Both of todays distilleries typically count towards the “lightly peated” Islay Whiskies but also that seems to vary. At least with Bunnahabhain I’ve also had a heavily peated Whisky once. I think I know both distilleries quite well and do like them but don’t really have a favorite or think that one of them is especially amazing. Maybe that will change today. Let’s see what we’ve got…
Adelphi Bowmore 1997 20YO (56,3%): Adelphi is pretty much known for their Sherry casks (I think) and this is no different. The Whisky comes from a single cask that resulted in 601 bottles, a huge butt alas. Nose: A little alcoholic but time does help here. Then there’s plenty of Sherry in the form of pepper, leather, dried plums, dried tomatoes, something close to tobasco, grilled fish, salty scents and a wee bit of the lavender that I am so fond of with Bowmore. The attack is rather sharp but I don’t find it excessively alcoholic now. It’s rather spicy with the pepper/ tobasco notes, sunflower oil, pumpkin seeds, plums, garlic and grilled fish again, leather-y notes, salmiac and a herbal touch towards the end. Not bad but as I’ve said, the alcohol could be integrated a bit more nicely and with Bowmore I am constantly looking for more lavender. There’s some, but I want more ;). Finish: Medium long and spicy with peppers, pepper, nutmeg and quite some wood. A difficult one to grade, but I think this score seems about right to me. (84/100)
Slowdrink Sailing Seagull (Bowmore Cuvée) (50,4%): This one supposedly contains Whiskies dating back into the 1960s with quite a large share of 1990s in them. It contains a mix of Sherry, Bourbon and Rum casks. Anyway, the bottler’s Crois Chill Daltain II (Ardbeg) was and still is one of the greatest Whiskies I’ve ever had. I didn’t score it but it would go into the high 90s. I am hoping for more or less that with this one. Nose: Just lovely. Incredibly sweet with mild red peppers, parsley, garlic, overripe mango, salty fish, grenadine, leather, different types of high grasses, caramelised honey, jasmine, lavender, peaches and oranges, blackcurrant and a hint of citrus. Actually we could go on and on, there is just soo much to discover. Palate: Not as sweet as the nose but incredibly soft, almost watery (in the good and bad sense). The texture is very creamy but doesn’t feel very heavy. I think that’s a good sign actually. Spices (seasoning mix), seaweed, kimchi, lavender, BBQ or campfire smoke, seabuckthorn, mango and papaya, condensed milk and tannins are my first associations. There’s a noteworthy adstringency as well. Later oak, fir cone, jasmin and rose petals, rosewater and more perfumed notes. Oh my. So many layers, yet so easy to drink. Just wonderful. Finish: Long with smoke, grilled fish, lavender, mustard seeds and oaky rosewater. A truly great one and every Bowmore fan needs to try this. (92/100)
Murray McDavid Bowmore 1989 26YO “Château Latour Finish” (50,4%): I don’t think I have to explain what Château Latour is. Nose: Yup, plenty of red wine in this one – and it is good! But the Whisky is also present in the form of campfire, lavender, grapefruit, mussels, grasses, charcoal and dried tomatoes. Nice, nice. Palate: Smokier than the nose suggested with a bit less of the red wine. The texture is quite oily and thick. A good demonstration of what long continental ageing can do! Then furniture and leather polish, ripe strawberries, mussels, herbs, raspberries, grapefruit… it’s just an extremely nice symbiosis. Later pepper, ripe grapes, pomace and more smoke. That’s my type of Whisky I think. The finish is long, smoky, sweet but drying out eventually. It’s a good summary of what we’ve just experienced if you want. Great stuff, just a wee bit too expensive these days… (89/100)
That was excellent. How about Bunna then?
SMWS 10.156 “Sherbet Lemons on a Sailboat” (Bunnahabhain) 2007 10YO (61,3%): Nose: Oyster, sweet lemon, citrus, very sweet notes of malt, caramel, some maritime notes and some “botanicals”. A bit weird and unlike all other Bunnas I know. The palate is more of the same with the sweet malt and caramel, now also butterscotch, more smoke than I am used to with the distillery, salt and oyster, some pepper, toilet cleaner (the citrus I guess) as well as a certain spiciness (chilli-strings). The finish is rather short for such a peated Whisky and comes with citrus, pepper, salt and some oak. A rather weak starter and quite a bit below their lovely 12YO official bottling for example. But where is that again!? Darn. (76/100)
Signatory/ Local Dealer Selection Bunnahabhain 2004 13YO (61,5%): The barrel was a first fill Sherry butt which, together with Bunna and cask strength shouldn’t be too bad. Nose: There’s a very straightforward description for this one: Black Forest cherry cake! It is just too obvious as it contains all of the cake’s elements. Later I can also find some salty-ish leather as well as sweet potatoes and plantains perhaps. The entry at the palate is subtle but powerful, with notes of apples, amaretto, cinnamon (sound like a drink, eh!?), marzipan, bittersweet chocolate, buttercream and leather. It’s a typical Sherry-Bunna, just a very extreme, but nice version of that. The finish is medium long, dry and comes with hints of sulphur, quite some leather and wood. I think I would have mistaken this one for a much older bottling of about 20 years in a blind tasting, it is a very mature, sufficiently complex and elegant Whisky. Nevertheless, this is a dram that’s probably only really good in the winter. (86/100)
And since we didn’t have a song in ages (I think), let’s have one today. For those who do not know, the Sailing Seagull has been (partly) inspired by Mr. Bowie.