Whisky Deathmatch: Islay Blood Feud

May 13th, 2013

Well, I’m not totally sure Whisky Deathmatch has been particularly useful to my career, but I certainly enjoyed the tastings and, ignorant though I remain, I feel I’ve learned a great deal from the experience of comparing whiskies against each other.  Plus I’m a massive fan of colons in titles, so coming your way over the next few months shall be the thrilling sequel to Whisky Deathmatch…

Whisky Deathmatch: Islay Blood Feud


Dangerous sounding, huh?  I started last time thinking I like the cleaner, fresher whiskies more, and hence had two lowlands and five speysides in my dozen, but I ended up being more excited by the smoky and savoury options, and my winner was the Mad Sorcerer of Islay, Ardbeg Corryvreckan.  I felt there’s a degree to which sweet and clean whiskies are all somewhat alike, whereas the peaty seem somehow more varied.  So I thought this time around, you know what, let’s concentrate on Islay, and try and get at least one option from each of the significant distilleries on this home of the peaty.  It’s a small island, but it looms large in the whisky world, that’s for sure.  Stepping into the arena we’ve got:

Ardbeg Uigeadail – another cask strength beastie from Ardbeg, a little lower down their range from Corryvreckan, and with some sherry-wood in the mix, so probably a little sweeter and less crazy than last time’s champion.

Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition – a distillery known for smoke, their standard 16 yo is a favourite of mine already, but some sherry sweetness in this special edition.

Laphroaig Triple Wood – Prince Charles’ favourite distillery, but I’m not holding that against them.  This is a new expression from masters of the medicinal Laphroaig, again with some sherry wood in there to calm the mighty smokes, and a chunky 48% bottling.

Bruichladdich Laddie 16 – Bruichladdich has one of the biggest and most experimental ranges of any distillery.  Their classic expression is light on the peat, heavy on the character, and comes in 10, 16, and 22 year old ages.  This is the 16.

Bunnahabhain 18 – A lesser known Islay distillery whose core eighteen year old is again light on the peat smoke.

Octomore 5.1 – Little bit special this, the fifth batch of Bruichladdich’s ultra-peated, 5 year aged, 59.5% experiment, supposedly the peatiest whisky known to man.

Then we’ve got two boxed sets of three 20cl bottles from smoke-meisters Caol Ila and Bowmore, that I’ll compare against each other before we get started. The Bowmore has a 12yo, 15yo Darkest (with some sherry wood in there) and 18yo.  The Caol Ila has a 12yo, a 12yo Cask Strength, and an 18yo.

Finally, leaving Islay for a couple of further flung curiosities that I’d heard good things about:

Amrut Fusion – coming all the way from India, a much-praised mixture of Himalayan and peated Scottish barley.

Yellow Spot – and whiskEy from Ireland, triple distilled in a traditional Pot Still then matured for 12 years in three different barrels.

I’ve already had a little taste (in some cases a bit more than that) of all these and I can tell you we’ve got some mouth-watering matches in prospect.  First off I’ll decide which is my favourite of the Caol Ila and Bowmore bottles, then we’ll have 5 first round matches.  Five winners and one wildcard will compete in 3 second round matches, and 3 winners and one wildcard will make our semi-final four.  I may simplify my approach a little bit, as well, we shall see how we do…

Posted in whisky deathmatch by Joe Abercrombie on May 13th, 2013.

14 comments so far

  • weedypants says:

    Joe, all that whisky, how are you financing it?

    ** Visiting loan sharks to fuel your habit?

    ** Loaning large sums of one GRRM (if that’s not the same as the above)?

    ** Writing under a pseudonym (P. T. Hose or something) and selling lots and lots of raunchy romantic fiction?


  • pmdf says:

    I’ve had a few of these:

    Bunnahabhain, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. Ardbeg is incredible value as it always seems to be on offer in my local, but – and I hate to predictable and pick the big boy of the bunch – Laphroaig is in a class of its own if you love peatiness.

  • pmdf says:

    Oh, just noticed Caol Ila is in there too. That’d be my runner up.

  • Chris Upton says:

    Weedypants-The Iron Bank of Braavos gets everywhere these days.

  • Drew says:

    The Fusion is one of the best whisky’s I have had.It’s quite lightly peated compared to some of the others.
    I found the Octomore to be nearly undrinkable,but that’s my taste-bubs.

  • Mayhaven says:

    I think you are busy as a bee, the Abercrombee. (Haha. Get it? haha…No? Nevermind…
    Therefore it is always nice to see a new blog on your site and everything is better with alcohol, which means whiskey deathmatch is especially nice. Please do continue!

  • Adam A. says:

    Could have also called this new one: ULTIMATE LIVER WORK OUT EDITION WITH COMBO PACK.

  • Frank Fitzpatrick says:

    Absolutely love these. Make me laugh every time.

  • Greg Lynch says:

    My cynical side thinks this all just an excuse to get distilleries to send you Whiskey.

  • Jodi Mullen says:

    I’m a huge Islay fan so I’m really looking forward to this battle of the regional titans.

    I think you may well find that Uigeadail is even more fo a beast than Corryvreckan though!

  • Jon C. says:

    Laphroaig is un-knockoutable. Caol Ila is a smoother version.

    In fact, Laphroaig kicks your door in with a flamethrower under one arm and a machine gun under the other. Caol Ila knocks first.

  • Thorrgal says:

    Bunnahabbain 12 is much better (and better value too) than the 18 counterpart, as in general age doesn’t suite peated whiskies that well.

    I would have added the other Island whiskies here too like Highland Park 12 or Talisker’s DE, ’cause I guess will be hard that you make a deathmatch just for them, but o well we have all the time in the world for that I guess 😉

  • Thorrgal says:

    Also what the hell, gonna comment on the rest…Lagavulin DE is even better than the 16yo, you gonna love it. Same for Ardbeg Uigedail, same leves as the Corry.

    Laphoaig triple wood though is not their best, quarter cask or cask strenght are better in my opinion.

    Caol Ila beats Bowmore any day of the week, and Bruichladdich is a safe bet. Haven’t tried the 16 but the 10 is fantastic. Probably better.

    Haven’t tried Octomore, Amrut or the Yellow Spot, expectant to see your take on them.


  • Roger says:

    Where are the reviews? Are you going to post, someday? 🙁

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