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Water of Life – Duncan Taylor

If you are remotely into whisky, especially the finer end of the spectrum, chances are that you will have crossed paths with the emissions of Duncan Taylor, an entity that has channelled its alchemy for the last eight decades in diverse realms such as blending, bottling and maturing whiskies to both pioneer and create new expertly curated expressions, which run the gamut from blends via single malts to grain whiskies.

One of the first Duncan Taylor variants I have had the pleasure of tasting was its accolade decorated Black Bull. The premise behind the Black Bull blend is to not interfere with the true characteristics of the source whiskies to allow them to unveil the breadth of their depths.

The entry Black Bull 12 is a blend of malt and grain whisky, which on the nose combines the best features of both, i.e. a sweet, lemony nuttiness that is accentuated by toffee, spicy and fruity highlights.

A nicely textured creamy thickness tickles the top of the mouth to unfold the flavours that the aroma promised, with specifically the fruity, vanilla nuttiness being pronounced and seamlessly transition to a sweet and lingering finish.

Given that this variant is clocking in at a comparatively high ABV of 50%, especially the maturation in sherry casks shines through and making a smooth, moreish drop.

Let’s dial up things a notch or two, shan’t we?

With a name like The Big Smoke is does not prove to be difficult to colour me intrigued and as the name suggests, the origin is the island of Islay. Given the limited number of the distilleries that the geographical indication hints at, one was curious as to which one it could be.

The variant I tried is the tame 46% ABV one, which on the nose lives up to its name, i.e. woody smoke tickles the nostrils before giving way to oaky, syrupy saline and nutty notes.

On the palate things get interesting as peat takes on a prominent role, framed by meaty, briny and oak undertones, with counterpoints of sweet and spicy notes shining through.

I specifically like the elongated finish which marries the idiosyncratic maritime climate of Islay’s coast with woody, oaky ash notes.

A wonderful expression with a name that is not misleading and one that makes me long for the cask strength version.

Now, just when I thought that I had reached the pinnacle of lip-smacking goodness, I was offered a glimpse into the much fabled about The Dimensions Collection from Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky, all of which have the common denominator of having been bottled at cask strength with a focus on the curation and selection of casks they matured in.

Being a lifelong fan of Laphroaig, I was over the moon when proffered the opportunity to sample the manna that is the light golden 16-Year-Old, bottle at cask strength of 55.7%.

With a bonfire tickling the nostrils, the complex aromas of maple syrup mix with Laphroaig trademark antiseptic, band-aid notes, which do not fail to elicit a Pavlovian response from me.

On the palate, the saline, seaweedy peatiness is married with salty ashyness, which culminates in warm, elongated leathery finish that reverberates warmly.

It is testament to Duncan Taylor’s craft that his is the closest it gets to having sampled close to two decades old Laphroaig straight from the cask and it set me on a path to explore Duncan Taylor’s version of distilleries I might have not given a chance in the past.

I hope that we will have the opportunity to zero in on Duncan Taylor’s Octave Collection with a future instalment of this series.

\September 30, 2020

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