These whiskies were brought to me very kindly by my friend Darren, who attended the clearly amazing 50th birthday celebration and tour of his friend Paul Fournel. They went to Islay with Paul’s dad and five friends and visited every distillery, opened the bottles below in their home distilleries, and drank them all! All except the Caol Ila, which was donated to them by Dr. Billy Sinclair at Bunnahabhain distillery.
Obviously this was a huge privilege to try these, it must have been amazing to see off the bottles! Thanks so much to Paul and Darren, and happy birthday Paul.
Nose - Intense and heavenly. My first impression was one approaching hubba bubba (hubba bunna? That does work actually), such is the fruity intensity and depth here. Then through bright plastic, magic bubbles, and up almost into Fairy Liquid. This is sewn together with a beautifully judged cask wax, lip salve and Summer perfume. New York cheese cake with lime later. Beautiful.
Body - Now in the delivery there's an ancient sherry cask, fruity and dusty, with last Christmas's hazelnuts, age blackened wood against bright Summer fruits - melon and orange segments, a little ripe pear. It has that really, really old Scotch wood thing that is right on the edge but this is perfectly balanced.
Finish - Medium with chilled, oaked Chardonnay - tannic but refreshing. Rich pastry, buttery at the end.
A superbly balanced ancient whisky, drinking extremely well and not a sherry bomb at all despite the colour. It wears its age extremely well. What's amazing is how refreshing and spritely the fruits are, and how well the wood, sherry and structure runs through the whisky. I particularly like the melon.
Caol Ila 1968, 2nd fill sherry cask, private sample, unknown ABV. A⊕+
Nose - Dirty and rustic, nutty sherry cask with bright cut peach and baked plums. Haribo and leather armchair. Maybe in the waiting room of a really nice office. Lipstick waxes, French-golden pastry and a little frangipane. With time, the wax starts to dominate, the sherry becomes more and more red-wine-cask.
Body - Between bright fruit and flypaper, cracked black pepper crisps and Kia-ora juice drink. Thick fruit juice and tannins.
Finish - Steak au poivre with apple sauce. Fence panels at the end.
I'm guessing this one has spent a while in an infrequently opened sample bottle, but there is majesty here and thick, tropical fruit juice.
Nose - Slightly pornographic this one, hold on a second… fresh and floral, but dusty - somewhere between travel sweets and Refreshers - and with this light but otherworldly tropicality. There's fruit polos, ripe papaya, a new pack of plasters, love hearts and just a little swimming pool (maybe the changing rooms). The low ABV makes it all the more weird.
Body - Huge, ripe, fizzing wood, with sesame and lots of funk, slightly formic, reminds me of the 80s Bowmore I've had but no Parmas - it has the same fruit/puckeringly dry/alien remnants of peat thing going. It is unputdownable.
Finish - Insanely long, massively tropical with a huge (and balanced) astringency which is extremely arresting and compelling. Behind the papaya, touches of liquorice root and juniper.
An epic whisky. A perfect expression of very old Bowmore. It has so much fruit, in such a weirdly backhanded way. A real privilege to get to try this!
Nose - I was expecting medicine but the medicine is very distant, next door. This is in some ways similar to the Bowmore but this is sort of introverted where the Bowmore was outgoing; the tropicality is hiding slightly, a mango and banana smoothie with hand soap, buttercream and an old leather jacket. Actually… it's very reassuring.
Body - Ancient, peppery woods, there's an arrestingly sweet medicinal note now, cough candy and antiseptic cream. There's also a very compelling fruit next to the cough candy, with green apple and baked pears, liquorice torpedoes and lime marmalade.
Finish - Extremely long again, brightly sweet across the entire development with that slightly fetid old peat providing more structure. Soft waxes linger after the finish, the smell of bandages on your hands.
Very special again (of course), this is a fascinating whisky with real gravitas, but again utterly wonderful to drink. With hindsight this has more elegance than the Bowmore but is a little more challenging. I think this might haunt me even more than the Bowmore. The empty glass smells of BBQ, cigars and leather, gone but won’t be forgotten…