The larger number of bottles (464) should give you a clue what’s going on here. Two refill barrels of 1990 Islay Single Malt have been combined before being bottled at 49.3%.
Nose: A touch narrower than its 1990 30 year old cousin. Carbon paper and deep medicinal peatiness from antiseptic and treated bandages (quite a fabric-y undertone to this one) join preserved lemon and a seasoning mix of both salt and pepper. Stone fruits linger in the background together with liver salts. Dilution broadens things considerably – resin and sap, peach, pine cones and graphite oil alongside sea buckthorn. Indeed, far more appealing for my predilections when taken down just a little notch.
Taste: Tart and sharp salted lemon sits with hewn granite, pumice and fireplace lava rocks. Super mineral. Iodine follows alongside dry steeped tea, Sudocream, savlon and a handful of dusted lemon bonbons. The addition of water again alters the balance – away from minerality and citrus and toward apricot, melon, cask char and oak sappiness.
Finish: Very long. And very mineral. Salted lemon and antiseptic sits with touches of samphire and gorse flower.
I admire the single-minded, tightly controlled landing of this 31 year old southern Islay-er. However, as delivered, the focus on lemon and minerality is just too dominating for my taste. This said, dilution works wonders here – and there’s more than enough well-aged body for the whisky to be able to take it and not lose its sense of shape or weight. Water is really freeing here – broadening the expressiveness and better reflecting the qualities that 31 years of maturation should bring. Scored in the round – you could take several points away for the ‘as bottled’ version.
Review sample provided by The Thompson Brothers