We did it, everybody! We made it back to Scotland. Does it feel like it has been a while since we have been here for a mini bottle? We have just spent four days travelling through other parts of the world for whisky. Hopefully, you aren’t feeling jet-lagged by our whisky travels or burnt out by the pre-holiday rush. Even if you are, lets, sit back, relax, and delve into the Rock Island Blended Malt for day nineteen of our 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar.
Rock Island is a Blended Malt Scotch produced by Douglas Laing, who you may remember from day six’s The Epicurean. Like the Epicurean, Rock Island is also part of the company’s Remarkable Regional Malts line. There are two older siblings to Rock Island currently available as well: the limited Rock Island 10 Year Old, and the even more limited Rock Island 21 Year Old of which only 4200 bottles were produced for the world.
Rock Island was originally introduced in 2015, albeit under a different name. Originally called Rock Oyster, the name was changed to Rock Island just this past April, as the name was considered unappetizing in some markets. To each their own I guess. While the Epicurean focuses on the Lowlands region, Rock Island is meant to carry some (you guessed it) Island character. What exactly does that mean?
Well, for starters, Douglas Laing sourced single malt from distilleries that reside on different islands of Scotland to put this blend together. The islands in question are Arran, Islay, Jura, and the Orkney’s. For three of these islands, it is fairly easy to guess the source of the single malt distillery-wise:
- Arran has two distilleries – both owned by the Isle of Arran Distillers - but only their Lochranza distillery has been around long enough to make whisky. We saw some of what this distillery is capable of with the Robert Burns Single Malt from day eight. The other distillery on Arran, called Lagg Distillery, only started production this year. Lagg is a still two and a half years away from having their first whisky legally.
- The Isle of Jura only has one distillery operating on it, that being the aptly named Jura Distillery. Jura has produced both peated and unpeated single malt in recent history, so either style could be in the mix on Rock Island.
- The Orkneys are a group of Islands just north of the Scottish mainland, with its only two distilleries operating within a town called Kirkwall. While Scapa Distillery is in production, it is not typically found in independent bottlings other than a few Gordon & MacPhail releases. The other distillery is Highland Park, and that would be my guess for which of the two makes its way into Rock Island.
- As for Islay, that is a tough one. Caol Ila seems to be the source for a lot of indie bottles and blends out there, so it would be a good guess. It also could be Bunnahabhain, either of the unpeated or heavily-peated variety. There are a few indie bottlings of Lagavulin and Ardbeg around as well, but I think those are less likely to be the source personally.
Regardless of what it is made of, what is more important is how it tastes. I personally enjoyed the Epicurean, and releases of the Big Peat from Douglas Laing are always very good as well, so I have high hopes for Rock Island. Will they be dashed? Time to crack that bottle open and find out!
An Islands Blended Malt from the folks at Hunter Laing, which is replacing the Rock Oyster. Bottled at 46.8%, Rock Island is composed of whiskies from Arran, Jura, Orkney and Islay!
“An extraordinary encapsulation of the very best Single Malts distilled amongst others on the glorious islands of Islay, Arran, Jura and Orkney, Rock Island is a subtle, smoky and sweet celebration of the sea.”
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Like you are on the coast, somewhere in western Scotland. Fresh sea air, with saltwater blowing in the wind and all, pear drops, a touch of kelp, citrus zest, driftwood, fresh oyster shells, custard, vanilla, freshly washed clothes and/or fabric softener, ozone, eucalyptus, and a dash of coastal peat.
Palate: Creamy and a touch oily with notes of salty brine, fresh grapefruit, pineapple rind, chilli lime flavouring, angel food cake, fondant, camomile tea, a small (tiny even) dash of peat and a touch of miso broth and Thai basil. Is that culture clash?
Finish: Salty and sweet with the barest touch of smoke and a dash of spice. The creamy note sticks around nicely as well.
Comment: The peat and smoke could be mostly in my head on this one. The coastal notes come of more as salt, salt, and more salt along with the ozone note.
I quite like this blend. It reminds me a bit of Old Pulteney, some Macduff/The Deveron, even clean, non-sherried Highland Park (which would make some sense) bottles that I have tasted in the past. There likely wasn’t much in the way of Sherry casks used on this – my guess is mostly refill and ex-bourbon casks. The creaminess that comes out of this is a very nice touch.
TTFN, until tomorrow!
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*The Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar is produced under license from Secret Spirits, Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar™