Laphroaig 1998 (Van Wees) Review - Classic of Islay Bottled 2014 (Jack Wiebers) Review - Bunnahabain 1997 (Gordon & MacPhail) Review - Caol Ila 2000 (Wilson & Morgan) Review - Caol Ila 1980 (Mo Or) Review

“A Quintet of Indie Islay Single Malts”


Most of you know that I mainly use samples and miniatures when preparing my Reviews. I usually buy these in Holland and sometimes in Germany or the UK. Sometimes I receive samples from friends or readers or independent bottlers. In only two cases I received a few samples directly from distilleries. When planning my reviews for the coming months I always try to give attention to all Scottish Whisky regions as well as other Whisky/Whiskey/Bourbon producing regions all over the world with special attention to the USA, Ireland and Japan. And last but not least the blends. At the request of many readers I give preference to more recent expressions. As a result my backlog of older samples has increased quite a bit. To do justice to those samples I will review them in the format of Specials. These specials will deal with a specific region like today or with specific bottlers, countries or distilleries. The reviews in these Specials will concentrate on the Whisky and won't go into details about distilleries, maturation etc. I do hope you will like these Specials just as much as my regular reviews and I look forward to your reactions and suggestions. Today's special will look at 5 Single Malts from Islay bottled by various Independent Bottlers. Enjoy!

Whisky Review # 679

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Laphroaig 1998 (The Ultimate Series)
Bottled by: Van Wees
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: 15 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: Refill Sherry Butt # 700355 (728 Bottles) 
Chill Filtration: No    
Buying Advice: 😃 Positive. Nice Single Malt at +/- US$ 130. Would have been great at Cask Strength! Still available in places.

Colour: Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose: Very nice balance between the traditional Laphroaig Spirit and the Sherry cask. They compliment each other very well. I find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Earthy Peat, Wet Clay, Bonfire Smoke, Iodine, light Tar and Soot, Hospital, Leather, Dried Fruit (Raisins), Nuts, Herbal Tea, Lemon, Dark Chocolate, Black Olives, Apple, Smoked Fish and Shell Fish, Straw mixed with Cow Manure, Pepper, Menthol and light Licorice. On the Nose, this Laphroaig is mostly Sweet and Herbal. I think it's the first time I am nosing a Single Cask Laphroaig that matured in a Sherry cask. Good Stuff!

Palate: Slightly Thin Delivery. This would have been so much better at Cask Strength. Bitter-Sweet and Medium Dry with Toasted Cereals, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Earthy Peat, Bonfire Smoke, Wet Rock, Burnt Heather, Ashes, Soot, Tar, Iodine, Brine, Citrus, Apple, Nectarine, Smoked Fish and Ham, Dark Chocolate, Espresso, Nuts, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Nutmeg, Licorice and Mint.     

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet, Medium Dry and quite Salty. I find Toasted Cereals, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Earthy Peat, Bonfire Smoke, Iodine, Ashes, Tar, Soot, Wet Rock, Apple, Lemon, Nectarine, Nuts, Smoked Fish/Shell Fish, Dark Chocolate, Pepper, Nutmeg, Licorice, Espresso and Mint.   

Rating: 85.5     

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5    


This Laphroaig was distilled on the 22nd of September 1998 and bottled on the 14th of March 2014. Interesting combination between Laphroaig and a Sherry cask. Not the most active of casks mind you but this actually creates a lot of balance. What a shame this hasn't been bottled at Cask Strength. It's still a good Single Malt but it could have been great. I especially like the balance on the Nose. On the Palate and in the Finish there's quite a bit of Licorice but other than that I quite enjoyed this Laphroaig. What a pity I only had a small sample!


Classic of Islay Vintage 2014 JW

Whisky Review # 680

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Classic of Islay
Bottled by: Jack Wiebers Whisky World
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 56%
Maturation: Sherry Cask # 530  
Chill Filtration: No    
Buying Advice: 😒 Negative. Better Islay alternatives at this price level.

Colour: Amber with shades of Orange (Natural Colour)

Nose: Be sure to give this Classic of Islay enough time in the glass. My first impressions are Cooked Vegetables and damp Mushroom Caves. Over time these Aromas tend to decrease in intensity but I can't say I really like my Single Malt to smell like this. It's obviously a Young Whisky but given the colour the cask must have been heavily charred and/or impregnated with some Sherry-concentrate. Based on colour alone I would suspect the Whisky to be in the 7-10 Years range. The Wet Peat and Dirty Smoke are not as strong as you would assume when sipping a Young Islay Malt. The cask must have absorbed quite a bit of those. I also find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Lemon, Grapefruit, Gooseberries, Apple, Soot, Diesel, PVC Pipes, Straw mixed with Cow Manure, Dried Herbs, Tobacco, Leather, Mint, Aniseed, Menthol, Pepper, Dark Chocolate and hints of Cured Meat and Salted Peanuts. On the Nose, this Malt is both Sweet and Sour. The Alcohol is quite noticeable.

Palate: Young, Edgy, Bitter-Sweet and rather Hot. I find Toasted Cereals, Toast, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Dirty Factory Smoke, Sweet Earthy Peat, Smoked Pork and Fish, Charred Oak, Nuts, Ashes, Soot, Leather, Tobacco, Herbal Tea, Lemon, Pepper, Nutmeg, Licorice, Aniseed, Menthol, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Strong Espresso and hints of Varnish and Peanuts.   

Finish: Bitter-Sweet and Middle-Long. A quite strong Alcohol bite. I find Sweet Barley, Toast, Salted Caramel, Wet Dirty Road, Sweet Peat, Factory Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Charred Oak, Smoked Pork, Leather, Tobacco, Pepper, Clove, Aniseed, Menthol, Lemon, Cocoa Powder, Espresso, Dried Herbs and hints of Varnish and Peanuts. 

Rating: 80     

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 19.5 - Overall: 20    


This Classic of Islay was bottled at Cask Strength in 2014. Jack Wieber does not give a lot of information on the Classic of Islay with respect to age, cask used and distillery. It is generally accepted that this Malt was distilled at Lagavulin but it completely pales when compared to the youngest Lagavulin, the 8 Years. The Classic of Islay is a Young and Edgy Single Malt, controlled by a very active cask and a very high ABV. It lacks balance and in fact makes an unfinished expression. It's not really expensive but at around 65 US Dollars you can find more than enough better expressions like the Ardbeg 10, the Laphroaig 10 or indeed the Lagavulin 8 years. This Classic of Islay does not really work for me.


Bunnahabhain 1997 GM

Whisky Review # 681

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bunnahabhain 1997
Bottled by: Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin (The MacPhail's Collection)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: Around 12 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: Probably Bourbon Casks 
Chill Filtration: No    
Buying Advice: 😀 Positive. Good P/Q ratio at 50 US$. It's got character!

Colour: Light Gold (Natural Colour)

Nose: I have no exact information about the type of Casks used. Judging by the Colour I would assume they are Refill Bourbon casks but there are a few "Dirty" Aromas that suggest some Sherry casks as well. Could be the Bunnahabhain distillery character also. If any of you have more specific information on this item, please leave a Comment! My first impressions are Cooked Vegetables like Cabbage, Plum Jam and a touch of Sulphur. Weird combination. I'm certainly not immediately enchanted by the Nose of this Bunnahabhain. Please be sure to give it sufficient air contact before Nosing as these strange Aromas tend to diminish over time. It's very lightly peated at perhaps 3 to 5 ppm. I also find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Apple, Lemon, Orange, Berries, Nuts, Cocoa-Powder, Farm Yard, Cured Meat, Wet Rocks, Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove, Mint and a hint of Tobacco.  

Palate: Slightly Thin arrival. Still, more interesting than the Nose suggested. I find Toasted Cereals, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Plums, Lemon, Mandarin, Charred Oak, Nuts, Cured Meat, Tobacco, Dried Herbs, Cocoa Powder, Wet Rocks, Mint, Licorice, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Dusty Road and Mineral notes.

Finish: On the Short side, Bitter-Sweet, Herbal, Spicy and a little Hot. I find Toasted Cereals, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Plums, Nuts, Cocoa Powder, Espresso, Dusty Road, Charred Oak, Citrus, Chocolate, Pepper, Cinnamon, Dried Herbs, Licorice, Menthol and Tobacco. 

Rating: 84

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21   


This Bunnahabhain was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2010. I must admit I'm a bit puzzled about the maturation. Mostly Refill Bourbon casks and a few Sherry  butts is my best guess. My first impressions were not very pleasant but this Malt gets better with more air contact. Normally the Nose is the best part of any Whisky but not so in this case. I kinda liked the palate better but for the fact that the ABV is slightly too low which causes a rather weak arrival. But it's got that certain Dusty, Dirty and Meaty character that I like in my whiskies and that you don't find in most of today's mainstream, middle of the road Malts. At an average price of 50 US Dollars this is a good buy!


Caol Ila 2000 WM

Whisky Review # 682

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Caol Ila 2000
Bottled by: Wilson & Morgan, Edinburgh (Barrel Selection 20th Anniv. Edition)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 48.5%
Maturation: Refill Bourbon casks with a short Refill Sherry Cask Finish. 
Chill Filtration: No   
Buying Advice: 😋 Very nice Islay Malt and a must buy at 45 US$.  

Colour: Golden Hay (Natural Colour)

Nose: Light and relatively Young but already well-balanced. The Alcohol is there so you need to find your way around it. I must admit that Caol Ila is becoming one of my favourite distilleries. The 18 Years is among the best Single Malts I have nosed and tasted so far. But this 12 Years is not bad as well although it's got some Rough edges to it that show it would benefit from some more years in the cask. I find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Sweet Earthy Peat, Heather-Honey, Campfire Smoke, Brine, Iodine, Ashes, Tar, Band-Aid, Smoked Fish and Shell Fish, Bacon on the BBQ, Wet Rocks, Straw, Grass, Pineapple, Lemon, Orange, Apple, Pear, Fresh Herbs, Floral Soap, Pepper, Cinnamon, Menthol and hints of Leather and Tobacco. Nothing spectacular here. Just very nice! The Sherry cask Finish is hardly noticeable but it added just a little more complexity.

Palate: Good Delivery. Bitter Sweet and Dry towards the end. A little kick from the Alcohol. I find Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Vanilla, Charred Oak, Smoked Fish and Pork, Heather-Honey, Sweet Earthy Peat, Campfire Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Iodine, Dried Herbs, Lemon, Apple, light Mandarin, Nuts, Wet Rocks, Floral Soap, Pepper, Cinnamon, light Licorice and Aniseed, Menthol, Tobacco and Espresso. 

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and a little Hot. Slightly Dry and Sour towards the end. I find Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Sweet Earthy Peat, Campfire Smoke, Ashes, Iodine, Tar, Brine, Fish, Shell Fish and Pork on the BBQ, Apple, Lemon, Floral Soap, Pepper, Licorice, Aniseed, Menthol, light Iodine and Espresso.  

Rating: 86    

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5    


This Caol Ila was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2012.  It's still a few years too young to be perfect but if this was available in Brazil it would certainly be my "day-to-day to-go-to" Islay Malt. It's got character and balance and it's yummy despite its obvious youth and Alcohol. It's dangerously drinkable as well despite the relatively high ABV. Good cask choice Wilson & Morgan. Good stuff! A must buy if you can find it. The Price/Quality ratio is excellent with prices between 40 and 50 US Dollars. There are not a lot of bottles around anymore but you can still find it in places. Good hunting! 


Whisky Review # 683

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Caol Ila 1980
Bottled by: The Whisky Talker Mo Or Collection (Release # 15)
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: 30 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: Bourbon Hogshead # 2570 (300 Bottles) 
Chill Filtration: No    
Buying Advice: 😋 If you can find it somewhere: Just Buy It!!   

Colour: Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose: Delicious. The Alcohol has completely integrated. After 30 years, the Peat and Smoke are just a mere hint in the background. It still smells Vital and Fresh after all that time in the Bourbon cask that provided the Spirit with a very nice Golden Colour. I find Sweet & Creamy Barley, Toast and Top Quality Butter from Normandy, Vanilla, Toffee, Salted Caramel, Farmyard, Charred Oak, Grass, Lemon, Apple, Pineapple, Heather-Honey, Cinnamon, Mint, Fruity Virgin Olive Oil and the faintest hints of Tar, Iodine, Leather, Smoked Fish or Shell Fish, Ginger and Almond Paste. Subtle, Elegant and perfectly Balanced. I am totally sure now that well-matured Islay Malt is one of my favourite whiskies worldwide! Great cask TWT! Well done!

Palate: Delicious but slightly Thin Delivery. This would have been heaven when bottled at cask strength. Like on the Nose, Elegance and Balance are the key words. I find Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Honey, Fresh Pastry, Nuts, Lemon, Campfire Smoke, Sweet Peat, Grass, Smoked Fish, Shellfish, Cinnamon, Pepper, Ginger, Menthol, Licorice and hints of Leather, Tar and Iodine.

Finish: Middle-Long and Mostly Sweet. A little Bitterness appears towards the Dry End. I find Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Campfire Smoke, Sweet Peat, Dirt Track, Charred Oak, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Menthol, light Aniseed, Licorice , Heather-Honey and far hints of Tar, Smoked Fish and Iodine.   

Rating: 89    

Nose: 23.5 - Taste: 22 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 22   


This Caol Ila was distilled on the 19th of March 1980 and bottled on the 4th of February 2011. This is the oldest Caol Ila I have tasted so far and I found it to be remarkably Fresh for its age. Elegance and Balance are the Key words for this Single Malt. Great cask as well. It's not overly complex mind you but it's simply Delicious, especially on the Nose. The ABV is a tad too low for this Caol Ila and I can only imagine how great this would have been at around 50%. As it is it still jumps easily into my Top 15 so far. Such a pity I only had a very small sample!

Drinking Advice:
Due to the fact that I merely had small samples at my disposal, I only Nosed and Tasted these five Single Malts neat. All pictures were taken by my brother-in-law Jan Bronkhorst during our visits to the distilleries in 2014 and 2017.

Jan van den Ende                                                                January 22, 2018

Chivas Regal Extra Review

“A Blend With a Mission”

Whisky Review # 678

Country: Scotland
Brand: Chivas Regal Extra
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: A mix of Refill Bourbon- and Oloroso casks.
Chill Filtration: Yes  
Price Range: On average US$ 40 (January 2018)
Buying Advice:😀 Good Price/Quality Ratio. Very mainstream though!

Colour: Light Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: My first impressions are Fresh Wood, Grain Alcohol and Vanilla. The Extra is a blend of Grain Whiskies (Around 70%) and Single Malts (Around 30%). A substantial part of the Single Malt content matured in Ex-Sherry casks. I also think some first fill Ex-Bourbon casks were used to compensate for some of the very young whiskies that are part of this Blend. The Sherry casks are noticeable via rather discrete notes of Dried Fruit (Raisin, Apricot), Dairy and Chocolate. I also find Cereals, Buttered Toast, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Banana, Orange Peel, Apple, Honey-Melon, Pepper, Cinnamon and a few Herbs. On the Nose, the Extra is Sweet, Thin and slightly Boring. No Off-Notes though.  

Palate: Quite Thin and Mainly Sweet with a few Bitter Oak notes. I find Toasted Cereals, Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Caramel, Toffee, Marzipan, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Apple, Banana, Grain Alcohol, Refill Oak, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger and Milk Chocolate.    

Finish: Thin, Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and Dry. The Bitterness of the Oak is more noticeable towards the end. I find Grain Alcohol, Refill Oak, Orange Peel, Grapefruit, Caramel, Marzipan, Cereals, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Chocolate and Nutella.     

Drinking Advice:

The Chivas Regal Extra does not improve with added Water. 

Rating: 78  

Nose: 20 - Taste: 19.5 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 19.5

Image result for chivas regal extra

General Remarks:

The Chivas Regal Extra was launched in 2015, at first as Travel Retail only. In the meantime it is widely available around the world. Price wise it is positioned between the 12 and the 18 Years. Taste wise it's better than the 12 Years in my opinion. The NAS Spirit is compensated with more Sherry casks and some Fresh Wood. The resulting Blend with Strathisla and Aberlour as the most important Single Malts in the mix is a bit boring and extremely Middle of the Road. At the same time it's inoffensive, without off-notes and reasonably priced. Perfect for beginning Whisky drinkers. A Party Whisky!   

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Good 

Conclusion: It's interesting to see how a better quality Wood and the addition of extra Sherry casks can enhance the quality of NAS Spirit. In fact, the Extra is more pleasant than the regular Chivas Regal 12 Years. It's also more expensive but in this case I think both producers and consumers will benefit from this new twist to an old story. The Price/Quality ratio is quite reasonable. The new Chivas Regal Extra is not interesting enough as a sipping Whisky as the Grain Alcohol keeps calling the shots. But it should do well as a Party Whisky and it might inspire a lot of beginning Whisky fans to have a closer look at the wonderful world of Whisky! A Blend with a mission!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 January 18, 2018

Strathisla the Heart of Chivas

BenRiach 20 Years Review

“The Bomb That Didn’t Explode” 

Whisky Review # 677

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: BenRiach
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 20 Years (Blue Label - Bottled in 2011)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: Probably Bourbons casks with a few Sherry casks in the mix.    
Chill Filtration: No      
Price Range: On average US$ 100 (January 2018). 
Buying Advice: 😐 Neutral. Good Price/Quality ratio. Very easy-going!  

Colour: Golden Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose: Quite Light actually with a thin veil of Peat/Smoke in the background. If I am not mistaken there is some Sherry influence here as well. I even get a tiny bit of Sulphur but nothing to worry about. The Nose is mainly Sweet, Malty and Fruity. I find Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Toffee, Vanilla, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Plums, Nuts, Grass, Straw, Bounty Bars, White Wine, Citrus, Charred Oak, Pineapple, Nectarine, Peach Jam, Dusty Road, Wet Sand, Chocolate, Cinnamon, light Pepper and hints of Leather and Tobacco. The Alcohol is reasonably well-integrated. The Nose is pleasant and balanced but misses a bit of a kick.

Palate: The Delivery is quite Thin. An ABV of 46% would have been adequate. On the Palate, this 20 Years is mainly Bitter-Sweet but a few Sour notes are to be noted as well. I find Creamy Malt, Toffee, Caramel, Vanilla, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Pineapple, Orange, Apple, Honey, White Chocolate, Grass, Pepper, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Menthol, Dried Herbs and hints of Tobacco, Leather and Peat/Smoke.

  Image result for ben riach 20 years
The "Old" Bourbon 20 Years 

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter Sweet and slightly Herbal. Clear notes of Vanilla, Toffee and Milk Chocolate. I also find Sweet Barley, Caramel, Bounty Bars, Nuts, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Sultanas, Orange, Grapefruit, Apple, Honey-Melon, Lemon, Spices like Pepper, Ginger and Nutmeg, Charred Oak, Menthol and very faint Peat and Ashes. A bit of Cured Ham after a while.    

Drinking Advice:

The 20 Years does not benefit from added Water. It becomes more like a Barley Juice. Better sip it neat.    

Rating: 85       

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

The "New" Sherried 20 Years

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

The BenRiach distillery was founded in 1897 by John Duff & Co and is located in Longmorn, Elgin (Morayshire). It changed hands a couple of times in its history but in April 2016 it was bought by Brown Forman. BenRiach produced more or less 2,3 million litres in 2017. The core range includes a/o the NAS Heart of Speyside, the 10, 16, 20, 25 and 35 years. The peated varieties include the Birnie Moss, the Curiositas 10, the Septendecim 17 and the Authenticus 25. I have not yet been able to visit this Distillery. We passed by in 2014 but it was closed for maintenance at the time. BenRiach Spirit is also used in Blends like Chivas Regal, 100 Pipers and Queen Anne.

Quite some different batches of the 20 Years have been released since its launch in 2004. The miniature I'm tasting today was bottled in 2011 and has a Blue and White Label (See picture on top). This specific batch is said to contain around 10% peated Whisky as well as a considerable amount of Spirit that matured longer than 20 Years. Other batches have different levels of peat and maturation time. Most of the early batches mainly matured in Bourbon casks but in 2016 a Sherried 20 Years was released. See picture above (Dark Label). As far as I know the latter has been discontinued in the meantime. BenRiach is one of those many distilleries that do not shy away from introducing loads of different expressions and special casks.

Related image

🍷  The Spirit 

The distillery operates two pairs of Stills with reasonably straightforward Lyne arms that produce a Medium-Bodied, Sweet, Malty, Spicy and Fruity Spirit. The Water is sourced from the Burnside Spring.

🌲  The Wood:

The spirit for this 20 Years most probably matured in First Fill Ex-Bourbon casks.   I detect some Sherry influence as well. A few casks? A Finish? I don't have this information available.

Drinking Experience: Good. Not very exciting though!

Conclusion: The BenRiach 20 Years is a very accessible Single Malt, both in terms of Price as well as Aromas and Flavours. Easy-going and mainstream. It should have been bottled at at least 46% of course but that would make it more expensive. A well-made Single Malt at a reasonable price. What more could you possibly want. Well, I for one was waiting during the whole Tasting and Nosing session for something to happen. Something that would make me smile, cringe, cry, anything...But no, nothing happened. I think you get the picture. Nice Malt but without excitement and Wow factor. The Spice Girls without the Spice!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 January 15, 2018

Laphroaig An Cuan Mor Review

“Surprisingly Different”

Whisky Review # 676

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Laphroaig An Cuan Mor
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (Said To Be Around 10 Years)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 48%
Maturation: Bourbon Casks with Sherry Cask Finish     
Chill Filtration: No       
Price Range: On average around US$ 110 (January 2018). 
Buying Advice: Difficult. It's too expensive given its obvious youth. And it's not my favourite Laphroaig flavour-wise! But it's a well-made Single Malt and a different type of Laphroaig so if you like the Aroma/Flavour profile give it a try!

Colour: Amber with shades of Orange (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Pleasant although the Alcohol indicates a relatively young Spirit. The New Wood is quite noticeable and it has been polished with Furniture Wax or so it seems at least. The Earthy Peat and BBQ Smoke are there but they certainly do not overpower the other Aromas. This is not at all your typical Islay Peat-Smoke bomb. Around 25 ppm I would guess. On the Nose, the An Cuan Mor is Sweet, Sour, Salty, Floral and Mineral. I find Toasted Cereals, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Heather-Honey, Wet Grass, Wet Rocks, Brine, Iodine, Soot, Dried Fruit like Apricot and Figs, Nuts, Leather, Lemon, Orange Peel, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Charred Oak and hints of Plastic, Cured Meat, Cedar Wood and Mint. It's not at all what I expected to be honest. It's amazing how much Peat/Smoke was absorbed by the Fresh Wood. As a result, the Nose is quite balanced. I wonder how good this Single Malt would be with some 5-7 years extra in the Ex-Bourbon casks. But that's day-dreaming. Still, I like the Nose!

Palate: A Bit Young and Edgy. I don't find the same balance as on the Nose. It's Bitter-Sweet, slightly Sour, Dry and quite Spicy. I find Toasted Cereals, Brown Sugar, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Dried Fruit, Seville Oranges, Earthy Peat, BBQ Smoke, Iodine, Band-Aids, Soot, Ashes, Burnt Heather, Charred Oak, Pepper, Nutmeg, Clove, Ginger, Licorice, Cured Meat, Herbal Tea, Strong Black Espresso, Dark Chocolate and used Leather Horse Saddles. The Alcohol is quite noticeable.         

Finish: Middle-Long and Bitter-Sweet. Quite Dry and Tannic towards the end. A very strong Licorice note. I also find Toasted Cereals, slightly Burnt Toast, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Salted Caramel, Farmyard, Earthy Peat, BBQ Smoke, Soot, Ashes, Tar, Iodine, Seville Orange, Grapefruit, Herbal Tea, Dark Chocolate, Espresso, Bacon on the BBQ, Alcohol, Charred Oak, Pepper, Clove, Nutmeg, Ginger and used Leather Horse Saddles.             

Drinking Advice:

The An Cuan Mor does not improve with added Water.    

Rating: 85.5       

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21

Image result for laphroaig an cuan mor

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

Laphroaig was founded in 1815 and is located close to Port Ellen on the isle of Islay. It's one of the few distilleries that still operates an own Malting Floor that covers around 20% of their needs. It currently produces around 3.3 million litres   of Spirit on an annual basis of which 70% is destined for Single Malts. The rest is used a.o. in the well-known Teachers Blend. Actually, the core range includes the NAS Select, the 10 Years, the Quarter Cask, the Lore, the Triple Wood and the 25 Years. Laphroaig is one of my favourite distilleries to visit. Great Tours, great people and the smell of that peated smoke is unforgettable. All the pictures in this post were taken by my brother in law Jan Bronkhorst during our visits to Laphroaig in 2014 and 2017.

The An Cuan Mor (Gaelic for "Big Ocean") is a reference to Laphroaig's location. It was launched in 2013, in principal as a Travel Retail Bottling only. But you can find it on the Internet as well in the meantime at selected shops.

🍷  The Spirit:

The distillery operates three Wash Stills and four Spirit Stills all with ascending Lyne arms. They produce a full-bodied Smoky, Briny and Medicinal spirit. The Water is sourced from the Kilbride dam.

🌲  The Wood:

The Spirit for this Single Malt matured for around 8 years in Fresh American White Oak Bourbon barrels (Maker's Mark) before being finished for around 2 more years in Fresh European Oak, that probably was seasoned with Sherry.

Drinking Experience: Very Interesting. Different! Good Nose. 

Conclusion: A very interesting Nosing and Tasting session. Quite unusual Islay Malt. You know it's a young Whisky but it's extremely interesting to note to what extend the Fresh Wood is able to absorb lots of the Peat and Smoke so typical for a young Islay. A pity it does not absorb the Alcohol as well! As a result, the An Cuan Mor is very balanced on the Nose for a young Islay Single Malt. I can't say the same about Palate and Finish I'm afraid. There the Youth becomes more clear and gives a Nervous, Edgy feeling to the Spirit. So while I think it's a well-made Single Malt and an interesting Maturation experiment, I don't count the An Cuan Mor among my favourite Laphroaigs. Did I forget to say it's too expensive given its Youth? Well, it is!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 January 11, 2018