Conventional wisdom says this is a Lagavulin, though I have heard it being referred to as a Caol Ila, Ardbeg and Laphroaig.
Who’s right? I really have no idea. I personally subscribe to the young Ardbeg theory, as I tasted the Finlaggan and the Smokehead together, and found the same traces of a similar new make in both. However, I had this tasting together with Klaus Pinkernell, owner of the Cadenhead’s shop in Berlin, and he didn’t get quite the same nose on I did. Yet others picked up the Lagavulin signature wood smoke notes. Thus, the distillery remains a mystery. What is very clear is that this bottle gives great value, priced very moderately at around 40 Euros, which is about half the going rate for Islay cask strength expressions.
Finlaggan Old Islay Reserve Cask Strength (58% ABV, NCF, NC)
Color: Gold with slow legs.
Nose: Big maritime peat nose with light citrus and a sweetish new make that’s very close to the Smokehead (a known Ardbeg), medicinal aromas with a lot of salt. The ex bourbon cask is there too, hiding behind the peat. With the addition of water the new make is even more pronounced, attesting to the young age of this whisky.
Palate: Salt, sweet peat and new make with a lovely full body mouth feel.
Linger: Long linger with salt, sweetness, peat and – surprisingly – spice staying with you for a nice while.
This is good whisky, albeit somewhat young, but that isn’t necesserarily a disadvantage with heavily peated whisky, with a terrific VFM (value for money).