Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Islay's powerhouse distillery produces approximately 3.5 million liters of spirit annually with the vast majority going into Diageo's Johnnie Walker Black label. Sitting on the very edge of the north shore it's a very short trip from the ferry terminal at Port Askaig to the tasting room. As a result, Caol Ila is a very popular stop for the island's tourists.

Behind window #12: Caol Ila 12 Year Old, 43% alc., £34/$51

C: Bright gold

N: Leads with peat and coastal sea breeze but push through that and there are hints of green banana, US Smarties, and cow barn

P: Wonderfully peppery and bright with fresh lemon zest and just a hint of seaweed

F: Long and lingering with more freshly cracked black pepper, barbecued pineapple, and camp fire ash

In conclusion: Such a great representation of what Islay has to offer. Its brightness and freshness is representative of standing at the distillery and putting your face into the wind: bracing!

Sincere thanks to Master of Malt's Drinks by the Dram for the sample.

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

I think it's quite fitting that the first Islay in Master of Malt's Whisky Advent Calendar appears on the first night of Chanukah. Earlier tonight, we had our first night's candles burning on three different Chanukiahs. Nothing gets me in the mood for an Islay like naked flame!

Released in early 2014 you might need to search behind the couch cushions to find a bottle of this third release of Machir Bay. Comprised of first fill bourbon matured five and six year old stock the entire batch was married in oloroso sherry wood for four weeks before being bottled at 46% alc.

Behind window #6: Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014, 46% alc., £33/$50

C: Light straw

N: Peaty (obviously) with some banana notes when you hold it on the tongue before a big coal dust blast and a fresh coastal breeze replace the fruity notes

P: Leads with the coal dust (from the nose) with a touch of sugary sweetness around the edges

F: Plenty long with a pleasing sweetness but also a peaty ashiness and ground grey pepper

In conclusion: A very solid Kilchoman release and a solid wee drinker but there's very little to suggest any sherry finishing. The slightest suggestion of sherry could have added a dimension that presents Kilchoman in the very best light. To date, my favorite release of Kilchoman remains their Spring 2010 which was the first to feature any sherry.

Sincere thanks to Master of Malt's Drinks by the Dram for the sample.