggan is bottle young surplus whisky from a few different distilleries. I've tried a couple of bottles and I am certain that what I was drinking was Bowmore. Indeed, it was almost identical to Bowmore Legend.


This is a bit of a stealth whisky and hard to find. I have never seen it on the East Coast of the United States and the only place one seems to be able to buy it elsewhere is at the Trader Joes grocery store chain in California where it goes for around $US 20. It is rumored to be made by an Islay distillery and then bottled by Finlaggan. I don't have enough experience with Islay malts to tell which distillery might make it.

The finish fades rather quickly with some lingering smoke and leaves the mouth a bit tingly. It is not very well balanced or complex and is rather harsh. I found that the longer I leave it out, it develops a very subtle sweetness which complements the strong smoke flavour.

I have tried a few other Islay whiskies which were quite a bit better than this but cost quite a bit more. I much prefer this to the McClellands Islay which costs about the same. I would recommend this overall, especially to someone wanting to experiment with Islays on a budget. Still, one should realize it has its limitations and bottlings may vary greatly since it might be made by a different distillery

My understanding is that this is a young (5-6 year old) Lagavulin.

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