I also wondered if the finishing in casks from 'Chateau Pétrus' was a touch of genius or indeed the first sign of distilling madness.
When I first nosed this dram, it didn’t exactly bowl me over with enthusiasm. If anything I thought my initial pre-nosing fears were coming true, in the form of a concentrated burst of a blazing tyre factory after an arson attack.
Though how surprised was I after leaving it for a while to wake up and embrace the glass? It went from peat-opian zero to hero, in less than five minutes. The heaving heavy peat was still there, but now thanks to a multitude of other elements it had now transformed into a balanced, dignified and a surprisingly inoffensive tamed peaty beast.
The nose which initially started off with intense bursts of peat and burning tyres, mellowed and balanced itself out very admirably, with emerging notes of seaweed and the light, swooshing, salty waves of the sea.
Magnificent magnitudal waves of sweet ripe fruity wonderment crash the proceedings. Raspberries, tayberries, grapes and even some late season plums all play their parts perfectly, standing up to and equalling the might of the peat-opian punch that this dram delivers.
There’s the wonderlicious aroma of a tray of strawberry jam tarts that are just finishing their final few minutes in the oven, along with a tray of malted milk biscuits. Followed by a sweet floating winey whiff of a glass of mid range port and some acidity from an open bottle of balsamic vinegar which has its said contents dripping down the side of its said receptacle
On the palate the initial sensation, is the clingy and very satisfying taste you get after being inside a smoke house. Infused somewhat with the childhood memory of those white candy cigarettes you used to find in the sweet shops (circa 1982). The solid white candy ones, not to be confused with the chocolate ones in the white edible rice paper.
There’s the aftertaste of a good hearty portion of cherry pie, that’s been made with the sweetest and plumpest North American cherries, along with a cheeky nip of ‘Kirsch’ cherry liqueur. All of which has been filled into a base of moorishly sweet, heavily buttered short crust pastry.
The proceedings are then finished with what I can only describe as mixture of spiced orange and a reappearance of that glass of mid range port.
The jury is still out, on how much of an influence the 'Chateau Pétrus' casks have had, but all the same this is a fabulous dram and one that has well and truly surprised me for all the right reasons.
Not as peaty or smoky as you’d expect, so even if you’re fairly new to Islay single malts I'd highly recommend giving it a dramming road test. Just give it a little time to wake up in the glass beforehand.