Isle of Raasay Distillery – April 2021, Unpeated Samples
The Isle of Raasay Distillery is the first ‘legal’ distillery on the island. They are young, new, and doing some really exciting things within the world of whisky. A philosophy of ‘lightly peated, rich dark fruits’ is their driving force towards their upcoming single-malt release.
We stumbled upon this distillery via Twitter and were immediately intrigued by their virtual whisky tastings offering both peated and upeated samples. This review will focus on their unpeated offerings and we will share our thoughts on the peated expressions shortly afterwards.
The Isle of Raasay single malt is due to be released via ballot in May 2021. This tasting comprised of the six different types of casks that will be mixed to create their single malt. Ahead of the tasting we were unaware that what we were going to be tasting were not necessarily whiskies to be released in their own right. A lovely surprise that definitely got our brains doing backflips trying to work out how all the samples would take together – more on that later!
As this is a new distillery with young spirit, we have made a note of the age of each of the samples below. All natural colour and non-chill filtered, each of these samples was cask strength at roughly 61% ABV, however the single malt will be bottled at closer to 46% ABV.
The Unpeated Samples
Virgin Chinkapin Oak – 32 months
Chinkapin is a form of American white oak that is relatively unusual in the Scotch whisky industry. As a gentler oak, the hope is that this cask provides a softer maturation than typical oak casks. This sample has a gorgeous colour especially given the relatively short-time it has spent in casks.
Nose: peppery spice, light vanilla, fresh, grassy, slightly briney, caramel, honey
Palate: sweet, sugar, caramels, honey, quite creamy and rich, peppery spice on the tip of the tongue
Finish: amazing mouth feel, very rich and oily, quite short from a taste perspective
Given that this is cask strength it is very palatable without water, however, a drop of water brings out the toffee and caramel notes. It also takes the edge off of the oak pepper and spicey notes.
A lovely sweet dram – I was definitely impressed with the variety of sweetness and richness given the age of the sample.
Ex-Bordeaux – 35 months
According to our hosts, this wins the ‘best improved’ award! The team at Raasay have been hosting multiple tastings every month for quite some time – so have been able to see each spirit develop at they mature in the casks. It was clear from the event that they LOVE their spirit and know it inside out.
Nose: dried fruits, sultanas, raisins, cinnamon spice, cloves, dry red wine, Christmas pudding – this has a more savoury edge than the Chinkapin oak, more brine on the nose
Palate: martime salt, REALLY fruity, lovely sweetness, sulphur at the back of the mouth, dried Christmas cake fruits and spices, prunes, cherries, red berries, cinnamon,
Finish: a very light spice (bit crazy given that it is an unpeated sample!), oily and rich
A really warming dram, that made me want to curl up next to a fire on a snowy day! Once again adding water pulled the fruit notes towards the front of the palate – lots of raisin and sultanas.
Ex Woodford Rye – 33 months
Rye whiskey flies somewhat under the radar – previously seen as a bit of an ‘old mans’ drink. In all honesty, it’s not something that we have stumbled across very frequently. However, we did sample a great rye whisky in the April Pour & Sip box.
Nose: light, fresh, sweet, vanilla, peppery oak, cloves
Palate: sweet, vanilla, honey, peppery spice, dark fruits, a bit malty (weirdly!)
Finish: light mouth coating, the strength of the alcohol was a lot more present in this sample
Adding water to this one REALLY opened it up, removed the alcohol burn, and bought fruity notes to the front.
What stood out to me throughout this tasting was just how different each of these expressions were. Despite being very young – not even legally whiskies in their own right currently – there was bags of flavour in each of them. The Ex-Bordeaux was my favourite, but the Chinkapin oak was a very close second!
Our hosts were absolutely lovely, and made the zoom meeting feel intimate and welcoming – despite having over 50 people on the call. We’ve signed up for their Slàinte club, and look forward to trying to get our hands on a bottle via the upcoming ballot. Keep your eyes open for our thoughts on the peated samples, and also what happened when we tried to create our own Raasay Distillery ‘house blend!’.