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I had tried a few readily available Highland and Speyside malts before this one. The prompt to buy and try was sparked by overwhelming reviews I had read of this bottling, so even though I had never ventured to Islay world, I bought a bottle to further explore.
That evening, when I popped the cork, I thought I had quite possibly made a mistake as the huge peat smoke, iodine, etc. filled the air. As I recall, I just sat back and stared at the bottle, hesitant, for a minute or two. Then I thought, "Well, if it is truly awful, the reviews wouldn't be so high." I then proceeded to pour a small glass of this whisky and let it settle for a bit, nosing it every once in awhile, picking apart the smells.
Now it was time for the tasting. I picked up the glass and, slowly, let an appropriate amount enter my mouth and dance around my tongue. The result: "Wow. That's pretty...oh wowwww! That's really good!" This masterful stuff was bold, extremely flavorful, complex, rich, and commanded every ounce of my attention to savor it.
Even though this is an old review of my first Islay bottling, I can say this is still the best Islay I've had to date (others include various Ardbeg expressions, other Laphroaig expressions, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Bowmore, etc.). This is the king of all whisky.
A Few Thoughts:
I have heard of making the jump to Islay by way of any of the big three--Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg--to be a highly probable tasting tragedy for the inexperienced (particularly this bottling!). However, I guess I was lucky that my taste buds were secretly looking forward to this kind of dram for a long time. So, if you are a person who likes rich food, dark beer, dry wine, etc, and are inexperienced with Islay whisky, just go for it, I don't think it will ruin you.