Eddie and I got ourselves a few more bottles… The first, a bit of an impulse purchase: a bottle of Johnny Walker Gold Label 18 Year Old. Just as other tasters have noted, a sort of older cousin to the Black. I’m trying so so hard not to become a malt snob, but in this case, no matter how I try to avoid it, I just keep tasting the spirit, and not the flavour. Still, this is a great blend, a slight but definate cut above the Black, with interesting tobacco and leather notes. It opens up and gets a bit more of the promised finish with a little water. I’ll be saving this one for elegant versions of mixes; sours, tonics, Rusty Nails, etc.
The next bottle was an aquisition of opportunity: the Caol Ila 18 Year Old. We already have a bottle of the 12 Year, and just had to have both for comparison. In fact, I have a finger of each at hand as I write this! The 18 is a more refined, mellowed beast, with more oak and subtle smokiness, whereas the 12 is a real peaty seaside blast. Both definately, unmistakably Islay. They’re really two different whiskys, for different moods, but if I could, I’d take the nose of the 12 and have it with the smooth drinkability of the 18. The 18 is definately more approachable, but if it’s a proper stinky Islay malt experience, go for the 12.
It’s been very nice to be able to smell and taste the difference 6 more years in the barrel makes. It’s also now easy to see that the older malts may be trading impact and authority for smoothness and complexity, and that while the defining character of a refinery may be found in younger bottlings, the real personality comes out in the older.
The third new bottle of late is the Clynelish 14 Year Old. Labelled as a “Coastal Highland Single Malt”, it carries a bit of the salty smoke of an Islands malt, while still carrying the Highlands banner. At 46%, it’s just that little bit stronger, and to me, drinks better with a little water. Certianly, this malt can stand it, mellowing nicely in a wet glass while loosing none of its character. This, like the Glen Ord 12 Year, is a fine malt for the newbie, one that can be held in the mouth and savoured with becoming overwhelming.
We’ve also had, courtesy of some good cruising friends in the harbour, had a chance to try a few others lately! A fine Jura 10 Year Old which requires further sampling, as well as a couple fine Irish whiskies; a decent blended Jameson Gold and an outstanding Redbreast 12 Year Old. I do belive Eddie has asked Paul to try and bring us back a bottle of the latter from his current business travels abroad…