The Port Askaig 8 Year Old Islay Single Malt is so clear in the glass, I fear that as a prank John has filled my glass with vodka! Eventually, I am able to discern a tinge of pale yellow, as if my vodka was flirting with jaundice. Bringing my glass close to my phiz makes it quite clear, though, that this is a whisky to be reckoned with. I got soft-boiled robin’s eggs in a macramé nest woven of anchovies and smoked rainbow trout. It’s a clean and beautiful peat, as evanescent as meadow dew evaporating in the morning sun. It’s as short-lived as John Watson’s mustache in the latest BBC incarnation of Sherlock. It’s a knotty pine knot, planked, then baked in an oven at 425º, then used as a plate for grilled unagi.
The mouth is cream cheese frosting of the sort one would typically find slathered on carrot cake, but now used as the creme filling between two asphalt roof shingles in a chimney sweep’s avant-garde interpretation of an Oreo™ cookie. It’s also like your children playing a sophisticated, yet innocent, April Fools’ prank in which they sedate you, place you in a hammock, set it rocking, then wake you by turning on the lawn sprinklers. It tingles, it entangles the salt and the sour, the peat and the sun-drenched clay pot, and leaves my mouth feeling as if I must be a Michelin Guide inspector.
It finishes clean—as clean the exhaust from a Caol Ila-laden freighter as it wends its way through the Sound of Islay, the channel between Islay and Jura, into the Gulf of Corryvreckan. No, Stephen, the “Sound of Islay” is not a K-Tel collection of Celtic songs sung by Robin Laing, the Whisky Bard. The finish shimmies at first energetically, like a pair of swing dancers, then downshifts to a crew of goth tweens slowly emo-swaying to Fall Out Boy. I tell the Queen that I’ve made her cucumber on white bread sandwiches, but really the ‘cucumbers’ are shaped bacon grease, and her expression is priceless.
On the scale of signals that are subtle, until they are written about and go viral–
The Port Askaig 8 Year Old Islay Single Malt is the way Queen Elizabeth and Madeleine Albright use brooches to send messages to—and about—visiting dignitaries–It’s all loud and clear, yet restrained and dignified; a splendid way to be overt and underground at the same time, to explode with delicious, palpable plausible deniability.
–Our thanks to Port Askaig and ImpEx for the sample!