This little blog passed the milestone at some point last week, after four and a half years of existence. More popular blogs receive that amount of visitors on a daily basis, perhaps. Considering tOMoH's Key Adventures are written primarily for tOMoH's own recollection, tOMoH is touched that so many other Internet users read his adventures. Many of those users are recurrent visitors, be they lurkers or active commentators, which is both flattering and rewarding.
Enough with the sentimentalia. Three drams, because. And three Islay, because. Let me do something unusual, however: none of them is from a closed distillery. Also: in decreasing order of ABV. Burn the heretic.
Bunnahabhain 16yo 1997/2014 (56.4%, Edition Spirits The First Editions, Refill Hogshead, 170b): 1997 and its peaty Bunnas. Ahhh!... Nose: hot embers on very rich earth, ploughed fields, distant manure, fresh upla (cow-dung cake used as fuel in India). This is almost muddy, bold and generous. It further has a note of limescale and roasted peanuts. The back of the nose is closer to tractor tyres, after a rainy day out in the fields. Mouth: warming, though not overpowering. It has hot, caramelised apricot compote, then incandescent charcoal and back again. Green chilli chutney -- hot and sweet. Finish: the peat is very present, at this stage -- a chimney, warmed by a fire place, roasted orange rinds and the caked caramel that sticks to the pot after making a caramel sauce. Nice, this. More complex than I expected and probably one of the best 1997 Bunnahabhain I have had. 8/10 (thanks LM for the sample)
Ardbeg 22yo 1993/2016 (55.3%, Cadenhead Single Cask, Bourbon Hogshead, 228b): nose: although peaty too, this is a whole different kettle of fish. Dry earth, dried-up riverbeds and gardening tools, after they have spent the winter in the basement, dried up and the soil on them hardened by the proximity of the boiler. Bone-dry peat, in other words. And then, magically, it turns coastal, with dried algae, kelp, drying fishing nets, salty, smoked mackerel. It changes again, however: soon, it delivers roasted orchard fruit, apple compote -- heaps of organic apples, waiting to be made into cider. Mouth: warm, with ginger and lemongrass, it numbs the palate a little, before unleashing the apple compote from the nose. It is not extremely fruity, yet enough to keep the whole experience rather engaging. The peat smoke is most delicate, a mere component of a more complex whole. Finish: smokey, with remnants of a camp fire (ooOOOoooh!) on very dry land; on that camp fire, apples were roasted and a few drops of their juice flavoured the embers. Either that, or it was an apple-tree camp fire. The finish also has cigar stubs and a vague note of rubber. The latter prevents me from scoring it higher. Good stuff all the same. 8/10 (thanks SW for the sample)
Laphroaig 10yo (40%, OB, *undisclosed code*, b.1980s): these are colloquially known as "Pre-Royal Warrant" and are rather popular, as well as supposedly better than today's equivalent. Nose: haha! It is one of those drams! :-) Watermelon, guava, khaki, even maracuja and mango. A distant veil of gentle smoke hovers over the fruit market, yet peat freaks should steer well clear: this is not for them -- at all! Decaying peaches, melon skins, grapefruits. Long after the glass is empty, it is moules marinières that shine (mussels in broth with vegetables). Mouth: it holds itself together, despite being 13% lower in strength than the Ardbeg. Again, the peat smoke is all but absent. It has a remote medicinal filiation, yet the dominant tone is that of fresh, tropical fruit, green grapefruit first.The texture is velvety and it is only after a long while that some spices appear (mostly black pepper). Finish: multivitamin fruit nectar, warmed in a cast-iron pot over a log fire, dried green grapefruit peels (it has a gently bitter fruitiness) and, at last, the most minute smoke. Wunderbar! 9/10 (thanks SW for the sample)