Whisky has a habit of being occasionally tricky to pronounce for us non-gaelic speakers – none more so than those that hail from the island of Islay. The island’s name itself can trip up the uninitiated, correctly spoken as “eye-la” rather than the more obvious “is-lay”.
Of course, this problem works both ways; when I’ve referred to Islay as “eye-la”, there have been occasions when I’ve been greeted with blank stares until I translated it into the Englishified “is-lay”.
The problem continues with the distilleries themselves – Caol Ila (“kuleela”) and Bruichladdich (“brook-laddie”) are obviously challenges-in-waiting, but I even got pulled up on my pronounciation of Bowmore (the emphasis should be on the second syllable – so “boMOR” and not – as I said – “BOmor”).
Ardbeg is unusual on the island for being spoken as it’s written. But they more than make up for it with some of the most challenging whisky names around, of which today’s dram is a shining example.
Uigeadail is named after the loch that provides the distillery’s water, and is pronounced “oog-a-dal” according to Ardbeg – although I remain unclear whether the last syllable is ‘dal’ as in ‘dalmation’, or as in ‘darling’. Of course, as with all things how it tastes is more important than how it’s named!
Uigeadail is aged in sherry casks, and bottled at a relatively high 54.2% ABV. It’s a honey coloured dram, lighter than you might expect from the sherry cask ageing.
The nose is understandably heavy on alcohol; once that clears a little there are pear drops, touches of honey and following on from that a smouldering, smokey peat fire. As it sits in the glass the pear drop aroma fades, replaced by roasted spices and golden syrup
Watered, the smoke is present right from the start but it’s tamed, cooled like the barely-warm embers of last night’s fire. It’s still full of warm spices, now joined with dried orange peel, a little nuttiness and a touch of dark treacle.
In the mouth, the smoke comes through right away; honey sweet on the tip of the tongue and a deep alcohol heat throughout. As the alcohol fades, dark roasted coffee comes through, with black pepper and always with that smoke-filled backdrop.
With water, the alcohol is calmed right down and the smoke is once again cooled. It’s soft and almost creamy, with little hits of peppery spice and a finish that just goes on and on, filling slowly and inexorably with sherry-soaked raisins and oily smoke.
It’s a little overpowering in its natural state, but with a splash of water it’s a big, brash and utterly Islay dram – 4 stars.