New Whiskies

Fèis Ìle 2018 Batch 2

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Feis Ile 2018 Batch 2: Kilchoman, Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Port Charlotte

Our second batch of Islay Festival bottlings covers off another four distilleries (Jura was absent this year due to the single malt’s recent relaunch), and this time the accent is firmly on those trademark, smoky Islay flavours.

Becky Paskin tastes her way through the oldest release yet from Kilchoman, a ‘classic’ Lagavulin – though not its finest Fèis expression, she says – and a relatively youthful Laphroaig that evokes summer afternoons.

Paskin closes – counter-intuitively, given that we run our tasting notes in alphabetical order – with this year’s two offerings from Bruichladdich, which provide a showstopping finale in the form of the distillery’s smoky alter ego, Port Charlotte.

This heavily peated pair provides an apt close to another year of official bottlings from Fèis Ìle. Look out tomorrow for a batch of independently bottled whiskies from the festival – and don’t forget to click on the Spotify playlist under ‘Right Place, Right Time’.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Kilchoman 11 Years Old, Fèis Ìle 2018

    Kilchoman 11 Years Old, Fèis Ìle 2018
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Sweet orchard fruits – conference pears and green apples – and zesty, vanilla-accented citrus notes – lemon meringue, lemon curd. The smoke is light, lending support to a sweet oakiness and hoppy top note. Dusty malt.

    Palate

    Bitter lemon peel and a warming smoke. It has a lovely, creamy sweetness and malty character – lemon meringue pie with a buttery biscuit base. The bitter peat smoke pulls through continuously, while wood spices and alcohol heat build over time.

    Finish

    Spicy, biscuity and smoky.

    Conclusion

    Kilchoman has developed gradually but, although this is the distillery’s oldest release so far, it’s still youthful and vibrant.

    Right place, right time

    It’s a Bitter Sweet Symphony.

    Lagavulin 18 Years Old, Fèis Ìle 2018

    Lagavulin 18 Years Old, Fèis Ìle 2018
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    The top notes come first – uplifting and fresh citrus peel, lemon zest, spearmint and a tarry smoke. As it settles in the glass, the dried fruit emerges, as does a salty, meatier quality. A crunchy maltiness pulls through the aroma.

    Palate

    Lovely viscosity, more lemon zest and stewed apples, with a medicinal tar flavour – almost mentholic – and sandy. Beneath the fresher tones and layer of smoke (charred pineapple) is a meaty bass line of cured ham, with sweeter notes of sultanas, raisins and toffee.

    Finish

    Oily, smoky and lingering.

    Conclusion

    A classic Lagavulin, although not its best festival release. There are layers, but make sure you take the time to sit on it and let it develop properly in the glass.

    Right place, right time

    Looking out on Dunyvaig Castle, listening to the gentle waves below. Careful: an experience like this can become an Obsession.

    Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino, Fèis Ìle 2018

    Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino, Fèis Ìle 2018
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Up front is a soft, yet very noticeable wood smoke, accompanied by dry hay and sawdust. It takes a while for the fruits to emerge, but when they do they are light and white: unripe nectarines, grape must, gooseberry. There’s a floral element too – white musk body lotion – and a sweet nuttiness, like hazelnut praline and salted butter.

    Palate

    Immediately salty, but also simultaneously vanilla-sweet and viscous. Dry, buttery and salty fino Sherry notes sit on the sides of the tongue, as wood spices build over the palate. It’s around eight years old – and has spent two years in a fino cask – so is still lively and youthful. Gooseberries and fizzy grapes dance away, while a touch of tannic oak, hazelnut and bitter walnut skin add grip. Water softens the palate, but fails to bring out any more fruit.

    Finish

    Big smoke and more sweetness.

    Conclusion

    An aperitif whisky, one for a sunny summer afternoon with a cube of ice.

    Right place, right time

    Sipped with some cubes of manchego cheese in the Summertime.

    Port Charlotte Heretic 2001, The Last of the First, Fèis Ìle 2018

    Port Charlotte Heretic 2001, The Last of the First, Fèis Ìle 2018
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Marine-like, dried kelp and hot sand. Bramble jam, juicy sultanas and golden buttered toast. There’s a viscosity even here – olive oil and salty black olives – and a crisp, peated maltiness.

    Palate

    Coats the mouth with a heavy thickness, weighed down by more jam on wholemeal toast and a heavy, charred smoke. There’s a medicinal, herbal fruitiness – Calpol and cherry Tunes – with black pepper and soot. Water brings out a bitterness and intensifies the smoky charcoal.

    Finish

    Long, smoky and just delicately fruity.

    Conclusion

    A vatting of the last five casks of Port Charlotte from the first year it was distilled at Bruichladdich. There’s some red wine influence in here, but it’s not overpowering in the slightest.

    Right place, right time

    Jam sandwiches in a Seaside rock pool.

    Port Charlotte Valinch 2005 Oloroso Cask, Fèis Ìle 2018

    Port Charlotte Valinch 2005 Oloroso Cask, Fèis Ìle 2018
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Ever stuck your nose in an active Sherry butt? Lots of dry oloroso character – baked figs, prunes, black treacle, stewed Bramley apple and sultanas. Freshly baked gingerbread. The smoke is delicate, barely perceivable, but there is that signature Port Charlotte tarry medicinal character.

    Palate

    Punchy wood spice and thick, thick Sherry. Fruity Fig Rolls, ripe strawberry jam. It’s a wee bit hot for me without water and dries the sides of the tongue. Just a drop reduces those spices and creates a creamy sweetness – soft muscovado sugar, dates, Sunmaid raisins. Old shoe leather now, a polished oak table.

    Finish

    Musty old Sherry and leather. Enough smokiness for days.

    Conclusion

    Rich, smoky and extremely moreish.

    Right place, right time

    I like Big Butts. Yep… Baby Got Back.

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