After my initial findings with a washed out bottle of Islay Storm from last year – available here – I chanced upon a miniature bottle sporting a shiny new label & thought I’d check it out.
I still had the old bottle – so did a comparison.
First off – the older bottle is slightly darker.
More added caramel?
Longer in the cask?
A completely different source of single malt?
All of the above?
Being an independent bottling for C.S. James & Sons Ltd of Glasgow there is no guarantee what was in the old bottle is the same as the new. It’s the same for all bottlings – they change & evolve -and I have no problem with that.
On the nose the miniature was cleaner, fresher & more lively.
A lovely bright & full on smoky peat hit enveloped my palate from the start. Briny & a tad sweet at the end – but very enjoyable.
The old bottle was dull & flat in comparison. Only on the finish did the ashy peat rise up to give some life to the washed out contents.
If you enjoy a smoky number – Islay Storm clearly delivers.
Just drink your bottle in timely fashion to get the full effect!
As part of their Father’s Day promotions Aldi have brought to the Irish market the award winning Glen Marnoch range of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
I’ve tried the Islay expression before here. The peat just managed to break through the caramelly sludge to make it a worthwhile bargain purchase – and the Highland bottle interested me next – but all that was on the shelves of my local Athlone store happened to be the Speyside Single Malt.
Now Speyside whiskies are among the biggest selling single malts in the world. They have universal appeal. They are approachable easy drinking & relatively mild. That equates to a lack of any bold flavours in my book and I wouldn’t be a fan.
With that caveat in mind – what did I find?
Caramel. Lots of it. The dominant note I got reminded me of a corn based blend – yet this is a 100% barley malt. Added caramel – or e150 if you like – is often made with dehydrated corn – so maybe that’s what I’m picking up.
It certainly is soft & approachable – no rough edges here – with a smidgen of fruity notes appearing towards the end. A pleasing warm burn gently caresses the palate on the finish.
For the price – added caramel & chill filtration are the norm – the name of the distillery is also not stated either – you get what you pay for.
Having said that – over in rivals Lidl – the Dundalgan Charred Cask Irish Whiskey sells for the same price.
It’s also soft & approachable. It has a far more warming – even inviting – bourbon vanilla & caramel nose – and packs more flavour too. All this from a blend.
For a fiver more you get the Dundalgan 10 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey.
Compared to the Speyside this is in a different league.
It’s cleaner, crisper, packs more flavour, more fruit & has a far more balanced appeal about it altogether.
Even in the bargain basement range there are enjoyable drinking experiences.
Not something I can say about the Glen Marnoch Speyside.
Day 2 of our Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour dawned rather dull & grey as we continued our journey North to Bushmills Distillery.
Proclaiming to be the world’s oldest distillery with a license to distill from 1608 – living in Westmeath I know Kilbeggan Distillery is actually the oldest working distillery with a continuous license housed in the same building from 1757. The Bushmills Distillery we took the tour in today wasn’t built until 1784.
Regardless of the history, Bushmills is currently owned by Jose Cuervo and the distillery produces an excellent array of age statement single malts along with some pleasing blends. The highlight of hour long tour – which went through the history, manufacturing & maturing process as well as the all important tasting at the end – was undoubtedly entering the extremely hot working still room crammed tight with the stills full of soon to be fresh distillate! Demand is so great there are plans to double the capacity by building a new stillroom on the expansive site.
As this was the first distillery we visited that had their shop open a bottle of the 12 Year Old Distillery Reserve made it into the bag. A pleasant mainly sherry cask matured triple distilled malt presented at 40%
Oddly enough Bushmills malt is not peated unlike it’s nearest working distillery – Laphroaig on Islay – which is only a short sea crossing of 30 miles away or so. On a good day you can see the hills of Scotland from the nearby Giant’s Causeway coast. There is a new ferry service taking you on the short crossing if you wish called High Sea Spirits – now that would be an adventure!
As our car isn’t amphibious we took the road instead to Derry where Niche Drinks are building their Quiet Man Distillery in the former military barracks of Ebrington Square. We were kindly met by Ciaran Mulgrew – the managing director of Niche Drinks – who proudly showed us round the building site explaining how a modern & stylish distillery with an attractive visitors centre could be built within the old listed building and yet still retain it’s history & integrity. He also told some wonderful stories of how cross party alliances which straddled the former divided city came together to get the project off the ground. Very impressive.
What is also impressive is the award winning bar & restaurant that is Walled City Brewery handily adjacent to the distillery. Happily we had booked a tasty meal here & despite stocking Quiet Man whiskey – the allure of some tasty craft beer proved too much for some! Wonderful.
The sun came out as we made our way down to Sliabh Liag Distillery. Situated just inland from the impressive sea cliffs that it takes it’s name from. The actual distillery site hasn’t yet even started – but we were enthusiastically shown round by the highly informative & engaging founder James Doherty.
He comes with a wealth of experience from his years in the drinks industry & his stories of that career mirrored the seanachai traditions of Donegal – so we repaired to the local John The Miners Bar in Carrick where a glass of the Silkie blend awaited us. This sourced whiskey’s name recalls old stories of seals taking on human forms when ashore to befriend lonely menfolk – it certainly befriended us with it’s soft yet slightly spicy notes.
We could have stayed for longer – but a long drive through the stunning coastal scenery to our hotel for the night in Sligo beckoned.
A nightcap in Thomas Connolly’s Bar rounded off our extremely entertaining day covering the whiskey distilleries across the top of Ireland.
Dram of the day?
There wasn’t one to top the stories we heard from our day on the road & in the bar that evening!
I went looking for the much publicised Ben Bracken trio of single malts recently released by Lidl – but inadvertently walked into Aldi instead!
What confronted me were not only 3 single malts – Islay, Highland & Speyside – but also a 12 Year Old Speyside as well as 2 double casks – one sherry finish & the other bourbon – all below £20.
As I’m a fan of bolder flavours I went straight for the Islay Single Malt to sample.
For the price – I wasn’t disappointed.
The nose was a pleasing mixture of Islay peat & muted caramelised vanilla notes.
For this category & price point, my assumed position is that caramel is added. You only need to look at some of the promotional photos of the different malts showing identical shades of golden brown for confirmation.
The taste was a bit of a non event. Soft, sweet, slightly watery & muted no doubt by that caramel – but after swirling it around in the mouth for a while, a rich peaty smoke surfaced into a pleasingly warming burn on swallowing which proceeded to develop a lovely long afterglow.
A very inoffensive easy sipping entry level malt whisky at an affordable price with just enough character to make it interesting.
I’m not sure which markets it will surface in the pan-european Aldi store area – but it will certainly fly off the shelves. It makes a decent everyday single malt for the drinks cabinet.
For good measure I compared it to another store brand offering. This time from the Co-operative Group.
The 8 Year Old Pure Malt is a blend of,
‘carefully selected choice malt whiskies from the Highlands Islands and Lowlands of Scotland.’
so says the label.
The same label doesn’t say caramel is added – but it has that same cloying mouthfeel which dulls any freshness or sharpness in the flavours on tasting. There was a little smoke – but not enough to rise above the morass of caramel & vanilla smoothness.
A rather muted dram in comparison to the smoky punch of Islay peat.
And like the Steve Aoki song – I felt The Power Of Now.
At 57.3% it fills the mouth with an explosion of smoke sparked off by some surprisingly sweet notes & tasty flavours.
At first I suspected added caramel but no! Bruichladdich are emphatically against such practices. All the flavour results from the maturation in wooden barrels – in this instance ex-bourbon & French wine casks – hence the sweet notes to start with contrasting beautifully with the powerful – 167ppm – peat hit later into the fabulous tasting experience.