The better half has just finished taking two dozen German gardening journalists and peat enthusiasts (!) around various topical attractions in Scotland. This included a whisky tasting where the peat enthusiasts, but whisky beginners, got the opportunity to taste the difference peat smoke makes to a whisky.
Let's hope they persist in their whisky adventure. Should they in time develop a liking for peaty whisky then perhaps they might want to try the following. The list of course is far from exhaustive and choosing a numero uno is nigh impossible. But as Gaelic lexicographer Edward Dwelly said at the beginning of his 1911 dictionary, "Se obair là toiseachadh, se obair beatha criochnachadh" - Beginning is a day's work, finishing takes a lifetime.
Here we go...
- Laphroaig 10 - the standard Laphroaig and one to be found in almost all supermarkets. Despite its rather Presbyterian 40% abv, there's no doubting the quality of this dram.
- Ardbeg 10 - this lip smacker at 46% used to be found in the supermarkets but its owner, a certain Mr Louis Vuitton , is playing funny buggers with its availability and price - more on this another day. Should you see it at around the £30 mark, go for it.
- Bunnahabhain Toiteach - tasted this at the Whisky Fringe and was bowled over. Not the usual for this distillery but this one has a fat and full peaty palate, oily texture and a finish longer than a Hibs FC losing streak in the Scottish Cup. 46% abv.
- Laphroaig 18 - One of the best activities in the world must be to get the Post Bus to Ardbeg and walk back to Port Ellen, visiting the 3 southern Islay distilleries at roughly one per mile. This I did last year and upon entering Laphroaig was asked in a native Ileach accent, 'What'll you have?'. I was recommended the 18yo which had only come out the previous week. I bought it at the low price of £42 - not sure why but its now £60+ in the shops. 48% of peaty warmth with chocolate and toffee and yon hint of Laphroaig medicine.
- Laphroaig Càirdeas 2010 - limited edition at a reasonable £45 from Friends of Laphroaig. Spicy and dry with a creel full of peat.
- Ardmore SMWS 66.21 - "I can't believe its not Islay". Great title. It kicks up a whirlwind of molasses and smoke on the tongue. 21 yo and cask strength. Sadly, its all gone...
- Caol Ila SMWS 53.131 - "Turbuso humo". Coming in at a whopping 67.9% you might expect this to be made by Belgian monks. Coal, chilli and barbecued haloumi. More peat than Barvas moor. Fantastic stuff.
- Ardbeg SMWS 33.83 - "Oh, for the joys of a long winter night". A low alcohol CS compared to the above. Murray mints rolled in coal dust and given a good sucking while wandering around the peat-infused air of an Uig township - say Bhaltos or Cnip.
- The Ileach Cask Strength - a Leipziger whisky connoisseur first mentioned this to my partner some years ago. I bought my second bottle in Pitlochry, see previous post, for around £30. Its 58% and reputed to be a Lagavulin. Need I say more?
- Ardbeg - Airigh nam Beist, Uigedail, Renaissance
- Caol Ila - Distiller's Edition
- Talisker 57 North - the best Talisker I've tried
- Springbank 10
- Bladnoch 8yo Lightly Peated
- Benriach Curiositas
- Bruichlaiddich - Infinity, Port Sgioba
- Lagavulin - 16yo, Distiller's Edition, 12yo CS - a house without one of these is sad hoose indeed
Some to avoid buying or at least blag a dram of...
- Ardbeg SMWS - "A dirty dram for Mary Poppins", the label states that its like 'licking an ashtray' and its not wrong. Not pleasant either.
- Benromach Peat Smoke - not unpleasant but it just doesn't have the depth or finish.
- Smokehead - not bad but lacking in something... body, depth and finish perhaps?
- Port Ellen - hmmmm.... its obviously the closed distillery status that creates the interest here but on the occasions I've tried a PE, I've been underwhelmed. I certainly wouldn't be inspired to part with £130+ for a bottle.