The Ghost Piper of Clanyard Bay vs Aerolite Lyndsay

Today I return to the beginning of this journey when I tasted the very first offering from the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar. It was a dram of Aerolite Lyndsay bottled by The Character Of Islay Whisky Company, and I was pleasantly surprised in its delivery. This was now precisely two months ago (I posted my writeup on December 17th), and since then, I’ve been waiting to try it again. First, I wanted to go through the entire batch of 24 samples, and now that the “task” is done, I may return full circle to the start. So yes, I have been waiting for a while, and yes, I have located another sample (actually two) of this undisclosed bottling. So let’s get right to it then and see what we find now. But first, we need music, of course! Now playing: zakè and City of DawnAgape.

Since my hunch for the origin of Aerolite Lyndsay led me towards Caol Ila, I decided to pair it with another independent bottling of single malt from this Islay distillery. And since “Aerolite Lyndsay” is an anagram for “Ten Year Old Islay“, I picked another 10-year-old bottle from my stash [I seem to have accumulated various ages of this scotch]. So this has led me to Chapter One of Fable Whisky, specifically its 6th release from cask number 313842, distilled in 2010 and bottled in 2021 at 57.5% ABV. You see, all of these facts are necessary because even if this particular bottle is always a Caol Ila, released under The Ghost Piper of Clanyard Bay chapter of the Fable series, it’s still a very unique bottling because it comes from a single refill hogshead cask, and all of the previous releases, even within the same “chapter” are different casks (and ABV!). This one is truly a favourite, and I have had it on many occasions, diluted with a bit of water to let this spirit open up. And here it is again, the way that I recall it – the arrival and the nose are sharp, young, and super fragrant, with complex notes of grass, oil, lemon and smoke. There’s so much to taste here, so much to digest. From the sweetness of the gauze to the edginess of the lovely caress. It’s got that extra-long finish with a pepperish flavour to boost. There is a lot of marketing around this bottle, with a pretty complex story made up for the whisky, but I must be honest – look past its attractive exterior and be overwhelmed by what’s inside. This is not a gimmick – the malt is top-notch! Nevertheless, I encourage you to explore its background, art, and even a fantastic animation which you can watch on the site.

Since I’ve already covered the background of Aerolite Lyndsay from Atom Brands, I’ll spare you the details. The one important reminder here is that the whisky’s marriage is comprised of bourbon barrels (70%) and Spanish oak ex-sherry quarter casks (25%), plus the 5% “mystery cask”, and it is bottled at 46% ABV. So I already didn’t expect it to be as biting as the 10-year-old Fable, which has spent time in a refill hogshead. Oh, and by the way, both are non-chill filtered and of natural colour. In fact, both in colour look exactly the same. But when I taste this dram, it’s something else entirely. It’s smoother and softer on the sense and the palate. There’s slightly less smoke, but there’s plenty of wood, mineral, ash and some fresh but muted grass again. I’m actually surprised at how velvety it tastes next to the Fable. I’ve brought down the alcohol of the Fable a lot, but it just felt diluted instead – I had to put in some more whisky because I craved more of that sharpness from the initial taste. And yet, this wee dram still stood out against The Ghost Piper, albeit much lower in loudness and brightness of flavours. I’m also beginning to suspect that Aerolite Lyndsay may not be Caol Ila at all unless that extra 5% of the “mystery cask” is throwing me off the scent here. It very much could be, as that secret ingredient (and still single malt) could be that of an older, sweeter, and rounder whisky.

Well, folks, I don’t know what to say. I was pretty sure that my favourite independent bottling of Caol Ila by Fable Whisky was going to knock this one out of the park. And let’s be honest, it’s a solid bottle! And yet, the Aerolite Lyndsay is bringing something different to the taste buds, something gentle, tame and kind. Perhaps tonight, I craved a bit of reassurance from my whisky. A bit compassion, peaceful space, and delicacy in its presence? I may be getting sentimental with these words, and so, before there’s more emotion spilling over on these pages [time to self reflect?] I’ll pause and will proclaim that Aerolite Lyndsay wins this round… once again!

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