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Friday, August 7, 2015

WTF Is This? Pride of Islay 12 years old Vatted(?) Malt

A Gordon & MacPhail product from (I think) the '80s and '90s, the Pride of Islay is part of range of other Prides which include Orkney, Strathspey, and Lowlands.  I'm 75% sure this is a vatted (or blended) malt.  Most online resources say as much.  But whiskybase shows it as a single malt, so I'll leave that parenthetical question mark in the title.  If you do google Pride of Islay, you'll mostly find auction listings and most of those are of this very mini (50mL) version.  Not a lot of reviews of it out there, other than one from a certain prolific Frenchman, so hopefully this post will help someone on this planet.

The good news is that it has an age statement, and if my math is right it possibly contains Islay malt that was distilled in the 1970s.  The less-good news is that it was bottled at 40%, which makes me wonder if it was a sort of budget bottling by G&M.  If the whisky optimist in me was still alive, he would hope that this whisky was produced during a glut and thus has rare and old and magical sh*t in it.  But he's dead, so the realist just hopes this'll be a reasonable drink for the night.

(As always, if anyone out there knows more about this whisky, please let me know in the comment section below.  Thanks!)

Brand: Pride of
Pride of what? Islay
Ownership: Gordon & MacPhail
Type: Scotch Vatted (or Blended) Malt
Age: minimum 12 years
Bottling year: most likely somewhere in the 1980s or 1990s
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
(Many thanks to Cobo for this opportunity!)

The color is a very dark gold with orange highlights, a curious shade for a 12 year old whisky.  This is either a sherry Fat Man or a colorized product.  And in fact, in the nose, there is a gorgeous first burst of fruity musty chocolatey sherry.  Or perhaps those fruits, those tropical fruits, arrive courtesy of the mature spirit itself.  Then there's a note of men's cologne, you know, floral yet masculine.  Occasionally there's an odd mustardy egg note in the far back, but it's so faint and elusive that I may be imagining it.  What I'm not imagining is a nice yellow nectarine note, though.  After some time in the glass, the nose is primarily toffee and tangerines.  The peat reads sort of twiggy and herbal, rather than straightforward smoke or moss.  The palate is very citrusy and sweet, with a big caramel hit halfway through.  The sherry is much softer, as is the floral note.  It gets tarter and saltier with time.  There's a hint of soap and the texture is a little thin.  And there's a tiny bit of cardboard box in the far back, though that dissipates quickly.  The shortish finish picks up that musty moldy sherry cask note from the nose.  There's some salt and lime.  After a while it gets zestfully clean tart and picks up a peep of peat.

This is quite unlike most current blended malts and Islay single malts.  The peat is very gentle registering as a slight seasoning.  I know Monsieur Valentin gives the peat level (from 0-9) a '6', but compared to modern whiskies it feels like a '2' to me.  It also has that old funky sherry note, which I've always enjoyed.  And it's much fruitier than the most of the current peaty distilleries' products.

But that's all in the nose.  The palate is fine but not much more.  The thinness is of more concern than the subtle soap and cardboard notes.  The finish is shorter than I'd hoped, though I liked its tart zip.

I have no clue what went into this.  Assuming it was vatted (which I am assuming) I'd guess there's probably Laphroaig and Caol Ila, maybe some sherried Bunnahabhain.  I've never had young Port Ellen so I have no idea if that's swimming in here.

If you have a 70cL bottle in your stash, or one of these minis, you're sitting on a perfectly acceptable whisky (with a very good nose) which I can't imagine would be worth the effort to flip on the secondary market.  So when you open it, perhaps set moderate expectations.

Availability - Auctions, I s'pose
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83