I never win anything. I’ve come second at pub quizzes, and when I was 15 I won a youth Cricket trophy (for any Americans, that’s like baseball but better and with more strange rituals). I’ve sent emails off into the aether for various online competitions, but my inbox is always a barren wasteland of competition failure.
Imagine my slack-jawed surprised when, after an epic, miserable day trying to get out of London and back to Nottingham, I discovered that I’d actually won something. The gods finally smiled upon me. I had entered a Friends of Classic Malts photo competition, to share various whisky memories along with a photo. I sent in a photo from my honeymoon on Islay and Lo! I get an email saying I’d won a bottle of whisky. Not just any whisky, but an 18 Year Old Lagavulin, the Feis Ile bottling from this year 2013.
The whisky had been selected by Iain McArthur and distilled in 1995. Only 3,000 of these sherry matured bottles were released at the time, and they’re probably not available now unless you find one at auction. Last I checked I spotted them going at around £250 a bottle.
Colour: a rich amber, with a fraction of a red hue. On the nose: a rather curious sherry note. I mean, it’s solid sherry, but there’s some curious flavours underneath that don’t quite come out in full. Apples. Cut grass. Almost a rich, elderberry note that requires concentration to get to.
In the mouth: a very full on sherry smack in the mouth. Plum jam. Elderberries again now. This is exceedingly bold and only now do I register a thick to medium weight. Chewy. Peppery. Pinot noir. A gentle cigar-smoke finish, that lingers into an almost brininess, with a hefty mineral content (not unlike licking a rock).
Yes, it’s a bloody good whisky. Not quite, I dare say, as good as the Caol Ila Feis Ile bottling this year, which is my favourite dram of 2013 so far. But it’s still one of the top whiskies of the year.
Which makes me wonder, why Islay distilleries don’t got the extra mile each year and make these bottlings – or similar ones – more widely available? They do sell out rather quickly and end up going for twice the retail value. There are clearly some secret stunners being stashed away in those Islay warehouses. Spread the love a little, no?