Thursday, March 19, 2009

16 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch

Of all the eau-de-vie's, I love single malt scotch the most. Eau de vie, whether made from fruit or grains, can be tricky. They can be so distilled that they lose a lot of flavour and nuance, and often, they take on so much flavour from whatever vessel they're aged in that there no longer is a sense of place. If all you taste is the oak, then what's the difference between a whiskey from Scotland, or from Ireland, or from Canada?

That is why single malt scotch is so special, especially those from Islay. Islay gives such an intense peaty flavour and brininess to the eau de vie that its instantly recognizable. A bit more aggressive than other eau de vie's, but if you're only interested in "smooth" drinks, then you don't know a damn thing about eau de vie. Simply using the word "smooth" is vulgar. Single malts are more challenging, but they have so much character that isn't found in any other distilled spirit.

I had the opportunity to sample an Islay - Lagavulin 16 Year Single Malt, Islay. Served in a tumbler, which was disappointing, but at least they didn't dump ice in it. Lots of powerful aromas of iodine, backed up against peat and smoke. Very powerful. Fantastic roundness in the mouth, very supple. Not heavy. Develops such a wonderful sweetness and clarity. Very layered. Smoky finish that roars on and on in the mouth. Absolutely delicious, and teaches you so much about scotch. I've learned more about single malt scotches from this glass than any other whiskey I've ever tasted. Incredible - I could still detect traces of it on my palate 30 minutes later, like a lingering, comforting shadow.

When I finish the bottle of Remy Martin, these are the only eau de vie's that I will drink. From now on, it'll only be Islay, or nothing at all.

Interesting video I found. Exactly what I drank, and it's cool to see another perspective. Can't believe he left out the bit about iodine in the bouquet, because that aroma is the most powerful. But, just proves that everyone's palate is different, and his experience (or flavour expectation) is telling him to look for saltiness. And I don't think it's full-bodied at all. Round yes, but not a rich single malt. Believe it or not, those two qualities can be mutually exclusive.


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