My go to whisky is always a dram from Islay…the peat, the smoke, the frothy sea brine. Something about that first true love stays with you, doesn’t it!
I have the good fortune to lead an annual whisky tasting sponsored by an up and coming financial firm at the Union Club in downtown Boston. Under the golden dome of the state house, the Union Club dates itself to the Civil War. Born out of Union patriotism, the club has survived these one hundred fifty years plus by embracing its rich history as well as by staying current with the times. An exquisitely appropriate venue for a whisky tasting.
I wonder what whisky was served in the 1860s? Perhaps some research is due, but for now lets focus on the whisky tasting at hand! Yes, the theme this year was Islay only Islay, which included four bottles that would showcase the range of styles, taste, and the heavenly peat.
Twenty-five guests/clients, give or take a few, started the evening with a full compliment of hor d’oeurves and beverages. Once the festivities began, two bottles of each of the four Islay beauties were opened and ready to go. There would be generous pours and drams to come back to at the end of the evening, no bottle would be left for the heel slayers.
First up was the Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Edition, bottled this year. At 50% alcohol, it is lightly peated and fruity at the same time. Guests were enthused and comments ranged from “I found hints of Armagnac” to “sneaks up on you” and finishing with “made my insides tingle.” Hell, who doesn’t like tingling!
More warm hor d’oeuvres were passed to cleanse the palates and the room was anxious to keep the tasting going.
Number two shifted gears a tad with the 200th year anniversary Lagavulin 8 YO, 48%. While for us Lagavulin 16 YO lovers, there is no parallel, many have not had the pleasure of the Lagavulin experience. One guest nailed it on the head when he said of the 8 YO, “a different bite.” It was found to be “enjoyable but not distinctive.”
It was time to bring on the big boy of the night…The Octomore 7.4 bottled 61.2% by Bruichladdich at 167ppm, a peat level not for the weak at heart. By now the guests were relaxed and snippets of buzzing floated through the air. After the first taste, the change in room was immediate. The big boy was making a statement. As is my style when in a large gathering, I walked the room and talked with the small clusters of guests. The comments ranged from “too big for me” to “couldn’t feel the roof of my mouth but in a good way” to “the real deal.” Surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly was one outlier comment – “drank like a bourbon and honey.” What? Hey, everyone has their own sense of taste. Love it.
To renew the palates, we finished the evening with the consistent Bowmore 18 YO, 43%. The Bowmore takes the peat down quite a few notches and soothed the rush from the Octomore. A gentle but effective massage. A classic Bowmore.
Hmmm. My ranking of these Islay: Top – the Octomore, the guests’ clear winner as well, followed by the Kilchoman and Bowmore – different but both very drinkable, lastly the Lagavulin – somewhat disappointing, not that I would refuse a dram.
Another night at the Union Club complete…the first of three starkly different tastings to be held within a week. Suffer as I must, and on to tasting number two coming soon to a dramgoodwhiskylady blog.
I raise a glass to Islay…always in my heart and most often in my glass!
Psst….my book Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations is still for sale through amazon.com. Christmas is coming and this is indeed a blatant sales pitch.