Whisky Season 2016 – Round Five

Now that we're into September and there's the slightest semblance of Fall in the air, I think we can start thinking about peat; specifically Islay whisky. After spending the last month and a half getting you acquainted with some of our lighter, easy-drinking, and substantially well-priced Highland offerings, our palates are now craving something different. As the leaves start to change color and the evenings begin just a bit earlier, that heartier, smokier, unique Islay character becomes all the more desirable. It entices our imaginations: a roaring fire, the cold night outside, a glass of Scotch in hand to sip as we spend more time in doors. Now that we're transitioning into that mindset, it's time to show you our first two peated Islay selections from Whisky Season 2016, still very much value-driven as has been the case with all our offerings thus far. A young Caol Ila, this time from a sherry hogshead, that offers punch as well as precision. A dark and heady Bowmore that reminds us of how rich and quintessential the iconic distillery's character truly is. 

Caol Ila 6 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice" Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $49.99 - On the strength of the previously popular young peated whiskies we've been importing, we went back to the well again this year. This time, however, we asked the folks from Hepburn if they had any of that same fiery Caol Ila aged in sherry cask. Luckily they did and it's that little highlight of sweetness that makes all the difference between this year's selection and older editions. The classic elements of Islay are at play, of course: smoke, peat, earth, and sea salt, but they're accented by a richness from the sherry. There's a nice little coating of cakebread and cocoa around that core of Caol Ila, rounding the edges and tempering the bold 58.9% cask strength character just the slightest bit. The best part, however, is the price. We managed to keep the cost right at $49.99, despite the extra year in barrel and the added bonus of the sherry. For the money, you'd be hard-pressed to a more potent Islay value anywhere.

2001 Bowmore 14 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice" Single Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $82.99 - While Bowmore seems to play second (or even fourth) fiddle to the Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig selections on our shelf, we've always been enamored with Islay's most historic distillery. We've never let popular whisky culture or changes in the portfolio diminish the fact that Bowmore tastes pretty damn good in a number of iterations. While tasting through single cask selections this year, we found a fourteen year old sherry butt that was so dark and so soft we couldn't pass it up. The best part about this particular expression was the texture; it mirrored the most popular Bowmore edition we sell: the 15 year old "Darkest," albeit at full proof and from one concentrated cask (and despite the fact this was supposedly a "refill" barrel). The flavors are dark and rich, brooding and slow-moving over the palate. Dark chocolate accented by a beach bonfire oozes over the tongue, buoyed by toasted almonds and earthy peat. The nice part about sherry butts is that they hold more whisky! In the case of this 14 year old Bowmore, we figured we were going to need every drop. We expect this to be one of the most popular K&L casks of the Fall season; while it lasts, of course.

Believe it or not, Whisky Season 2016 is already going so well that we're actually selling our whisky faster than we anticipated. By the time this weekend is over, most of rounds one to four should be completely sold out, leaving only these two new Islay casks in play. Contrast that with last year from which we still have a few casks left. I'm thrilled, of course, but what are we going to sell during October, November, and December? These are the prime whisky drinking months!

To resolve this little excessive sales snafu, I'm actually leaving for Scotland this afternoon to find more booze—ASAP! I'll be reporting from the road starting tomorrow. I'm back in the store Saturday if you need me.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll