Being an independent bottler seems like a difficult job to me. You’re dependent (oh the irony) of what distilleries or cask brokers have to offer, so you’ll have to carefully pick a cask that suits your brand. And there’s the consumer, who is heavily influenced by brands they know and love or hate, marketing and how the bottle is displayed in the store.
We ourselves immediately look for indies when walking into a store which sells mostly the usual suspects. But an average consumer hardly ever does. An unknown name or label design that doesn’t look appealing is often overlooked. Luckily there are some great store owners who light the way for those who are still starting their journey by introducing the beauty of independent bottlers.
And when you pay close attention, people often come home with an independent bottling from Islay as their first. A safe bet, for both the (peat loving) consumer as for the bottler. You are as good as your last bottling, in the eye of the consumer, so picking a cask from Islay is more often a hit than a miss.
We love to try new indies, but when we try indies from Islay, we are a little bit harder to convince. Just because it’s hard to go wrong, but it’s even harder to excel. The expectations are higher. We were kindly sent this bottle by @mactallawhisky, who didn’t just go for a safe bet, no, the Morrison family, of which this brand is part of, has strong bonds with Islay for five generations. The history goes deep, as they are one of Scotland’s oldest whisky families. We know them mostly from the Càrn Mòr series. But as always we’re here today to talk about flavours. Let’s see what the first part of the journey, Morrison has set out for us, has to offer. Mara, which translates to sea, reflects the rough Atlantic sea that surrounds Islay. It’s nurtured in American oak for an unknown time period and is bottled at 58.2%:
Complex, meaty and sweet, with honey, pineapple, kiwi and rose hip. BBQ-sauce and chorizo, quite herbal too, with notes of onion and garlic. Nice warming smoked wood, aniseed and buttered toast.
The palate is exploding, after the first dry and salty alcohol bite, we get lots of oil, with tropical fruits and smoked meat, a nice sour hint of lemon and Napoleon sweets.
The finish is just as savoury as the nose, with salted meat. Some sweet hints of grape and tropical fruits, but fresh and maritime as well. Motoroil and gasoline, sweet smoke and struck matches betray a true Islay character.
Many have speculated what this could be, we are 99% sure this is a Lagavulin, because the Lannister we reviewed last week almost has the exact same profile, but more mellow. But we’ll never know for sure. That’s part of the fun! What we do know, is that this is a very tasty one, a job well done.