Saturday, June 26, 2010
Yochanan (his real name is Jon) is a regular contributor to comments on my reviews and so one day I thought, Jon if you write up a tasting note, I'll post it on this blog. He agreed and so here we are.
Jon is a big fan of this independent bottler's offering. It is a very affordable single malt scotch. There is no age statement, but people in the industry tell me that it is probably a six year old Lagavulin. Others say it is a six year old Laphroaig or Caol Ila. As an independent bottler, the owner's of the Finlaggan Old Reserve brand, are not the owner's of a distillery, but rather simply buy the single malt of one and bottle and label it themselves. So, one year it could be Lagavulin, while another year it may be Laphroaig. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that if you like Islay scotch, that is to say, if you enjoy peat, you will enjoy this little gem. Please read on:
Finlaggan (Old Reserve)- Single Malt Islay Scotch Whisky
by Jon S.
Notes about the bottle: This whisky has won “gold” in the International Wine and Spirit Competition, according to the bottle. Additionally, there is quote containing praise from none other than Jim Murray, as
taken from his “whisky bible.” It goes on, “BRILLIANT,…this is simply awesome. If you don’t get a bottle of this, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life!”
Now, onto the dirty deed.
Fairly big, semi-sweet peat, some smoke, a little petrol, and seaweed. Lacks the medicinal “edge“ one might find in the peatiest of the Islays. I also detect pears and anise, I believe, faintly behind all the peat. Nice nose. Strikes me as being relatively subdued whilst maintaining a stern, and probably quite young, classic Islay character.
Anyone who has experienced a particularly peaty Islay knows the kind of atmosphere a dram can create in a room. The peat-fires lit at the whiskeys development are seemingly rekindled, and the room can become a
tiny little peat bog. This is pleasing to the Islay enthusiast, as well as an annoyance to the non-fan who must also be in the room. The strength of the bon-fire nose on the Islay at hand in this review is little different, albeit a tad less strong than the likes of the three “peat monsters” (is it?) that our host Jason has detailed: Laphraoig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin. I consider the Finlaggan something borderline to this.
The palate flows through in a nearly perfectly parallel fashion from the nose. Right away: Big peat attack, with a large, spicy puff of cigar smoke following the tail-end of the increasingly sweet peat. I actually had a Romeo Y Julieta Habana Reserve (cigar) after my first night’s tasting of this scotch, and judging from the not-so-extreme complexity of the OR, makes it an ideal cigar-scotch, or scotch to sip with a cigar. The pears from the nose return mid-palate. I also even pick up a teensy bit of honey and sherry! This is nice, even if it is far from the most complex or sophisticated malt one could have: The flavors are mostly straight-forward off of the nose, and the more subtle flavors are nearly drowned out from the robust ones. Not a real flaw, though. This is, however, a no-age stated entry Finlaggan. I would be interested in trying out the cask strength of this whisky as well.
Lingering, persistent smoke, oak, and a little hot pepper. The finish is long.
If one wants to experiment, feel free, but diluting any bit seem to only mute the more subtle notes and tame the peat a tad. This scotch is to be had neat, and only neat.
I have heard a very prevalent theory that this “mysterious” scotch is actually a young Lagavulin, and I suppose I can see this. Regardless, this is young scotch, perhaps between 6-8 years. While it tastes young,
it is actually relatively gentle (by Islay definition), a kind of interesting juxtaposition.
So, is there value for money here, Jon!?
You betcha. Once again, this isn’t the most complex scotch, but it is still thought-provoking to an extent and very enjoyable. In one regard, this whisky is robust. In another, it’s considerably gentler than a lot of other Islays. That, coupled with it’s smoothness, sweetness, and lack of medicinal character make this perhaps an ideal entry to Islay single malt scotch, and a little more appealing to newbies than, say, an Ardbeg 10 yr. Around my neck of the woods, a bottle runs around $30. In less tax-hiked areas in the U.S, I have also heard of it running as low as $17. Very economical, and clearly a steal. I highly recommend the Finlaggan Old Reserve! Cheers!