Happy Birthday Mum! Today is her 69th birthday, and before we head out to see her (and while Pam naps after cooking all morning), let's celebrate her Scottish heritage with this limited expression, available in Travel Retail only (I picked it up on my way back from Boston last fall).
The Island Green is a variant of their excellent 15 Year Old Green Label blended malt; the differences are that it is NAS, and it emphasizes Caol Ila over the other malts within (Cardhu, Clynelish and Glenkinchie (though there may be more, I don't know).
The colour is a yellowish gold. No surprise we get crisp malt on the nose, but it's also exceptionally fruity with green banana, papaya, lime pith and raspberry. Coastal peat wafts throughout. Slightly medicinal. Vanilla pods. Quite herbal with mint and sage. Water works brilliantly, bringing out more smoke with sardine (good to see you, Caol Ila). The nose is a perfect balance of fruit and smoke, with a lot of character.
That balance is retained on the palate, with kumquat, strawberry cream, key lime pie, more vanilla and a slight touch of caramel. Oily mouthfeel. The peat is more restrained this time, but reminiscent of smoked fish (Pam woke up, nosed it and gets Trinidadian saltfish). Maltier with water. It's very easy drinking, but could use a bit more spice.
The finish is candle wax, prickly peat, white pepper and very lightly toasted oak. I am generally a fan of the Johnnie Walker brand (except for the bile-inducing Red) and one thing they do very well is balancing peat smoke, which is done exceptionally here. While overall I think it could use a bit more oomph, this is lovely stuff and might make a nice introduction to peat for someone who really hates the bombast of most Islays. I kind of wish it weren't called Island Green - to me this invokes the tropics, when really the messaging is "It's a blended malt like Green, but with a lot of Island malt." By the way, how does it compare to the 15 Year Old Green (thanks @Nozinan for the wee sample)? While the 15 Year Old dials down the peat, it is a heavier whisky with more body and spice, especially on the finish (where the quieter smoke becomes more forward). If you come across it at the airport, grab it.