The annual ‘Islay’ Tasting at De Whiskykoning – part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the first three drams we had at De Whiskykoning in November. Today I write about the rest of the evening.

I might have to admit that were a tad rowdy during the tasting and Rob, the host, barely got a word in sideways. While we’re all interested in whisky, there were just too many bad jokes to be told and some of us hadn’t seen each other in quite a while.

Then again, Rob knows who we are. He also knows we’ve all been to quite a few (of his) tastings by now, so not much introduction is needed, apart from a little lead up to the whisky itself.

Port Askaig 100 Proof, 57.1%

The new NAS version of the Port Askaig series. I had it before at Maltstock during Billy Abbott’s masterclass. Back then I quite liked it. It’s not spectacular, but it does everything you expect it to do.

On the nose it’s quite salty and fishy. Some ash and smoke. Quite peculiar in the combination of scents. The palate is ashy, very dry with quite a bit of oak, straw, salt and sand. The finish is big and long (like something else…), with warm smoke.

A nice enough dram, but in this kind of company it has a hard time showing what it can do.

Laphroaig 21, 48.4%
The 2015 release of the Laphroaig 21, released for their 200th anniversary. It’s a pretty expensive dram, clocking in at some € 140 for half a bottle. Hopes were high for this one, mostly based on the price. Also, I’ve had some 20-something year old Laphroaigs before, and they’re all awesome. Well, the ones I remember, that is.

The nose was heavy with leather and a light fruitiness. Dry lemon, light smoke. Slightly sweet like lemon curd. It gets more lemony after a while. The palate is slightly drying, but with great balance with the other flavors. Light smoke, citrus, smoke, leather and sand. The finish is rich and long with light smoke.

I love lemon. I love Laphroaig when it’s well aged like this. Even though it’s ridiculously expensive, now I read back my notes I want a bottle.

Octomore 07.1 Scottish Barley, 59.5%
I didn’t write real notes on this since this part of the tasting came hot on the heels of a bottle share with this one that I still needed to try. I planned to do that a while ago, but I never got around to it yet. If things go as planned, I’ll review it properly somewhere in January, but we’ll see.

The short notes are: Ash, vanilla, light, alcohol, smoke and oak.

The short review is: I was surprised by this one, in a good way. I like how ashy this is, and although there’s a lot of alcohol, there’s quite a bit of other flavors too.

That, officially, concluded the tasting but De Whiskykoning was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the shop and he wanted to pour a celebratory dram. He grabbed one of his old SMWS bottles off the shelf of distillery 43.

I didn’t know that number, but he told me it was an Islay bottling. I knew it’s not Laphroaig (29), Ardbeg (33), Caol Ila (53, if I’m correct). Bruichladdich is lower I think, Kilchoman is much higher. It could be Bunnahabhain or Lagavulin. At first I didn’t consider what it actually was.

I had to look it up, but it turned out to be…

Port Ellen 1977-1993, 16 years old, 61.4%, SMWS 
The nose betrayed a lot of alcohol but also lemon and chamois leather (this should have betrayed the origins of the whisky, I know). Heavy smoke, but not overpowering. Spot on. Lemon grass and something waxy. The palate is sharp, but light and still quite rich. Weird. Lemon, slightly bitter, leather, oak. Slightly fatty. The finish is long and rich with leather and smoke. Quite typical for the distillery and something herbal too.

If I had reviewed this last year, this would have made the top list for sure. It does everything you expect of a Port Ellen, and it does it f-ing well. It’s an absolute stunner and the entire group went rather quiet when we tried this. Considering the group, that’s nothing short of a miracle. An absolutely epic dram.

Then Rob added some pain to this. He told us he bought this about a year after it came out. For about 50 euros. I would not be surprised if he meant ‘guldens’. For such an epic dram to get it at a price that you now have to pay for a dram of it is quite shocking. It also tells us of the sick state of the whisky industry. Yes, stuff gets more expensive as the years go by, but not like this. Not in a sustainable way.

Thanks again, Rob. I’m looking forward to the tasting we’ve booked in April.


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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