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"The heath waves wild upon her hills, Her foaming frae the fells, Her fountains sing o' freedom still, As they dance down the dells. And weel I loe the land, my lads, That's girded by the sea. Then Scotland's vales, and Scotland's dales, And Scotland's hills for me; I'll drink a cup to Scotland yet, Wi a' the honours three!" - Henry Scott Riddell
Color: between honey and maple syrup.
Nose: I couldn't resist taking a deep breath from the bottle before I even poured a glass. The aromas reminded me of smoked salmon with something sweet in the background (my wife identified it as barbecue). Pouring it into the glass surprised me. The trademark Islay smokiness was much mellower than the Laphroaig. In fact, this strikes me as shockingly floral. There again is the barbecue my wife noted. This is meatier than the scent of salmon I first picked up in the bottle. Like an applewood-smoked brisket or candied bacon with brown sugar and praline pecans. There's a little peat in there too of course, but very light and subtle. This is a wonderfully balanced nose. Water makes it even sweeter. Vanilla and orange blossoms appear. Might this be the perfect nose?
Body: full, smooth, and luxurious.
Palate: Gloriously delivers on the nose. Charred sweets, like biting into a burnt marshmallow. Honey roasted peanuts. The candied bacon memory is very vivid now -- crispy, nut-and-sugar-coated bacon. I taste wood, but always sweet, like tasting the perfect barbecue sauce with a wooden spoon. This has nothing of the medicinal quality I expected. Again, the peat is present, but by no means overwhelming. The alcohol never burns the tongue. A little bit of water brings out hints of caramel, cocoa, and coffee.
Finish: Long, warm, and here the powerful blast of smoke finally delivers. Billows of dark, campfire smoke drift through my mouth and nasal passages, but maple and brown sugar linger on the tongue forever.
This is my Christmas Eve toast to Scotland.
I hesitate to give any Scotch a perfect score, given the enormous gap in my experience, but damn if this doesn't come close. An Islay malt for the rest of us, with sweet, sugary goodness in every smokey sip. A perfect balance between the sweet and the peat. It really is too bad this goes for $95 (a painful hit to my teacher's salary), because I could drink this forever. Every human being deserves to drink this at least once, so get on with it!