Incredible and Limited Mature Scotch Exclusives from Iconic Distilleries
The experience of enjoying extremely well aged Islay whisky is one you’ll never forget, a rite of passage for any serious Scotch lover, and no bottler will offer such a spectacular experience and value for your dollar than our “Old Particular” line. Every year we peer deep into the Scottish warehouses to find something unprecedented to bring back to our customers. Often, however, the very best isn’t unearthed, it is awarded. We’re extremely lucky to have built trusted relationships with our vendors over the years. Indeed it is thanks to our loyal customers that we’re afforded the incredible accesses that we do have. And when we inquire about what special malts might be hiding in the old warehouses at Douglas Laing, we are offered a plethora of rare casks. Often due to their incredible rarity, the price outweighs their potential viability, but on occasion, our suppliers bestow us with casks so special rare and delicious we must consider them. And even in those cases, a rare cask requires a value judgment. But when we see similar independently bottled single casks and distillery bottlings on the market for 200-300% more than what we are offering, we know we’re onto something.
That’s exactly what we’re looking at here. Two ultra rare Islays in completely different styles, aged beyond anything readily available on the market today. The first from the gorgeous Bunnahabhain near Port Askaig was distilled over 30 years ago. This unpeated Islay is still distinctly of that magical place and its 30 years in a refill sherry butt make it one of the most intriguing and unique casks we’ve ever bottled. The distillery offers a 25 year that pales in comparison to the depths of this cask, which often fetches upwards of $700.
The second is our old friend Caol Ila. The other distillery on the northern shore of Islay is one of the most underappreciated distilleries available today. We’ve had great success previously with old casks from this legendary distiller, but each additional year that goes by makes these old stocks more and more prized. The distillery’s 35 Year Old offerings command upward of $1000. The prices aren’t low, but the value is high.
1988 Bunnahabhain 30 Year Old “Old Particular” KL Exclusive Single Refill Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($275.00)
Bunnahabhain whisky is a perfect fit for refill sherry maturation, and especially for long-term aging. And 30 years is a perfect age for any Scotch, especially from one of the world’s great distilleries. $275 is an absurdly low price for these two things in combination. In short, this opportunity was too good to pass up. This is as good as whisky gets, in our opinion. It’s dark, rich, and loaded with complexity. The unpeated, slightly saline and very full nature of Bunnahabhain plays perfectly with the refilled sherry butt. Over 30 long years, the whisky naturally proofed itself down to 44.5% ABV — a delightful bit of perfection for drinking neat. It’s rare that you taste something so special that everything around you drops away and time seems to stop. This is that whisky. Consider that the distillery’s 25-year bottling will easily run you $600 bucks or more, and the $275 for this 30-year cask feels like a gift. In fact, it’s the perfect gift to give your dearest friends and maybe even get a second one for yourself.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 12, 2018
Few whiskies will match the majestic complexity of old Bunnah in sherry. The fact that it’s in second fill makes it that much more special. Imagine where this butt might have been 18 years before it was filled a second time in 1988—probably in some old bodega’s oloroso solera dating back decades. So a refill cask from the ‘80s was likely originally coopered sometime around the First World War. The nearly century long journey of that barrel to our supplier’s warehouse and eventually to your glass makes this bottle particularly interesting. But ultimately, it’s the destination that makes it truly special. The otherworldly flavors that emanate from the glass are completely bewitching. A complex stew of dark fruit, exotic woods (particularly sandalwood and mahogany), burnt orange peel and this wonderful strange exotic salt. The palate is rich but not stewed or thick. Tons of bold spice and no bitterness even after 30 years. The lowish proof feels somehow like a benefit for once, but DO NOT add water as it’s in perfect balance right out of the bottle – a drop of water creates an interesting change in the nose but breaks the delicate palate. A truly distinguished old Islay unlike any other we’ve ever sold and not likely to be repeated ever again.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 30, 2018
Unquestionably one of the finest bottles we have ever sold. The specs are flawless. The price, while high, is an absolute steal. The deep mahogany color entrances you from the get-go. You don’t even have to lift the glass to your nose to be hit with the sweet smell of cream, roasted pecans, caramelized sugar, and a faint sherry rancio note. Dive in and the full sensual glory of toffee, apple pie, and caramels fills you with joy. After you come to, you might lift the glass to your mouth and let the richness of the spirit roll over your tongue. An ever-changing array of sweet fruits, damp earth, fresh cream butter, rancio, chocolate, brandied pears cascades down your palate. The finish is dry and spicy with the sweetness of flamed orange peel lingering behind. It’s long and clean, endlessly pleasant and certainly of a quality you will not forget.
Jeffrey Jones | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 06, 2018
A mature single malt that is lively and drinking well now. The nose is rich and full with sweet floral and dried fruit aromas. In the mouth it is a delicious nectar with rich malt and dried fruit flavors that are mouth-filling. There is a long finish. It was perfect without added water.
Neal Fischer | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 30, 2018
The nose is so floral, spicy, and heady! There’s lavender, lily, and lilac with clove and cardamom pods creating a very deep potpourri aroma verging on burning incense intensity. It also possesses aromas of toasted and candied nuts baking in butter. The ocean brine flavors here will be welcomed by any fan of Bunnahabhain (or other classic island Scotches for that matter). The palate gets dessert-oriented with the candied nuts showing up big, followed by flavors of apple pie and saltwater taffy. As sugar-oriented as it seems initially, when this Scotch moves into its final stages there’s bold leather, herbaceous notes, and brine as it ends very, very dry.
1984 Caol Ila 34 Year Old “Old Particular” KL Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($375.00)
No distillery is more representative of the state of the Scotch industry than this bewitching peater on the northern coast of Islay. The excellent shoreside stills have dutifully cranked out unbelievably delicious peated whisky since 1846, but it wasn’t until the malt floors were closed and the distillery began buying barley from the Port Ellen maltings that the current house style truly solidified. Caol Ila is known for their 12 Year Old in the US, but a huge majority of the spirit gets blended into the Johnnie Walker line. While the line has become slightly more available in the last few years, it still remains pretty elusive, especially in a significantly aged form. The last distillery on Islay where ultra-mature stocks are not in the $1,000 range, but they probably deserve to be. The spirit is impeccable and easily one of the most undervalued malts in Scotland. Oftentimes when we lament the loss of the old great peater Port Ellen, we’re reminded how lucky we are to have the beautiful beast that sits just north of Port Askaig. A 34 Year Old PE would easily cost you $1,500. Of course, whiskies of that age are always extremely rare, but this Caol Ila represents some of the most valuable stocks. The standard 30 Year Old, which is not available in the US, easily fetches over $500 in Europe. This single cask, nearly a half decade older than that, offers one of the best values for old Islay anywhere in the world. Absolutely no old peater offers as much luxury for your dollar.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 12, 2018
I literally said the words, “holy sh*t” under my breath when I first tasted this special cask. Now we’re no strangers to old Caol Ila—in fact we seek it out like blood hounds. Why? Because it’s one of the only old Islay heavy hitters that has been available at semi-reasonable prices. Well, at least up until now. All but this one very special source have dried up or are becoming so prohibitively expensive that they effectively don’t exist in our world. It’s true that last year we bottled a sister cask to this one and for $25, but this whisky is in a whole other league. That’s not to imply that last year’s special whisky was a slouch by any means and the appreciation this year is relatively minimal compared to other casks. Stocks similar to the ’83 Signatory 30 year we bottled 5 years ago (retail $300) would now retail for at least $1000. Old bottles from that same period are still selling around the world for around $700. If you’re lucky you might find the bottler’s current release in Europe for $500+ and if the distillery releases a 35 Year, it will command upwards of $1000 as well. But this whisky is more than just a good deal. It’s an absolute star. The first moment the whisky hits your glass you’re blasted with massive billowing smoke. As it aerates it begins to offer some more nuance—lemon skins scorched in a pile of burning spices, the embers of a fire on an Islay beach—the smells of the bay, dried seaweed, and fresh peat burning in homes over the hill. On the palate this thing just about cuts you in half. Sooty bold peat, oyster shell, brine, tangy lemon rind, ashen embers of expensive incense. The finish is long and lingering. Too long to calculate as it forces another sip. Normally I’d recommend avoiding water on something this old, but the beast can handle it. With just the tiniest drop of water, the whole package coalesces. Salted fruits, cured meats, smoked salty fish, high end nori, sweet Meyer lemon. On the palate the water actually brings the oily texture out, revealing an almost thick mouth feel that coats every taste bud and drowns it in sooty sea spray and sweet citrus. An absolute star that probably deserves to be much more expensive, but I hesitate to anoint it with the term “value.” Just too good to be ignored.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 01, 2018
“Buried how long?” Almost 35 years. “You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?” “Long ago.” My personal tastes for whisky have changed dramatically over the years. I’ve at times found myself going gaga over loaded sherry bombs, exalting the finesse of delicate drams, and seeking out the peatiest of peatys. One thing that has been a constant over the last decade of my Scotch drinking life is my affection for well-aged smoke. As heavily peated spirits age the intensity of the smoke falls away into richness and body. It’s a particular and special characteristic that cannot be counterfeit or short cut. This specimen is a perfect example of why it is so compelling. I’m not saying this isn’t a smoky whisky, it certainly is. It’s just also so much more than that. The smoke has become a rich and oily slip’n’slide of flavor. There is a slight brine characteristic to it, not iodine, but a lighter kind of salinity. Sweet malt marries perfectly with a bit of tangy BBQ sauce. The freshness of fruit, once readily apparent in this whisky’s younger days has developed into a rich tapestry of salted and cured fruits. A refilled hogshead was undoubtedly the perfect vessel for this whisky, tame enough to stand up to many long seasons in the warehouse, and rich enough to make sure that this whiskey, after many long years in darkness would be “recalled to life.”
Jackson Lee | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 06, 2018
As a casual drinker of Caol Ila, I was very much looking forward to trying this dram and it didn’t disappoint. Classic Caol Ila honeyed smoke on the nose, much like a slow smoked honey ham, followed by a little peat, green apple, and sweet soy sauce at the end. The palate mirrored the smoked honey note I got on the nose but also included pencil shavings, charred strawberry, and a hint of brine. That brine became more noticeable throughout the finish, pairing with a sweet note that reminded me of salted caramel just not quite as….caramel-y; add wood and a nice fruity note and it’s a wrap!
Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2018/12/incredible-and-limited-mature-scotch-exclusives-from-iconic-distilleries-at-kl-california-scotch-whisky-news/