This is the first of a short series of posts on the independents. For the Whisky fan, independents offer a great deal, literally!.
- Matured in the most excellent of barrels
- Unique expressions beautifully crafted
- Frequently offering exceptional whisky at favourable pricing
- Otherwise unavailable whisky
- The availability of cask strength and single cask expressions usually natural colour and non chill filtered.
Whatever you motivation. The dedication of these companies is well aligned with the best interests of the committed fan.
There are many excellent independents but I will address in this series my most used three and leave the other excellent providers for another time.
In no particular order the first I will review is A.D. Rattray whose shop the Whisky Experience is located in Kirkoswald in Ayrshire in the heart of Burns country so well worth a visit. They also have a good web site. Whisky insiders view them as a prime source of great whisky.
I was fortunate to be invited to participate in an A.D. Rattray tweet tasting this week. Featuring two soon to be released Islay expressions including a cask sample.
I have tasted many Rattray expressions in the past. Their single malts are always great coming from undisclosed (but fairly identifiable) respected sources named the Cask Series others are from named interesting distilleries. I particularly enjoy their Cask Islay and Cask Orkney releases and their Cask Speyside is always an exemplar.
Indeed on this occasion it was the Speyside that was the first to be tasted.
Cask Speyside 10 year old ABV 46%
Limited Edition 10 year old single malt from Speyside matured in ex-bourbon casks. Non-chill filtered. Natural colour.
Nose: fruity and floral pear, citrus, vanilla, toffee, fragrant tea note…. loverly!
This immediately impresses a lovely nose that fragrant tea note maybe Jasmine is memorable. These are good Bourbon casks, well combined to a lovely nose.
Palate: A hint of pepper, lemongrass, pear, sherbet, toffee faithfully mirroring the nose with just a hint of saltiness
The citrus and salty notes combine to deliver an exciting Speyside. It is a distinctive Speyside. I would certainly buy and enjoy every glass.
One for the wish list.
Cask Orkney 18 year old 46% ABV
Limited Edition 18 year old single malt from Orkney matured in ex-bourbon casks. Non-chill filtered. Natural colour.
Nose: Apple, banana, heather, cinnamon, cigar leaf note
Palate: Salted caramel, orange well browned toast with butter. A nice riff on a ‘weel kent’ theme. tr. Well known. Scots Doric.
This Whisky hits that sweet spot. The 18 year old Orcadian. But again a great cask delivers something unique. There was more complexity in the depth of this dram and taking time over it paid dividends as it evolved in the glass.
There was speculation among tweet tasters as to its origins. Given it could only be one of two distilleries narrowing it down was not that difficult. As Rattray do not chose to name it – neither will I.
Cask Islay ABV 46%
Let me immediately confess my bias. I have always loved these Cask Islay releases. For me, they offer one of the best value Islays in the industry.
The fact that no distillery is credited is neither here nor there to me. It is one of 9 very excellent distilleries. It is an Islay I love and again the barrels offer a lot.
Nose: A very floral peat, honey and marzipan stewed apples, pastry with icing and dried fruit (Ed. That would be a Danish!)
Palate: Smooth but robust peat, vanilla, strawberry jam and cream, nutmeg ending in smoke that layer of fruitiness in the middle gave a different lovely twist to an Islay.
if I were to speculate, this is quite a young whisky but matured again in a good cask. It has what I describe as air. A lot of delicate upper end light sweet notes.
I must think more on my description of upper to depth in both nose and palate. It owes much to my refining experience, the light gasses at the top of the distillate down to the thick tars at the lower end. Hopefully you get this. As I say I must think more about it.
It is certainly an excellent example, highly recommended. at 35ppm phenol measure it is lightly peated but with fruit and fresh notes to tempt most whisky drinkers.
Now for the extra surprise. Two yet to be released special edition Islays.
Cask Islay Bourbon Edition. 59.5%ABV NCF and Natural Colour
Straight from the barrel. Some taster s even found pieces of char (these samples were only lightly filtered to take out large impurities but were basically what you might enjoy from a sample drawn direct from a cask in the warehouse always a special experience.
Nose: Heather, autumn bonfire, apricot, vanilla, dark chocolate tobacco coastal notes.
Palate: Intense almost barley sugar malt burst delivers the peat with fruity stewed plums a salty oily dram with a classy mouthfeel and so much more.
Tasters opinions were spit over this expression. For my taste this was my favourite. The initial hit was a surprise but it settled beautifully in the glass. I enjoy my Islay and my Islay friends would certainly rank this high. As it evolved on the palate it delivered great complexity and flavour.
Cask Islay Sherry Edition 59.9% ABV
Anticipation is high I do enjoy the Sherry Casks, this has been in a couple of crackers.
Nose: Sherry so lively it initially competes with the peat – a smoky peat, hints engine oil a confectionary note icing sugar and citrus , ginger biscuits, aged sweet cigar and liquorice. The whole experience reminds me of old wooden fishing boats on the seashore.
Palate: The nose was great but this delivers more on the palate. Smoked ham, syrup, cloves, plum pudding, with a strong Islay spine of classic peat, coastal notes and oil only 102 days to `Christmas!
A terrific whisky for a long winter night. To be released at a great price I will be having one of each of these releases. I fully intend a tasting of the three Islays with my friends.
Theses are all ‘real’ whisky IMHO I will happily buy them all. The Islay Bourbon Cask was for me something special with the sherry cask not far behind, then the Orkney but truly every one was a winner and all great value purchases.
Samples provided by A.D. Rattray via Tweet Tastings. Many thanks to Steve Rush of @thewhiskywire.