Color: Light Amber
Nose: Definitely sherry and peat, but this is not one of those recent Ballechins, for instance, where everything is turned up to eleven. Still, the hallmarks are there: honey-cured ham and light brown sugar, indicating that the coastal nature of Caol Ila is doing some work here. That's because it would otherwise start to trend into BBQ, but that's not what we have here. It's more subtle and possesses greater salinity levels. Honestly, we're not too far off from that '02 Ardmore G&M bottled late in their old Cask Strength series. In short, it's a different experience than a true peat-sherry bomb, but the refill wood is doing a service here as long as you're not only after a huge flavor hit. The label mentions dark fruit, which is typical with sherry maturation, but I don't pick up much, perhaps a hint of blackberries after some time in the glass. The longer I nose this, the more the Caol Ila character shines, which can't be a bad thing. Water doesn't change much.
Taste: Surprisingly restrained arrival for a 58%+ peat-sherry dram. For one, it's not particularly viscous, which is fine--honestly, very thick Caol Ila would be an odd experience. But there's also basically no heat--very sippable neat. In terms of flavors, G&M does a decent job descriptively here: dark chocolate and orange come to the fore with a mineral peat structure. And with multiple sips, the coffee notes do come. I don't always like official notes, but not bad here, folks. Water brings down the bitterness, which I'm not sure is an asset, honestly. You're left with the light sherry spice, orange, and minerality--I prefer it neat.
Finish: Good--mildly bitter, sherry spice, and the chocolate orange continues. Not much difference diluted.
Comments: One of the classier peat-sherry combinations I've encountered. While I think this is an interesting profile and a worthy bottling, I can't help but find myself wanting a bit more oomph. Very well-done but not brilliant and not possessing enough idiosyncratic pleasures to push me to the 90+ level, but it's close. Close call on whether I'd recommend a purchase, because while it's not outrageously priced, it's also not a bargain. I think if you're looking for a muted, classy peat-sherry profile, this is worth checking out.