More high quality small batch vattings in the Elements of Islay range. I just can’t stop buying them, in their dinky medicine bottles. And there’s no stopping them now that Mariella is brand ambassador.
My top picks (and I did pick them, they are sitting handsomely next to their colleagues on my shelf) are the Lp7 and Ma1, for very different reasons.
By the way, I’ve been using it as a tasting note for so long that I forget that some people haven’t tried Sichuan peppercorns. They are lemony, peppery, taste a bit of hashish and make your mouth go numb. You need to try Sichuan peppercorns – you can buy them here, but they’re a lot cheaper for a lot more in Chinese supermarkets. It’s always in my cupboard, due to the works of Fuchsia Dunlop.
Nose - Ripe, green grapes and really dusty (crushed refreshers and medicinal peat). Shoe leather, old plasters, lilies, dried orange slices and Calpol. A beautiful combination of medicinal peat and tropical fruit, this is totally fantastic. Fresher and more confident with water.
Body - Coffee on inhale. Dusty again, but with fried Indian snacks, hops and fizzers*. Complex but not demanding, fresh but faintly dirty. Sour plums - particularly with water but I had it before and couldn't place it.
Finish - Chewed malt, very long with pineapple and dried mango slices. Meaty, peaty and highly medical at the end.
Probably the best Laphroaig I've had all year. Highly recommended.
Nose - There's the young, peated Bunnahabhain I know so well from SMWS. Coastal, shells, etc. but… there's a more grown up complexity here with rain water, felt tip pens, acrylic paints (citadel miniatures not wall paints), fresh linen and chocolate. I don't know if there's older spirit or just blending filling in the gaps but it works well. Sweeter but more metallic with water, but suddenly I'm reminded of Springbank (waxes, oil, fruit and peat), and finally it's the art room at school (clay, poster paints, sugar paper).
Body - A meaty smasher; sharpies, poster paints, chocolate malt (i.e. the stuff that goes in stout not chocolate and malt) and toffee apple. Beery with water.
Finish - Long and very sweet against the peat.
This is as complex and honest a peated Bunna I've had. Collect it or drink it, it works either way.
A new one on me, somewhere (ppm-wise) between Port Charlotte and Octomore apparently.
Nose - Fresh and clay-ey, slightly ashen. Highly perfumed, with preserved lemons, light funk and hot crayons on a radiator. There's something meaty by association in there too, like roast chicken with lemon shells in the cavity. Big, fat and complex.
Body – Teacher’s chalk, more fried lemon, big cereal peat, apple pie. I can see the Octomore association very clearly on the palate, the fresh malt comes through with water.
Finish - Long with lemon sherbets and Sichuan peppercorns.
A fat and lemony triumph. I very much enjoyed this sample but I'd rather own an open bottle of Ma1.
Elements of Islay Ar6, Ardbeg, 55.7% A+
Nose - Dusty, elegant and complete. Charred letter sealing wax (it was my grandmothers), linen (maybe by association), apple juice (from concentrate) and Marlboro light tobacco (unlit). Important Islay.
Body - Fresh apple, BBQ and just a hint of sulphur. It nudges cabbage but not alarmingly so. Battered peanuts and magazines, sweet and savoury. Gunpowder with water. Gunpowder's got sulphur in it, right?
Finish - Long and very drying, like placing a slab of sandalwood dredged in ground Sichuan peppercorns on your tongue. The fruit in here is very present but very odd, in the same way that it is in Turkish delight. Cocoa powder. That sulphur keeps poking its head out just before every next sip… damnit if I can't stop sipping this though…
Technically flawed but unputdownable, compelling fruit and a great "mouth experience".
* For the record, while I’m being all open about my tasting note markers, Fizzers are like (well they actually appear to be) parma violets without the perfume.