Monday, June 07, 2010

Tasting Notes

Kilchoman was a good introduction to Islay Scotch. The distillery was founded founded in 2005 - the other seven distilleries on the island have been making Scotch for over a century. Kilchoman are also the smallest distillery on Islay, so you won't find their whiskies in Duty Free. Referred to as a 'farm distillery', Kilchoman uses locally sourced barley rather than importing it from Scotland.

Despite their limited time in barrels, their "Spring" and "Autumn" bottlings were fruity more than smokey, and subtly different. the Autumn is long since sold out, but their next Spring will be worth hunting down. (

The next distillery on the tour was Bruichladdich ( Founded in 1881, the distillery has had a checkered past, closing several times, most recently from 1994 to 2000. The distillery has been refurbished, and the Victorian buildings have been transformed from dingy warehouses to a freshly painted showcase distillery.

And the Scotch? Their range is vast (amazingly so for what is still a small distillery by world standards) so we only got to try a few varieties. My favourite was the 17 year-old Rum Cask. We also tried 'Octomore', named after a local farm. Several distilleries claim that their whiskies are the smokiest, but Octomore would have to be the smokiest by far. I didn't like it, the impression wan't of barley gently smoked in a peat kiln as much as burning tyres and bitumen. I needed some more of the 17 y.o. afterwards to recover! Sorry guys, it's just not for me.

Although we stayed in the town of Bowmore, we didn't get to tour the distillery itself ( Tastings were conducted at the local pub, and may have gotten a little out of hand. We certainly weren't taking notes! The lucky few who stayed in Bowmore Distillery's cottages received a complimentary bottle of 12 year old! Quite a few brain cells were sacrificed to the cause in Bowmore, but I do remember the 18 year old making me very happy.

The south coast of Islay has a string of three distilleries - Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. Unfortunately Lagavulin wasn't open on a Sunday, but Ardbeg ( opened to show us around, and entertain us afterwards in their shop. Their whiskies were some of my favourite on the tour. Uigeadail was my overall favourite, not just smokey but spicey as well. Corryvreckan was another standout, sadly now sold out.

Last on the tour was one of the largest Islay distilleries, Laphroaig ( I ended up joining the "Friends of Laphroaig" club, mostly to get a few freebies, but they also issue all members with their own square foot of Islay. If I go back, I can pace out the paddock over the road and plant a flag!

Some intrepid Kiwi's been there ahead of me though... As for the whiskies - 18 year old was my favourite.

And so ended the tour of Islay. I'd love to go back one day, plant my flag and 'bag' the other distilleries, and would recommend a visit to the island to anyone who likes their holidays off the beaten track, and a bit wild and quirky.


Post a Comment

<< Home