Nowadays, Islay whiskies are all the rage. It seems every hipster in every bar is talking about how much they love Laphroaig. Back off, youngsters, I was here first. Without further ado, my favorite Islay whiskies.
Name: Ardbeg Uigeadail
Batch: N/A (circa. 2014)
Age: No Age Statement
Proof: 108.4 (54.2% abv)
Notes: This is Ardbeg aged between 7 and 12 years, with a portion of the bottling being aged in ex-Sherry casks. The result is a whisky with rolling peat, mocha, dark chocolate, pound cake, and dried mango. While I understand why people stay away from NAS bottlings, this whisky proves that a whisky can be complex and unique without a ton of years in the casks, or a divulging of that age. Uigeadail is readily available and pretty damn affordable for the quality of the juice inside it.
Name: Bruichladdich Octomore
Batch: 06.1 Scottish Barley
Age: 5 Years
Proof: 114 (57% abv)
Notes: This is a massively peated whisky bottled very young at cask strength. It’s hard to believe it’s so brilliant. I’ve liked most iterations of Octomore I have tried, but this was soundly my favorite. It smelled of volcanic rock that had been dipped in honey and rolled in fresh sawdust. The flavors are long and intense, but balanced and unique. This is a hard whisky to find, and this batch is probably long gone, but the Octomore lineup is definitely worth seeking out.
Name: Duncan Taylor Dimensions – Bruichladdich
Batch: Cask #3673
Age: 19 Years
Proof: 102.6 (51.3% abv)
Notes: An independent bottling, this whisky came from a single refilled hogshead. All the notes you would expect from the cask are present, such as orchard fruits and berries, but those notes are buffered well with notes of sea spray and cardamom. This whisky is soft, long, and complex. It is not a typical Islay pour, but that does not diminish the quality of this dram. This particular bottling is probably not available anymore, but I have had a few other Bruichladdich independent bottlings aged in American Oak, and they have all been stellar.
Name: Laphroaig 10 Year-Old Cask Strength
Age: 10 Years
Proof: 116 (58% abv)
Notes: Truth be told, there have been iterations of this stellar Laphroaig release that I could have chosen here, but this one is my favorite by a small margin. What makes this whisky so special is that all the big medicinal, smoky, salty, peaty flavors of Laphroaig are present, but they are all counter-balanced with rich vanilla custard and toasted soda bread. The depth and complexity of this whisky is most impressive for only 10 years of age. This batch is hard to find now, but future batches are readily available in most higher end liquor stores, and this whisky won’t break the bank.
Name: Laphroaig 32 Year-Old
Batch: 200th Anniversary Edition
Age: 32 Years
Proof: 93.4 (46.7% abv)
Notes: For their 200th, Laphroaig bottled this 32 year-old gem from a refill Sherry butt. If I tasted this one blind, I would never have thought this was Laphroaig. This whisky is hard to describe. The flavors are sherried, barbecued, peated, and ancient. Think of eating the best dark chocolate while drinking rich Oloroso sherry by a bonfire with just a hint of peat burning. That’s really the best description I can think of. It’s not often a peated whisky comes out like this with such age. Obviously, this is an extremely hard whisky to find, and it will cost a great deal if purchased. But, for what it’s worth, it’s really, really good whisky.