Please take into account that these are my personal tasting notes and personal experience, as such you may interpret any whiskies very differently from me.
Hands up if you like Islay whisky…. hopefully by now you will all have your hand in the air. If not then it’s probably because you think Islay is all about peat and you’d be forgiven for thinking that as I thought exactly the same thing before attending an Elements of Islay tasting run by The Birmingham Whisky Club.
If you’ve not heard of Elements of Islay before then it’s worth checking out their (brand spanking new) website: https://islay.com
Elements of Islay buy casks from a range of Islay distilleries and then produce a range of elemental style whiskies from them. You can normally take an educated guess at which distillery each bottling comes from by the period table style name. Their aim is to showcase what Islay has to offer but they might also surprise you with some of their bottlings.
I absolutely love their concept and their bottle and labels which are all designed on a period table / laboratory style appearance.
The medicinal, almost ‘elemental’ character of Islay malt whiskies was the inspiration for the laboratory-style bottle and element symbol/number naming system used across the Elements range (Lp1, Ar2, and so on). Coincidentally, even the 50cl bottle used throughout the Elements range is called ‘pharmacy’. Every Elements bottle also bears the signature of a whisky authority, so you can be confident of the quality of the liquid inside.
Taken from the Elements of Islay website.
Oh did I mention that all of the bottlings were Full Proof, with the lowest being 50.2% abv? As I’m sure you can imagine that created a rather heavy tasting session! However I have tried my best to write up some notes for you below on each of the whiskies we tasted.
In case you hadn’t already guessed this was from Bruichladdich. It’s also 24 years old. Oh and no smoke or peat to it at all!
Nose: Sweet, fruity, vanilla and honey.
Palate: Sweet, spicy, fruity and caramel.
Finish: Spicy and nutty.
Lagavulin, their 16 year is my current favourite whisky, this offering however was 8 years old.
Nose: Biscuit, smoke, peat.
Palate: Smokey, peat, some creaminess and vanilla also present.
Finish: Long and smokey.
Bowmore, around 19 years old. This was my favourite offering of the evening, with its mix of smoke and sweetness and especially it’s finish.
Nose: Sweet, fruity, caramel, honey.
Palate: Fresh, citrus, honey, sweet leading to a good smokiness.
Finish: Smoky at first leading to very tropical – as Mariella the Brand Ambassador from Elements of Islay put it; it’s like drinking Um Bongo. Also a touch of spice in their.
No distillery this time, just a generic peat offering. Also the youngest of the evening at 7 years.
Nose: Sharp, alcohol kick (surprisingly the first of the evening considering the abv’s we’ve been dealing with), a touch of malt and a dose of peat smoke.
Palate: Spicy, slightly nutty, peat and smoke but also a creamy feel to it.
Finish: More nuttiness, spice, peat and smoke.
Bunnahabhain (yeah I wouldn’t have got that one with out being told either), 12 years old.
Nose: Sweet, creamy and smokey.
Palate: Sweet, creamy, vanilla and slightly nutty.
Finish: Sweet, smokey, nutty and creamy again.
Last but not least, Laphroaig, around 16 years old.
Nose: TCP, smoke and charcoal (typical Laphroaig).
Palate: Creamy, sweet to start then a citrus note.
Finish: Smokey and nutty.
To finish we also got a special offering of Oc3 – an as of yet unreleased Octomore offering from Bruichladdich.
Nose: Sweet, spice, biscuit and smoke.
Palate: Spice, sweet, smoke.
Finish: Spice and smoke.
Overall this was a wonderful experience, heavy on the alcohol content for sure but surprisingly not a big issue on the nosing and tasting front. Mariella from Elements of Islay who ran the tasting did a great job, she was informative yet funny at the same time and made the whole thing really fun.
Certainly worth checking out the Elements of Islay range if you ever get a chance to attend a tasting or if you can afford their prices which are slightly on the high side for my budget.
Also once again The Birmingham Whisky Club did a superb job of putting on the tasting. Also keep an eye out for a piece on writing which showcases how much work goes into putting on a tasting such as this.