This year, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society selected three particularly jaw-dropping pours as their official Feis Ile 2017 trio: a Bunnahabhain 10yo, a Bowmore 20yo and a Laphroaig 21yo. While most bottles containing these top-class whiskies are being served on Islay itself, a few samples have been dispatched to select partner bars across the globe; one of which happened to be The Rabbithole in my hometown of Hamburg. As soon as I read on Facebook that said location had all three of the Society’s festival bottlings available as a whisky flight for 35 Euro on March 26, I instantly knew how I would spend my Friday evening.
When my girlfriend and I entered The Rabbithole’s stylish premises, the three bottles of our desire were already waiting for us, neatly aligned on the counter. Although the tasting itself was not guided, one of the bar’s owners was around and answered all questions we had on the three “stars” of the evening. Since she was a total whisky buff herself – which is little surprising if you consider that her bar had such illustrous malts as Octomore and Black Art among its regular stock – it did not take long for us to discuss many other whisky-related topics as well. The bartender also deserves a round of applause for he was not only a nice bloke but also very attentive, always refilling the water we got alongside our drinks and making sure we were perfectly taken care of.
Our whisky flight started with The crowd pleaser, a 10 years old Bunnahabhain clocking in at 59 per cent. The official tasting notes included a comparision to an “old first aid kit”, which sounded weird at first but turned out to be spot-on. There is no denying that this young Bunna’s biting iodine taste will split the whisky community. Personally, I absolutely loved it as I am a total sucker for this eccentric flavour profile in a high-strength bottling! The 20 years old Bowmore which followed next was a lot more mellow and rounded than the initial hammerblow from the East coast of Islay. This malt, which goes by the hard rockin’ monicker of Sweet smoke on the water, was beautifully crafted with comparatively little smoke and a delicate sweetness. From the capital of Islay we then moved on to the Southern shore where we were greeted by the last member of the trio, a majestic Laphroaig answering to the weird name Jazzy jousting hastlitude. After 21 years in a PX cask, it had developed an out-of-this-world fruitiness that contrasted beautifully against the medical flavors the distillery is (in)famous for. For me as a dedicated Laphroaig fan, the surprisingly smooth and astonishingly deep Jazzy jousting hastlitude was nothing short of a revelation!
If you are in Hamburg (either as a visitor or because you live here) and want to try The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s marvelous Feis Ile 2017 special editions, I strongly recommend you to hop onto the tram to Reeperbahn and pay The Rabbithole (which is located no more than three minutes by foot from the station) a visit. There is a good chance the bottles did not empty out completely on March 26, so you might still be able to score a dram. And even if that will not be possible anymore, you will not have gone there in vain. The bar has a great selection of whiskies on offer, including more than half a dozen other single cask bottlings from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. So one way or another you will have one helluva good time at The Rabbithole!
The crowd pleaser (Bunnahabhain/ 10yo / 59 per cent / ex-bourbon cask / 186 bottles / £75)
Sweet smoke on the water (Bowmore/ 20yo / 54.2 per cent / French hogshead / 252 bottles / £130)
Jazzy jousting hastlitude (Laphroaig/ 21yo / 51.6 per cent / PX cask / 228 bottles / £180)