“I traced the shorelines through a thousand histories / To remind me an island is my home / An island is my home…” – These beautiful words from Frank Turner’s song “Rivers” are not only true for the people living in Great Britain, but also for the distilleries located on the Scottish isles. These coastal units have an appeal of their own, producing maritime malts that often reflect the wind and weather-beaten climate in which they were created. For today’s review flight, I savored three very special island whiskies from Douglas Laing, namely a Talisker 8yo from the Isle of Skye, a “secret” Orkney 16yo from, well, the Isle of Orkney and – as the big finale – a Caol Ila 35yo from the Isle of Islay. Let’s go… the islands are calling!
Talisker 8yo “Coastal Collection”
(Provenance • Refill hogshead • 319 bottles • 48%)
Am I on the inner hebrides or on a tropical island right now? Hard to say – cause this youthful Talisker from the Provenance range combines lovely characteristics of both. To the nose, it offers soft banana, sweet pineapple and ripe peaches as well as BBQ smoke, plank wood and clam shells. Plus a piercing pink pepper sharpness. On the tongue, it places banana chips and pepper corns as well as grapefruit peel, charred wood, gobstoppers and a whiff of medical smoke. The licorice-y finish lasts for a while and leaves a pleasant tingling in the mouth. My verdict: A mighty fine dram that bursts with a ton of things myself and many other drammers love to find in a young Talisker!
Probably Orkney’s Finest Distillery 16yo
(Old Particular • Refill hogshead • 371 bottles • 48.4%)
According to the label, the production site responsible for this 16-year-old Scotch is “Probably Orkney’s Finest Distillery”. But not only the unit behind it rocks; also the spirit itself is sublime! I’d even go as far as calling it one of the best Highl… argh, almost spilled the beans… Orkney malts I ever tried. It begins with a flowery bouquet full of violets, heather, lemongrass, raspberries and a wee bit of smoke puff. When sipped, the spirit feels somewhat soapy – albeit not in a flawed way. The flavor profile is delicate, floral and really, really awesome. It includes creamy vanilla milk, fruity peaches, sugary grapes and caramelized macadamias. These notes appear alongside maracuja yoghurt, maple syrup and heather burn. The latter also dominates the pleasing aftertaste together with light fruits and sweet grasses. Yes, I stand by the statement I made before: This is one of the best Orkney malts I ever had!
Caol Ila 35yo XOP
(Xtra Old Particular • Refill hogshead • 204 bottles • 47.1%)
This awe-inspiring Caol Ila is one of the oldest Islay malts I ever had in the glass – no less than three and a half decades did it sleep amidst wood! And man, is it good! The age has driven the peat back to a point where it gently accentuates the other notes from afar. In the nose, a fleeting smoke cloud mingles with wet moss, squeezy lemon, fresh wood, yellow pear, bacon-wrapped cantaloupe and burnt flan. In the mouth, the liquid gains some serious weight. I get almond crescents, melon chunks, vanilla sauce, sponge cake and puffy smoke. The savory finish brings forth marzipan chocolate and rum truffles together with banana bread and cough candy. There is an almost syrupy stickiness to it that literally glues the aftertaste to the back of the tongue. Fred Laing calls this stunningly complex and perfectly balanced Islay gem a personal fave of his – to this, I can add but one thing: Hell yeah, the man is absolutely right!
Talisker 8yo Provenance (2009/2017) (Single Malt / Islands / 8yo / 48% / ~90 Euro)
Orkney 16yo Old Particular (2003/2019) (Single Malt / Islands / 16yo / 48.4% / ~95 Euro)
Caol Ila 35yo XOP (1979/2014) (Single Malt / Islay / 35yo / 47.1% / ~700 Euro)
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*** Whisky samples kindly provided by Douglas Laing & Co. ***