December 29, 2015

The Best Malt We've Ever Tasted

We're just going to say it.  This is the best single malt we've ever had.  Over the years of drinking fine whisky we've developed our taste.  And since you are a reader of the blog, you know what that taste is: huge, smoky, rich whiskies. The type of stuff where the first sip stays with you all night and you wake up dreaming about it the next morning. That mystic combination of smoldering wet campfire rocks and salty sea air, the aromas of massive peat fires roasting barley and then taking their sweet time to age over a couple decades in a beautiful piece of oak. 

Now we're not talking about the smoke monsters here. Those are cool in their own right in a slap-your-ass-and-call-you-Sally kind of way. But the real winners, the true life-changing malts, are the ones that are big and smoky, yet so smooth they go down like silk. And personally, we think that 100% sherry cask Islay malt is the ultimate combination. The sweet raisin syrup that comes off these ex-sherry barrels, when it's done right, mixes in perfectly with the big smoke of a heavily peated malt to give you the most brilliant combination of flavor and smoothness. 

Apologies in advance, you're likely not going to find this bottle. It was a 2004 release of only 302 bottles that we found a few years ago. We paid what we thought was a little too much for it at the time. Now we'd probably scoop up a couple more at that price in a heartbeat. Truth is we took one look at the COLOR on this bottle and had to have it (and of course the gents at Douglas Laing would never commit the travesty of adding caramel coloring to this unicorn of a whisky, it says so right on the bottle). Just look at how friggin' dark this bad momma is!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, drum roll please, the best single malt we've ever tasted: 

Port Ellen 1982 Old Malt Cask
Douglas Laing  21-Year
Sherry Cask # 670

Tasting Notes

Nose: It comes at you straight out as if you took a big bag of raisins and plums and threw them into the coals of a beachfront bonfire. At first all you can smell is the deep phenolic, slightly antiseptic, "crawl-right-up-to-the-back-of-your-nose" peat. It's not acrid, doesn't singe the nose-hairs. It's just there, all-encompassing, a wave of old world beauty wrapped up into a single sniff. Just behind the smoke comes the amazingly complex fruits. Plums and prunes, grapes, and raisins, apricots, and orange zest. Do you hate when whisky reviewers use terms like "tyre rubber"? So do we, but it's there, and it's undeniable, and it's so so beautiful. 

Palate: On the tongue it's so rich, just glazing your mouth with sweet oils. The palate is all honey, molasses, and stewed peaches. And then as you hold it in your mouth, almost crying because you know you eventually have to swallow it and that sip will be gone forever, you discover the wood. Twenty-one years of oak that's so expertly hidden in the luscious layers of this malt, yet unmistakable.  

Nose: We had to nose it again before we get to the finish. Sorry, but so would you. Ever read a whisky review that used the term "band-aids"? And you're like "why on earth would I ever want to drink a band-aid??"  THIS IS WHY.  Seriously smell this and try not to conjure up bandages. It's impossible. And the strange thing is that it's like the best smell you've ever experienced in your life. You're just sticking your nose deeper and deeper into the glass, closing your eyes, grinning, raising your eyebrows, making little cooing sounds, and generally looking like a monstrous idiot. But you can't help it. There's so much going on here you want to keep smelling it all night.

Finish: Oh the smoke comes back like a long-lost lover after that super smooth and sweet palate. If you could roll up a box of cherry-flavored Luden's cough drops and smoke them like a big fat doobie, this is pretty much where you'd end up. It's so smooth you could drink a water glass of this stuff at breakfast, but so rich that one little sip ruins you for all other whisky forever. All the elements wrap themselves up together for the most integrated, balanced dram we've ever encountered. Fruity, sweet, super smoky, woody, never bitter, impossible to separate all the layers as they float off together in the finish. The 100 proof is just magic here, keeping the full flavor of the spirit but just so incredibly drinkable  (though wouldn't it have been cool to see how dark this lady was at cask strength??).  


You know sometimes with these super exclusive (& nowadays ludicrously expensive) bottles, you can spend a lot of money and be very disappointed. We've been there. And sometimes you feel like people think they have to like them because of the brand or the label or the age or the price tag or whatever. But when you bump into a beauty like this, you remember what this whole whisky thing is all about. Just a superb malt that knocks it out of the park from the moment you open the bottle. The kind of stuff you could pick out blind from a dozen other drams without even having to work at it. A gorgeous end to an incredible year, this one is perfection. There's just no other word for it.

Finally, we just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful new year and to thank all the amazing folks who have reached out, supported the blog, shared their stories, whiskies, and time with us over the last year. Even something as simple leaving a comment on the blog, taking a second to hit "like" on Facebook or "follow" on twitter, these things really mean a lot to us. By far the greatest part for us in writing SmokyBeast is the people we've met along the way who have been incredibly generous, warm, and have welcomed us into their lives. We're far from the whisky experts many of these folks are, but their knowledge and friendship have taught us so much. There's nothing better than sharing a delicious dram with folks who appreciate great whisky and we hope to do so with even more of you next year.

Cheers and happy holidays!  /Mr. & Mrs. Beast


  1. An outstanding review that's worthy of the dram. Isn't it wonderful when you experience something that exceeds your most optimistic wish?

    Thanks for a year of great reviews and here's to a happy and healthy New Year full of more wondrous adventures!

    1. Thanks PL! Totally, that's what life is all about! Happy & healthy '16 and thanks for being in touch. Cheers

  2. Always the greatest from the beasts..HAPPY NEW YEAR..

    1. Thanks AlPop, happy new year! We're definitely trying to make another KY trip happen in '16!!!

  3. Always the greatest from the beasts..HAPPY NEW YEAR..

  4. Steffen ChristiansenAugust 6, 2018 at 3:48 AM

    Absolutely have to agree. Tried this malt earlier this year - the colour, nose... Everything about it is absolutely incredible! Definitely would like to have one in my whisky cabinet!