Williamson Secret Islay Distillery, The Whisky Jury (Laphroaig, First Fill Oloroso), 52.3% ABV
This is the 56th release from highly-regarded Belgian independent bottler The Whisky Jury. It has been a practice for independent bottlers to release their Laphroaig expressions under the name “Williamsons”, as they sometimes do not have permission from the distillery to apply the Laphroaig name to their bottlings. Why Williamsons? This is a tribute to the late Bessie Williamsons, a respected figure in Laphroaig’s history.
Elizabeth “Bessie” Williamsons began working at Laphroaig in 1934 and eventually became the owner of the distillery after demonstrating her competence at running the business. She became the first female owner and manager of a Scotch distillery in the 1900s despite joining with no family connections or background in whisky.
Said to have a sharp wit and level-headedness during a time of war, Williamson rose from being a secretary to take over the then owner distillery manager, Ian Hunter’s full-time duties. She protected her whisky as soldiers hunkered in Laphroaig Distillery’s site, and helped the Allied hide tons of ammunitions with her malt stores. After Hunter passed away, Bessie inherited Laphroaig under his will; she then worked on building the reputation of Laphroaig and Islay single malts in the American market.
The Whisky Jury has released a couple of Williamsons aged in refill barrels, but what caught our eye with this one is the fact that it was aged in a first-fill Oloroso sherry cask (yum), and said to have a nice farmy style. This has been aged for at least 12 years, and had been teaspooned – hence the need to label it as a “Blended Malt” instead of a single malt.
We got a taste of this thanks to Benny from Nanyang Whisky and the good folks at the The Single Cask Singapore!
Williamson Secret Islay Distillery, The Whisky Jury, 52.3% ABV – Review
Laphroaig, First Fill Oloroso Cask #06017
Nose: rich, syrupy and multifaceted. Opens with thick jam on toast and cherry pie, then delves into a mustiness of a wine cork and the sophisticated leatheriness of a new car interior. A touch of freshness with notes of sea spray, fresh mint, and perilla leaf, and some depth added by a waft of tobacco. Rather heavily dominated by red fruits and very mild and subtle ashiness.
Palate: Syrupy, spicy and meaty. Feels rather similar to a cask strength sherried Tobermory but much more syrupy. An initial burst of vibrant red fruits segues into familiar leathery notes and the earthiness of whole peanuts with their skins. Evoking thoughts of well-aged prosciutto and a mild lamb gamey-ness together with a savoury funk that feels almost barnyard-like. This meaty quality blends seamlessly into sweeter profiles akin to honey char siu pork and the delectable richness of teriyaki sauce on unagi. Also a layer of spicy cracked black pepper, the mild dry bitterness of Oolong tea, and a faint ashy note. The peatiness remains more of an unobtrusive echo than a main character in this narrative.
Finish: Long. Sweet notes of honey and strawberry jam gradually gives way to the re-emergence of tobacco. A noticeable spiciness from cracked pepper lingers on the tongue, coupled with discernable woody dryness that persists.
🍒🍑 Impressive in its balance and vibrance!
Lots of sweet fruitiness unmarred by peat or an overly tannic or sulphuric sherry cask – something that is all too common. While the rich sherry influence seems to mask the typical iodine notes we might expect from a Laphroaig, this does not diminish the overall pleasure. There is a slight sharpness suggesting youth, and perhaps we don’t quite see a fully expressed Laphroaig house style. But given the abundance of flavours, these are just minor details that most of us, including myself, would happily overlook.