Just to clear some things up, Monbazillac is a French dessert wine, a sweet wine not unlike Sauternes or Muscat. As proven by Caol Ila’s Distiller’s Edition, this works quite well, generally.
This Secret Islay is truly secret, Michiel Wigman also doesn’t know what distillery this is from, but after tasting it there is a bit of a guessing game going on, of course.
So, after the Ben Nevis that recently was released by The Duchess, another wine cask matured whisky. Is this a new thing that there now are good wine casks out there? It would be an interesting development, and you would expect that to happen sooner or later.
Of course, one of the benefits of peated whisky is that it generally works better with wine casks than unpeated whisky, but the truly good ones are few and far between still.
Let’s just dive in!
The nose starts slightly fruity with an aroma of heavy smoke. The sweet wine is quite noticeable too, with hints of Muscat and overripe grapes. The sweetness also comes through with hints of smoked crème brûlée. Hints of straw and marram grass, and after a while a note of smoked cheese pops up. Not too surprising with the creamy notes that came before.
The palate is largely similar. Sweet and smoky, with typical notes of Islay whisky. Marram grass, salinity, heavy smoke, some feinty notes as well. Overripe grapes, seaweed, even some tar and bandaids. A minor note of diesel in the background and oak.
The finish brings the fruitiness to a bigger intensity. Again, lots of grapes, lots of smoky creaminess. Fruit, hessian, hay.
So, to ‘pass judgment’ on this whisky, we have to look at some different angles.
First of all, there’s the wine cask. It feels really well integrated with the whisky so I would guess this is a 14 year maturation instead of a finish. It fits. It works quite well too, to be honest. There’s some expected sweetness, but the Islay whisky stands up to it nicely.
Second, there’s the Islay side of things. As with yesterday’s Ardmore, this whisky has mellowed with time. Not as much time as the Ardmore, obviously, but for a 14 year old Islay whisky, I expected a lot more oomph. Having said that, there’s enough left to entertain the whisky drinkers that love to get their smoke on. Good stuff again!
Now, for the bit of a guessing game. My guess, based on how it tastes and smells is that this is either Lagavulin or Laphroaig. And since Lagavulin (AFAIK) only works with bourbon and sherry casks, my money is on Laphroaig. It fits the feinty notes, the band-aids, the tar.
In short, this is a very solid whisky and a very entertaining one too. I’m liking it a lot.
Sample provided by Michiel Wigman. Thanks a million!