A Secret Islay Distillery 31 Year Old 1990 (Master of Malt)

Only one review to end the week, but we've got a 31 year old unnamed (cough, Laphroaig, cough) Islay from Master of Malt's own bottle range.

A Secret Islay Distillery 31 Year Old 1990 (Master of Malt)

Region: Islay

ABV: 51.4%

Price: £299.95

Distilled in 1990, this Islay single malt was matured for 31 years and finished in a oloroso octave. This release saw an outturn of 105 bottles.


The nose opens up with an unexpected smokiness. We assumed a lot of the peat would have mellowed out by now due to the age. It’s briny with notes of capers, malt loaf, fresh green apples, and vanilla sponge cake. The alcohol is very well balanced with a slight hint of white pepper spice, making it easy to get your nose into properly. Coming back to it after some time in the glass and we’re finding pencil shavings, a coastal sea breeze, freshly squeezed lime juice, and whipped cream. The sherry octave additional maturation isn’t showing through too prominently; we’re finding mostly the (presumably) refill ex-bourbon cask.


The palate opens with soured cream, minty chewing gum, sugar dusted shortbread, lemon peels, and a few orchard fruits thrown in for good measure. It has a lovely mouthfeel; it’s silky, slightly creamy, and the flavours envelop your whole palate. The finish lasts quite a while, showing caramel wafers, toffee, and coastal peat smoke. Speaking of the peat, it doesn’t blow you away initially, but it does grow over time, leaving ash and tar flavours lingering on. Again, the sherry octave hasn’t really given too much additional influence to the palate in our opinion.

Nose (with water)

The reduced nose loses some of its upfront smokiness, replaced by slightly richer aromas of candied almonds, aged balsamic, and milk chocolate. As we continue to nose, there’s some pear chutney and remnants of a beach bonfire.

Palate (with water)

The reduced palate retains the silky mouthfeel, highlighting charred oak staves, toasted hazelnuts, salted caramel, and the juice from a key lime. The finish maintains its length with a bit of nutmeg and mild grapefruit bitterness, along with a light oak spice.


A lovely example of an old Islay, with a bit of a peatier punch than expected. It’s got a wonderful nose, coastal Islay aromas, and a fresher, sweeter palate that allows the peat to creep up on you. The additional sherry maturation hasn’t given the dram too many of those nutty, rich flavours and aromas, but we’re really not complaining. We don’t think this dram really needs any water, but a drop or two won’t kill it. Well balanced and very tasty.

Score: 8/10


£300 for a 30+ year old Islay in this day and age is absolute bargain.

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  • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
  • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
  • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
  • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
  • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
  • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
  • 4 - Below average. Passable.
  • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
  • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
  • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

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