Trader Joe’s in California have to live up to a pretty impressive reputation. There’s decent, healthy, cheap food. There’s 2 buck chuck. And there are great deals on liquor.
I posted previously on their current line up of Trader Joe’s single malt bottlings, and unfortunately, though I think it’s great to have them at a price point of $30 (and pretty cool to be able to try silent distilleries like Imperial), they weren’t really all that tasty. They were boring. Uninteresting. Definitely something I’d pass on, especially since TJ’s sells Laphroaig 10 (oh, how we droogs at WhiskyParty.net love our Laphroaig 10) for $33.
But for today’s 40 Under $40, I purchased another single malt that seems exclusive (at least in the US) to Trader Joe’s. I purchased Finlaggan Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Old Reserve. This dram, made by the Vintage Malt Whisky company, is not expensive. I purchased this 750ml bottle for a price of $17.99. That’s right. Single malt whisky for less than $20, it’s going to be bad. Even McClelland’s Islay Single Malt which we reviewed here wasn’t terrible, but it was $4 more expensive at $21.99. This was going to be Scottish, and it was going to be Crrrapp.
But wait - what’s that sticker on the bottle? Is that? Really? Why, yes, it is. This whisky, that sells for $17.99, won a Gold Award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (in 2000)? And after tasting it, it’s easy to see why.
Finlaggan Old Reserve
Color: light gold, almost like a watered down apple juice.
Legs: small and slow.
Nose: coal, a tinge of maritime saltiness, an almost chalky, sticking burning smell that gets a bit medicinal underneath.
Palate: burnt barley with a foundation of mellow sweetness. A good amount of peat that doesn’t coat. I’m failing a bit at grasping the sweetness. It’s almost candy-like, though not at all too sweet. I want to say there’s a faint burnt caramel flavor in there, but only the burnt part, no caramel. There’s a bit of wood, but the peat overpowers a bit.
Finish: the build is nice, but it doesn’t crescendo to where I thought it might reach. It fades fairly quickly leaving some smoke, but also a bit of a bad aftertaste. It’s not completely bad, it’s just not as great as the palette promises. It becomes sort of a reedy burn.
Overall: So the finish isn’t long. Go suck an egg. This is a fantastic Scotch. Seriously. It would be a fantastic Scotch at a price point more than twice what it costs. It’s got smoke, it’s got sweet, and the nose is just right. It’s not terribly complex, but neither was The Big Lebowski, and that didn’t stop it from being spectacular. There’s a reason why my bottle has only about two drams left in it, and I’m just getting to this review now. Delicious. If you’re at a Trader Joe’s that sells liquor, you have no excuse not to pick this up. Also, to speculate, I would say that this is an independent bottling of Caol Ila, but nowhere is that identified on the bottle.
On the bottle it says: ”Many centuries ago, the Lords of the Isles ruled Scotland from their stronghold of Finlaggan Castle on Islay, but today it’s Malt Whisky of which legends are made.”
- Jim Murray, as quoted on the bottle, says “BRILLIANT…This is simply awesome. If you don’t get a bottle of this, You’ll regret it for the rest of your life!”
- Reviews on Peat’s Sake are mixed. The bottle there is different. Though the first guy that says you might as well drink gasoline should go back to his Zimas.
- The Whisky Exchange has no reviews, but they sell the bottle for about the equivalent of $36 USD. So, I’m just posting it because there are many things that I want from the Whisky Exchange and can’t get over in the states. This is obviously not one of them.
- Badger and Blade is positive. Folks there posit it’s either a young Lagavulin or a young Bowmore (7 years).
- Whisky-Distilleries suggests that it’s either Lagavulin, Caol Ila, or Laphroaig.
- Whisky Intelligence enjoys it and concludes that it’s “a great dram for the peat heads in a social setting with friends.”
- Luca at MaltManiacs gives it an 88.