Well none of this is news now, but I am trying to get back in the habit of writing these things up.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to this recent event; the tasting of Diego’s annual ‘best of the best’ – from an expected Lagavulin and Port Ellen, to a less expected Cambus 40yo.
With retail prices ranging from under £100 to close to £2,500, some of this stuff is very special indeed, and this was an opportunity not to be turned down.
With fancy invite in hand, I headed off to 1 Marylebone Road, London to see what the fuss was about.
With lots of industry types, media, bloggers and reps – I made my way in and tucked in to the offerings. This isn’t necessarily the order, but a good overview;
UK retail £280
A beautiful drink – very easy going and, despite its years, light. There’s hints of spice in the finish, especially with water, but before that, it’s fresh and crisp.
UK retail £1,450
Not my favourite of the night to be honest, and I was looking forward to this. However, on occasions such as this, much does depend on whats gone on before.
Sweet and fragrant, but with quite depth. Spicy tannins and peat come through. A warming, chewy, dark chocolatey-smokey finish to this one.
UK retail £750
Utterly bonkers to think this was distilled in 1975, and there’s just 1,823 bottles available worldwide..!
This is a single grain whisky, and what a monster it is.
Surprisingly it comes across much fresher and lively than i expected from the age. It’s light with caramel and smoke coming through, before developing to a denser, richer dram.
Water brought out more character but more tempered; ginger, spice and a touch of fruit too.
Caol Ila 15yo
UK retail £90
When I last visited Caol Ila, this bottling (or rather, an earlier version) was stand out for me. It’s unpeated, yes, and it’s Caol Ola. But with an above of 61.5%, it’s no shrinking violet.
It’s powerful, and needs a bit of time to acclimatise (as does your palate), but persevere – this is a rewarding dram. Essentially sweet, but with malt, toffee and a touch of menthol.
Add water, and it relaxes as you’d expect, and perhaps makes it a wee bit more accessible. depending on your palate and expectations.
Lovely powerful and warming finish. I went back for more.
Craganmore Limited Release
UK retail £400
Smooth, sweet, intense. Becomes dry with influence of ‘darker’ flavours- spice, liquorice perhaps earthy too.
The finish curiously has a burnt feel to it – in a great way of course..
UK retail £300
A definite oily coating to by tongue, but not too heavily so. Warming on the palate with creamy vanilla, banana (!), spice and wood.
The finish is long, spice, peppery – then the caramel and cinnamon kick in..
Lagavulin 12yo 200th Anniversary
UK Retail £80
For me, the best value Lagavulin you can buy sensibly. Simply astounding. This one is no exception, and I always recommend people spend a bit more for this over the regular 16% (fantastic that it is).
The nose is, well, Lagavulin. Powerful peat smoke with that distinct sweetness following up.
The same on the palate, although smoother and sweeter than your nose will let you believe. It’s an oily, smokey, chewey mouth of a dram, and one of my all time favourites.
I recommend you buy.
UK retail £600
This one has a delicate start – certainly on the nose. Give it some time – it opens up with fresh fruit – melon, grapes before vanilla and a hint of liquorice comes in.
To taste, it’s bigger tab it seems – richer than I anticipated with hints of rum and dark fruits.
The finish was smooth, long and peppery.
Quite a pleasant surprise this one.
UK retail £250
This is at the mellower end of the scale – certainly for nosing. Fruity is the key word here with floral and apple notes.
On palate this is smooth to drink with initial creaminess opening to the fragrant fruitiness the nose first suggested.
The finish keeps on giving new things – a hint of smoke, oil and tar. (!!)
Port Ellen 37yo
UK retail £2,500
I finished, and revisited (several times) the big-daddy of the bunch. The oldest Port Ellen bottled for the Diageo special releases, and if it’s not one you’ve tried, it should appear somewhere on your whisky bucket list.
Quite simply, and astounding glass of whisky. It’s Port Ellen. It’s sophisticated, it’s complex, it’s powerful, it’s rewarding. It’s all it should be.
As with other Islay malts, it has a sweetness to it’s nose and palate, but thats only after the powerful wood fire smoke, cured meats, spices, herbs and phenol.
Invest. Buy. Do both. Treat yourself.