Whisky Season 2016 – The Final Two

What a great day to finally release these two ancient Islay casks. The drizzle is coming down outside, the light from the warmth of my office is illuminating the bottles, and I'm thinking of how delicious both of these are going to taste later this evening as I sit in my living room with the sound of the rain hitting my rooftop. No one wants to think about sipping an old, complex, and smoky glass of 35 year old Caol Ila when it's 92 degrees outside and the sun is shining. You drink old Caol Ila when the skies are grey, the air is crisp, and you need that bit of Islay warmth to lift your spirits after a day of winter weather. While I'm hoping to get another container of whisky in just before Christmas, I can tell you straight up right now that there's nothing quite this rare from Islay coming later. If all goes well we should have some 40+ year old blends and grains, but nothing this impressive on the malt side. If you're looking for a good holiday gift for that Islay whisky lover, the time is now. You're getting a 24 hour head start here by reading the blog. When the email goes out tomorrow I'm expecting a smoking crater in the warehouse where the Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain were once stacked.

While both of these whiskies are expensive, they're nowhere near the prices we're seeing for similar whiskies from the major players. Diageo released their Port Ellen 14th Edition, a 35 year old expression that I tasted earlier this week and one that very much resembles our Caol Ila edition pictured above. The difference in price, however, is about $2,650 per bottle and most of that is due to the rarity. Bunnahabhain just released a new version of their distillery-direct 25 year old. That's going for around $900-$1000 depending on where you look. Our 28 year old version is three years older and $700 less. We're not necessarily comparing apples to apples here, but you get what I'm saying. The weakened British Pound definitely helped us out and it's going to really help me on this next container. When you deal with merchants like us who buy direct, you get the benefit of the currency exchange (so long as they pass it on to you like we do). When large corporations sell to themselves, you don't. It's that simple. We could have priced the Caol Ila at $500 and I think it would have sold just as fast (especially considering how quickly the Ardbeg 21 went at that price), but that's not how I roll. Both whiskies come in the standard wooden box that we've been using for our Hunter Laing Old & Rare malts in the past, like the Longmorn and Teaninich. We've got some great whiskies scheduled for mid-December, but if you're looking for big names, it won't get much bigger than this. Neither will the quality of the whiskies. These are the two best casks I found on my trip to Scotland this past Spring. I've saved the best for last and I've been waiting for the right day to release them. When I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on my window, I knew that day had come.

1987 Bunnahabhain 28 Year Old "Hunter Laing Old & Rare" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $199.99 - While peated whisky fans will fawn over the 35 year old Caol Ila we're releasing in tandem here, the Bunnahabhain 28 year is the whisky for those who love nuance and restraint. There's no heavy smoke to be inhaled in this jewel of a single malt. There's little smoke, whatsoever, actually. This ancient Islay whisky has everything we love about the standard Bunnahabhain 18, just with an additional ten years in wood and a drinkable cask strength proof of 49.1%. There's that earthy, resinous stonefruit on the palate that we love so much; a creamy and supple texture that haunts your senses. The salted caramel comes in later, washing over the back of the mouth like a wave off the coast of the sea nearby the distillery. Considering the standard edition Bunnahabhain 25 was released earlier this year for a whopping $900 per bottle, our direct import program comes out looking great with this release. For $700 less you get three additional years and an unfiltered, undiluted purity. Fans of Islay whisky will be thrilled with the complexity and the value. Fans of whisky in general should consider grabbing more than one of these. Unfortunately, however, the older the cask, the more the evaporation. There's less than 200 total bottles of this beauty. We recommend grabbing one quickly.

1980 Caol Ila 35 Year Old "Hunter Laing Old & Rare" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $349.99 - We've bought a number of amazing Caol Ila casks over the years, some at just five years of age and others at more than thirty, but there are two things we can say about this particular cask of Caol Ila: we've never had one this old and we've never had one this well-priced considering the market. Experienced whisky drinkers compare old Caol Ila to old Port Ellen, that elusive and rare Islay distillery now selling for thousands of dollars per bottle. While Diageo released the 14th edition this past year, a 35 year old cask strength expression of pure peated splendor, it will run you at least three grand. With this cask strength Caol Ila, we're offering you a whisky that's just as delicious (if not as rare) for about ten percent of that price. If you're looking for decadent Islay goodness, you've got it all here. It's oily, resinous, round on the palate, thick with brandied fruit, but oh so ashy, smoky, salty, and peaty. It's sweet and then it's savory. It's bright, but then it's heavy. It's easy to drink, yet utterly complex. It's the entire package and it comes just in time for the holidays when gifts like this are greatly appreciated by savvy drinkers. We've waited until the end of our most recent container to release this beauty to the world. There are less than 130 bottles available at 56.3% cask strength. Don't let our reasonable price fool you: if you or someone you know likes smoky whisky, this is about as high end as it gets.

To reiterate some points from Tuesday's blog post, do not sleep on these bottles. If you want them, buy them now. They won't be here for long once that email announcement goes out to the big list. There's not much to be had, anyway.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll