...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Single Malt Report: Finlaggan Old Reserve

Drinking Finlaggan is like making love to a partner who has no concept of personal hygiene.   One can't scrub out the Finlaggan funk.  It burrows into the flesh, deeper than soap can reach, leaving the recipient smelling like burnt hair and peated urine.  But......you know......it's still lovemaking.

Much of the word on the whisky street says this is young Lagavulin, though some folks think it may be Caol Ila.  Either way, I don't blame Diageo for not allowing the distillery to be listed.

Back in January, Oliver of Dramming.com wrote a piece on peated whiskies getting higher scores than unpeated whiskies.  It's true, I see it in my own personal whisky ratings.  Peat usually brings with it it's own range of flavors and scents.  It can even help cover up lower quality spirit and casks.  In Finlaggan's case, the phenols either fail to mask flaws or highlight them further.

This is the first whisky I'd ever dumped down the sink.  I'd previously had Kristen dump two other hideous whiskies because I found the whole whisky-fail situation much too tragic.  But I had no issue ditching Finlaggan.  (I'm not alone in this sentiment, the fellas of LAWS feel similarly.) So I was filled with giddy excitement when my buddy Whisky Josh OC brought me a sample last week.

I'd always had a feeling this would be Diving With Pearls's first 0-star whisky.  But would it come to pass?

Bottler: The Vintage Malt Whisky Company
Style: Single Malt
Distillery: Lagavulin or Caol Ila
Maturation: probably refill ex-bourbon casks
Country: Islay, Scotland
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Colored? Yes

SAMPLED NEAT because you don't water down the Finlaggan

Color -- Greenish light gold.

Nose -- Peated urine (pronounced with a hard 'I' so that it rhymes with You're Mine).  Turpentine, aka The Turps.  Anise, rubber bands, moth balls, and milk chocolate.  Young (duh) spirit.  Sneaker rubber after it has trampled rotten seaweed.  Snickerdoodle cookies.  After 30 mins... White vinegar. Ink. Cat piss. Lead.

Palate -- Sour peat, vanilla, and tons of limp caramel.  Cloying sweetness.  Plastic ashes attempting to cover up a bland malt wall underneath.  After 30 mins... Diet Sprite. Lots of Nutrasweet. Cigarette ashes.

Finish -- No, it won't. Burnt toast, plastic ashes, loads of unnatural sourness.  Morning-after cigarette throat.  That Nutrasweet thing.  Bitter corn chips.  Bile.  No, forget bile.  Lagavulin surprise vomit burp.

You'll see a number of potentially interesting characteristics in there.  But every time it starts going down an almost-okay street, something hideous steps in the way and exposes itself.

The thing is, though, Finlaggan is a carnival ride.  It's not a zero-star whisky entirely due to its entertainment value.  I'd much rather drink it than Cutty or Dewars -- maybe even more than Red Label -- because of the intensity of its character.  Though, I can't say it is better than Speyburn 10 or Speyside 12 because those malts don't have the luxury of a peat fire blanket to cover their shortcomings.

I love peated whisky, but this......this is suited for whisky hazing.  I'm not saying it's so bad it's awesome.  More like, it's so bad that I will drink it just for the experience.  And so should you.

Availability - Trader Joe's and a dozen or so liquor retailers
Pricing - $18.99 at TJ's (they raised it a dollar?!), $30 elsewhere
Rating - 64