Monday, April 11, 2011

Drinking Bourbon But Thinking Islay.

Many drinkers, upon trying their first Islay malt, wonder what the appeal is. Even most Islay lovers would agree that whiskeys from that island assault the senses like no others, with flavors and aromas not ordinarily considered appealing. The pleasure in those drams is when they combine their discordant pieces into a harmonious whole. A pact is forged between drink and drinker to struggle past the repellant first impression to find the bliss beyond.

Few Scottish whiskeys attempt this high wire act, even fewer do from other lands. Some Americans do it with advanced age. Something like the 18-year-old Sazerac Rye poses a similar challenge. So have a few limited-edition releases from other distilleries, including several of the annual limited edition single barrels from Four Roses, like the new one for 2011.

For those of you who know the code, it's a 12-year-old OBSQ. (For those who don't, go to the web site for an explanation. Look for the tab that says '10 recipes.')

Like an Islay malt, this bourbon throws down the gauntlet right away. It has a strong bitter herb note that a grappa drinker might recognize. The balance comes from sweetness and an enveloping, scone-like body. When you've acclimated it presents more as caraway seed and horehound candy. There is nothing subtle about any of it.

This bourbon will not be for everyone which is just as well since these Four Roses Single Barrel Limited Edition releases always sell out fast anyway. You'll either love it or hate it. I totally get it, I think it's a great whiskey, but I don't love it.


AnotherSuggestion said...

Thanks for the interesting post.

Odd word choice. You say "you'll either love it or hate it" just before telling us that you neither love it nor hate it.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Good catch. Can I think it's a great whiskey and still hate it? I guess I can. But you're right, I sound more ambivalent than that.

Ryan said...

This is a nice post, as I recently bought my first bottle of Islay (Laphroaig QC), and am trying to figure out what I think about it. But, against what you say, I neither love it nor hate it! I find it quite drinkable, but then by the end of the glass the smoke gets to be a bit old. Anyway, I may be an anomaly, but I guess there is room for ambivalence.

Bmac said...

Life's a funny thing. I have Buchanans 12yr and I have a hard time with it as it had this strange, strong, herbal note to the nose and taste. Later, at a scotch tasting, i tried some Jura and darn near spit it out. It had that same odd note only 100 times stronger. I was told ths was peat. So..I said "I am not a fan of peat!" Then, I tasted Laphroaig 18yr. I didnt taste this horrible "peat" note at all, and found it very refreshing. Only to discover that Laphroaig (or more specific Islay) is the king of peated scotch.

I have a bottle of FRSB that is almost gone and I find it to be amazing. I got the FRSB LE 2011 and...after reading all the reviews I am almost scared to crack it open.

Since they use the same mashbill for regular SB, only a change in yeast,should there really be so much difference?

Chuck Cowdery said...

True, it shouldn't be very different, but that's the adventure, right?