Not really a mystery, mystery Islay. But easily one of my favourite Sponge labels. Whilst I’m quite not as deeply fond of this distillery as many others are (my attentions are typically a few miles further East or over on the Sound of Islay), nevertheless the story told here, both of the distillery’s history and particularly of Angus’s father’s love for it are both wholly poignant and touchingly dedicatory.
Edition 61 has spent 31 years in a refill barrel before being bottled at 51% with an outturn of 239 bottles – all of which will cost you immeasurably more now.
Nose: Vivid and defined tinned fruit salad – all clearly well-matured with edges of bright polish – mango, pineapple, guava apricot and lime. A real melange. Sitting underneath – canvas sacking…that’s sometimes sodden and damp smelling - salted crisps, restrained iodine, old fabric plasters and lemon-tinged antiseptic cream. The addition of water offers a murkier composition with sand and loam joined by brackish pond water, oily rags and mentholated oak. I find there’s something to enjoy with both versions.
Taste: 31 years and no loss of vibrancy. Pickled onions livened with lime juice and a scattering of salt – then earth mushrooms, beach sand, granite sea groynes, sharp polish and charred cask ends. Smoke is reasonably restrained, but still certainly highly detectable – surface cleaner, brine and smoked sea herbs. Dilution expresses Key lime pie sharpness together with hospital floors and various tinctures and balms.
Finish: Very long indeed. Menthol, medicinalness and minerality. The three M’s of good stuff.
This is edging towards faultlessness when you’re a sucker for older styled, relaxed peat drawn from sympathetic refill wood. Pleasures abound - from the honed fruit ensemble to the not quite yet ethereal, still very distinct, medicinal peat influence that provides all of the flavour provenance you’re looking for when it comes to this distillery. Memorably excellent.