Grass is Always Greener: Tobermory 10

I bought this bottle before a recent family camping trip. I had hoped to pick up the new Glenfiddich 14yo Rich Oak, as it was likely to go well with the cigars we brought, but this was all the nearby store had. It just so happened to be pouring rain at the time, and I was pressed enough for time that I couldn’t go anywhere else.

Nose: Light, fresh and buttery. Vegetal notes and fresh mown grass all over this one. You’d almost think it was a lowland. Pear, oak and pepper. No mistaking the youth on this one.

Palate: Very fresh. Buttery and sweet with grassy notes. Its like a better Glendullan, but nothing to write home about.

Finish: Barley, light pepper, medium finish.

Grade: B-

This is one of those simple reviews that can be summed up with few words: a fine sipper, but a bit plain and a bit young.

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Classic Coal: Caol Ila 12

Bought a full litre of this wonderful stuff at the Denver Airport Duty free for $54. That’s about half of what you’d pay at the LCBO. Most of the offerings they had were slim in the scotch category, so I decided that I should give this old classic a try. I usually like to travel off the beaten path with my whisky purchases, but as an Islay fan, and a Caol Ila fan, it was about time to give this classic dram it’s due.

Nose: Coal, tar, dill pickles and orange candy. Smoked fish and ham. Cookies. Barley notes.

Palate: Smooth, somewhat oily arrival. Peat and smoke. Sweet citrus. Ashy (in a good way).

Finish: Long and pleasant, dominated by notes of chili pepper, lemon, smoke.

Grade: B+

Very rarely do I give a “standard dram” more than a B. Caol Ila 12 deserves such a grade, however, because it manages to do with 43% what so many others cannot. It’s complex and medium oily, with a long finish. It’s bizarrely refreshing for an Islay, something that can be enjoyed on a cold winter night, or a not-too-hot summer’s day. I look forward to doing a flight with the Natural Cask Strength, 1998 Distillers Edition and the 19yo TWE CS sometime in the near future.

The Little Black Bottle: Bunnahabhain 12

Bunna and I had a strange introduction. I was initially quite excited to try this whisky, hearing that it was a mild and mysterious Islay that was strangely so lightly peated. The first few drams tasted oddly of acetone, and strongly so. I was worried that I managed an off bottle. As luck would have it, though, letting the bottle rest for a month really changed the character of the whisky. Now it’s smooth, silky and sweet. Everything I’d expected it to be, it is.

Nose: Like a chocolatey bog. A strange concept, yes, but a pleasant one. Sherry and salted caramel. Hay. Very light on the peat. Somewhat briny and smoky.

Palate: Oily. Sweet, chocolate, sherry. Kind of grassy, almost like chewing alfalfa (if you’ve ever had it).

Finish: Medium-long and sweet, smoke, chocolate, some stewed black cherry.

Grade: B+

Damn it, this is one fine whisky. Not your typical Islay, but in that way it’s truly remarkable. It surprises you, and the surprise is a good one. It’s not an earth-shattering whisky, but at 12 years, it does the trick. It also makes me wistfully wonder what the 18yo is like. Probably a notch or two higher!

The Uisge Beatha: Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin (2012)

Seven years in Quarter Casks, they said. 50/50 with 13-21yo Laphroaig, they said. Sold, said I.

¬†Nose: Subtle peat. Walk-in humidor. Bready, tar and iodine with a sweetness akin to Bazooka Joe bubblegum. Some spearmint, and this great whiff of “the outdoors”. When I say that, I mean camping-in-back-woods-Canada-outdoors. Nutella, too.

Palate: Thick, patented Laphroaig rubber, earth and dill pickles, but plenty of BBQ and tobacco. Some noticeable milk chocolate, as well. Astonishingly smooth at 51.2% ABV—almost dangerously so.

Finish: Patented-laphroaig drying brine, sea salt, but with some fresh herbal notes (something akin to parsley). Long finish, not as bold as the QC, but a tad more elegant.

Grade: A-

This one is amazing in so many ways. If the palate and finish were as good as the nose, this would be an A, but the balance of the finish is just a notch weaker than the nose and the palate. The nose—oh my word—is the cleanest, clearest yet most complex nose I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. After many “good, but not great” drams over the last half-year or so, this was a real welcomed change. Laphroaig, thank you.