Well, I’m not totally sure Whisky Deathmatch has been particularly useful to my career, but I certainly enjoyed the tastings and, ignorant though I remain, I feel I’ve learned a great deal from the experience of comparing whiskies against each other. Plus I’m a massive fan of colons in titles, so coming your way over the next few months shall be the thrilling sequel to Whisky Deathmatch…
Whisky Deathmatch: Islay Blood Feud
Dangerous sounding, huh? I started last time thinking I like the cleaner, fresher whiskies more, and hence had two lowlands and five speysides in my dozen, but I ended up being more excited by the smoky and savoury options, and my winner was the Mad Sorcerer of Islay, Ardbeg Corryvreckan. I felt there’s a degree to which sweet and clean whiskies are all somewhat alike, whereas the peaty seem somehow more varied. So I thought this time around, you know what, let’s concentrate on Islay, and try and get at least one option from each of the significant distilleries on this home of the peaty. It’s a small island, but it looms large in the whisky world, that’s for sure. Stepping into the arena we’ve got:
Ardbeg Uigeadail – another cask strength beastie from Ardbeg, a little lower down their range from Corryvreckan, and with some sherry-wood in the mix, so probably a little sweeter and less crazy than last time’s champion.
Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition – a distillery known for smoke, their standard 16 yo is a favourite of mine already, but some sherry sweetness in this special edition.
Laphroaig Triple Wood – Prince Charles’ favourite distillery, but I’m not holding that against them. This is a new expression from masters of the medicinal Laphroaig, again with some sherry wood in there to calm the mighty smokes, and a chunky 48% bottling.
Bruichladdich Laddie 16 – Bruichladdich has one of the biggest and most experimental ranges of any distillery. Their classic expression is light on the peat, heavy on the character, and comes in 10, 16, and 22 year old ages. This is the 16.
Bunnahabhain 18 – A lesser known Islay distillery whose core eighteen year old is again light on the peat smoke.
Octomore 5.1 – Little bit special this, the fifth batch of Bruichladdich’s ultra-peated, 5 year aged, 59.5% experiment, supposedly the peatiest whisky known to man.
Then we’ve got two boxed sets of three 20cl bottles from smoke-meisters Caol Ila and Bowmore, that I’ll compare against each other before we get started. The Bowmore has a 12yo, 15yo Darkest (with some sherry wood in there) and 18yo. The Caol Ila has a 12yo, a 12yo Cask Strength, and an 18yo.
Finally, leaving Islay for a couple of further flung curiosities that I’d heard good things about:
Amrut Fusion - coming all the way from India, a much-praised mixture of Himalayan and peated Scottish barley.
Yellow Spot - and whiskEy from Ireland, triple distilled in a traditional Pot Still then matured for 12 years in three different barrels.
I’ve already had a little taste (in some cases a bit more than that) of all these and I can tell you we’ve got some mouth-watering matches in prospect. First off I’ll decide which is my favourite of the Caol Ila and Bowmore bottles, then we’ll have 5 first round matches. Five winners and one wildcard will compete in 3 second round matches, and 3 winners and one wildcard will make our semi-final four. I may simplify my approach a little bit, as well, we shall see how we do…