Caol Ila 16yo 1977/1993 (58.6%, Cadenhead)

Almost a month ago I reviewed one of those beautiful tall green glass Cadenheads bottles. A Dufftown to be precise. But there were more of those on these pages. I remember a Tormore and a Pulteney. In the dungeons I found another one of those! So today it is time to do another one from the same series. I guess I have a soft spot for them. This time a Caol Ila from 1977 that they already decided to bottle in 1993.

Color: Gold

Nose: Ahhhh, nice creamy peat. Very vegetal and coastal and slightly fishy. Salty fish. It is sea spray in heavy winds. Very clean and warming. Not very animalesk as they (and I) tend to say. It does have a lot of peat but still I wouldn’t say that it is in your face peat. Tar, not so much, but I do get some rubber. Some cold dry smoked tea leaves (Lapsang Souchong). Lots of smoke actually and extremely nice salty driftwood that finishes off in toned down Coleman’s mustard powder. Classic Islay.

Taste: Very smoky attack and half sweet (perfect sweetness). Meaty, roasted pork maybe. It comes across as powdery and slightly soapy. Fruity, hints of peach and banana. Here the sweetness seems to me to be a little wild, animalesk. The taste is very typical for a Caol Ila. This was recognizable blind. This has a nice full body with a perfect sweetness (slightly acidic) that matches the toned down peat a lot, combined with the smoke…a winner. Macaroons (made with almonds) and a slightly bitter finish (from the wood) and overall a tad too simple for a score into the 90’s.

Well if you like your Islay Whisky smoky, that this is for you. It may look like something different but actually this is very smoky, very very smoky. The smoke is able to push the peat to the background. Last piece of advice, give it some time to breathe…

Points: 88

Cragganmore 18yo 1993/2011 (55.3%, Duncan Taylor, Sherry Cask #1385, 494 bottles)

Cragganmore is next. This one was cracked open on the last day of 2012. First of all some funny business about this one. When we opened it late at night (with artificial light) it seemed red, just like a lemonade. Second it smelled like a lemonade too, very sour. It started out as a Bourbon smell. The taste was even worse, ultimate sourness. Erik, it’s owner was already on his way to pour this one into the sink. I didn’t like it either that evening. Luckily I was able to save it and take it home with me. Today I have the chance to give this another go. First of all, I can look at this by daylight and I can’t see the red lemonade anymore. It has this orange brown color most Bourbons have.

Color: Orange Brown.

Nose: Lots of wood and some acetone. Perfumy varnished wood and spicy. Seems dry. Dark chocolate and toffee. The whole should smell like a Sherry bomb, but actually this smells like a Rye Whiskey. As much as I didn’t like this last year, it’s great now. What have I done then to ruin my palate that much? After some airing, the sherry notes trickle through, as do the vanilla and fresh, somewhat soapy notes. It’s pretty good! Wow, what an experience.

Taste: Thick, sweet Sherry and wood. Dark oaky chocolate. Its great. It’s the wood without the bitterness and it’s not overly dry. Just right. Utter balance. What nice stuff. Old fatty smoke, coal fire. Near the end, and  into the slightly bitter and woody finish, some small hints of red and black fruits, accompany the coal and maybe a hint of a well-known brown soft-drink to make this a special dram.

Well, that’s why on the last day of the year I do not bring my little black note-book with me. Strange things can happen, and now I have the proof to show it. This Cragganmore is excellent Whisky, or Whiskey, or Rhum or Bourbon…no doubt about it? Thumbs up!

Points: 90

Thanx Erik for the sample!

Ardmore 17yo 1993/2010 (56.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, First Fill Bourbon Barrel #5747, 244 bottles)

Let’s do another Ardmore and compare it to the day before yesterday’s offering by The Whiskyman. We all know that 1992 is somewhat of a good vintage for Ardmore. So let’s see what happened in the distillery a year later. This 1993 was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail and they were so kind to do that for Van Wees of The Netherlands.

Color: Gold

Nose: The same meaty, slightly peaty nose as The Whiskyman’s offering. Nice soap with green apples and other fruits. Leather. Dryer and more powdery. A little more wood too.

Taste: Great fruity sweet start, more ashy. Somewhat less complex and a tad more sourness from the wood. Same kind of peat. The peat itself is more chewy and more farmy. Toffee. Some mint in this one too. Rare black fruits in the drier and warming finish, but overall, a little less impressive than yesterday’s Ardmore.

This is an Ardmore, no doubt about it. Just nose it and you’ll smell the family resemblance to The Ardmore bottled by the Whiskyman. It’s from another year, but the nose is quite similar. In the taste department it’s a bit less balanced, but still has a lot going for it. I’m always a sucker for those black fruits in the finish. Like old style Bowmore for instance.

These 90’s Ardmore’s seem to me to be the Brora’s of the modern age. Great stuff. Recommended. I definitively have to look into Ardmore some more. So hopefully to be continued.

Points: 87