One of the beauties of the northern hemisphere summer is meeting my whisky mates on Islay, of the west coast of Scotland.
For those five days of summer when the mist and fog isn’t obscuring the white-washed distilleries, it is priceless.
I’m sure every man alive has tasted Laphroaig or Lagavulin – distinctly phenolic, almost medicinal peaty-iodine.
Now our tenth anniversary, the seven of us bring samples and offerings collected from all over Scotland and further afield. Most of us are ex-rugby players, and it struck me that there were a number of similarities between whisky and rugby.
Here’s a very small sample:
William Grant Sherry Cask Reserve
Attractive but somewhat plodding dram that’s content in second gear.
Whyte and Mackay Special
If you’re looking for a big-flavoured dram and with something approaching a vicious left uppercut, this is a useful bottle to have on hand. Enormous complexity in the delivery, a veritable orgy of big, oily, juicy, murky flavours.
You cannot help but like this in the way you sometimes like rough sex, but if you’re looking for something to cuddle up to, to kiss you and gently caress your brow, then leave this one well alone.
Julian Savea, Waisake Naholo, Nemani Nadolo, Duane Vermeulen, Ma’a Nonu.
Liquid Sun Laphroaig
(Independent German bottlers have a huge supply of sulphur-ruined casks available and enthusiastically destroy beautiful young distillings.)
The sulphur dictates grimly. Technically dreadful. That’s my taste buds wrecked for the day and it’s only 9.42am.
Nic White yapping five minutes into every game. Like this whisky, why is he always so angry?
Berry Bros an Rudd Bowmore 2002
A sweet, seaweed earthiness, with vague hints of spices. More boo than peak.
Sonny Bill Williams this year – too quiet.
Don’t know what to say. Well I do really, but why bother.
Ben Tameifuna (vs Highlanders).
Scotch Malt Whisky Society Cask 10.74
Violently sugary yet entertaining. But something, I think due to its indolent posture, is naggingly second class about the whole affair.
Laphroaig aged 40 years
A malt that defies all logic and theory to be in this shape at this age. The Jane Fonda of whisky.
Brad Thorn and/or Victor Matfield.
Massive yet tiny. Loud yet whispering. Seemingly ordinary from the bottle yet unforgivable. There is no masking genius and this Uigeadial is restrained and cerebral. The whisky of the year.
Johnny Walker Red
Like the Super Rugby side, you want a dram, and you have a go, but you know for sure you’re going to have a headache.
Anyway, that’s my brief offering from Islay.
(As an aside, haven’t you always found it amusing that semi-intelligent people turn into pompous morons when they review stuff – herbaceous, liquorish and so on.)