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Are You Tasting the Pith? - 12th September 04

Murray McDavid Caol Ila 15yr Old, 46% abv

Perhaps not so surprisingly, after all of last weeks writing about reading about whisky, some notes on a couple of fine drams from the new drinks globe.

This fairly rare edition ended up in my hands by accident. A couple of bottles were ordered by mistake (I was after the Caol Ila 12yr old), but after pulling the pair out of their delivery box, I had to keep them. Aside from the fact that these whiskies are bottled by Murray McDavid, one of the most respected independent whisky bottlers in Scotland (and therefore the world), the packaging was just so spiffily iconic that I couldn't let go. In fact, I couldn't let go to the tune of 40, for this whisky is not cheap, but by cracky, it is good.

This bottling of one of Islay's lesser known gems is subtly enhanced by time spent in the bourbon cask. It adds a hint of warmth and welcome to what many people find to be a fairly austere style of whisky. The peaty, phenolic qualites of Islay malts aren't everyone's cup of tea (although I love 'em), but the extra notes of vanilla, toffee and christmas spice flesh out the bones and make this complex enough to be a whisky that one drinks for pleasure, rather than through some sort of Calvinistic devotion to the austerity of (for example) Laphroiag 10yr Old. Although at twice price of a 10 year old 'Frog, it should be good - and it is.

Poit Dhubh 21yr Old, 43% abv

Gently culled with a wad of soft tenners and brought back from a recent trip to Skye, this wonderful drop comes from The Gaelic Whisky Company. Aside from being staffed by one of the most tolerant, polite and indulgent chaps I'd ever met (I wasn't driving), these chaps are producing wonderful quality whisky from tiny stills. The 21yr Old I talked myself into buying (it didn't take much) has everything I love in a whisky - a sherry finish, a good whack of peat, and compared to some, a wonderful fruit and spice taste that makes me think of christmas in the Caribbean. Warmth, buttery spices, and hints of coconut and mango. Superb.

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