Secret Islay 20, 2002-2022, Sherry cask, 53.1% – Earlskine

After the first batch of Earlskine whiskies, there is now a new bottling. This time it is an undisclosed Islay whisky, with some hints on the label that leave exactly one option. So, there’s little guessing there.

I like that I don’t have to guess. In the end it’s the taste that counts most, but I’m a geek and I like data. So, I tend to steer away from NAS bottlings with more made up nonsense on the label than actual information.

This one, apart from not publicly displaying the distillery name contains all that info, so I’m a happy camper. Age, vintage, cask type, the works.

Now, back to what matters most!

A nice and mature peated whisky. Quite light in its profile with a lemony smokiness. Apart from the smoke being a bit more intense, I would have guessed this was a Bowmore. There are some bakery notes with vanilla and pastry cream, puff pastry and dried lemon.

The palate has a syrupy texture and is quite strong on the alcohol and a white pepper heat. Dry with smoke, oak and straw. Crusty bread and less sweet than the nose was. After a couple of seconds the heat dissipates, and a more barley forward, with that lemony smoke, appears.

The finish is super gentle, with smoke and lemon, barley and straw. It’s not overly long, but rather good and flavorful.

So, with the hints pointing at 1816, this must be a Lagavulin. Based on flavor I would have guessed either Laphroaig or Bowmore, but the numbers don’t match. Then again, I have had undisclosed Islays that were supposed to be Lagavulin from around the same vintage with the same profile.

So, how is it? Any good? Hell yes. I love that is shows depth instead of just punchiness which seems to be the main angle for modern Islay whiskies of lesser age. Islay and proper maturation go a long way, but generally it’s way out my reach. This one, apparently clocking in under 200 euros is within reach for a special occasion bottling. Especially considering that this is a 20 year old Islay whisky.


This whisky will be available later this week, mostly in Germany.


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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