Nestled just above the northern shores of the Isle of Skye, lies the Isle of Raasay. The island is said to be the home of hundreds of years of illicit distilling but in September 2017, the first legal spirits started to run from a new custom made still house on the island.
Flash forward to May 2021 and the first legal single malt scotch whisky is released by the Isle of Raasay to rave reviews.
Simply called “Isle of Raasay Single Malt”, the distillery’s core whisky release is based on a recipe of 6 main components. The distillery separately operates a lightly peated and an unpeated spirit run which are then stored in a choice of 3 casks: rye whiskey casks, chinkapin oak casks, and Bordeaux red wine casks. Each of the single malt releases has then featured a combination of the 6 ingredients, with a fantastic degree of transparency and detail shared on their site (click here).
Transparency is the name of the game here. As is their experimentation. The water comes from their nearby well Tobar na Ba Bàine. Their peat comes from the Highlands. The batch details contain the barley variants, yeast type, fermentation period, the exact ABV of the spirits cut, and even the days that each essential process takes place.
Here, with the R2.1 batch for example, we are dealing with spirit made from Laureate and Concerto barley grown in Scotland pitched with classic Distillers’ yeast, for the unpeated and peated spirits which has been sent for maturation for a final bottling at natural colour and without chill-filtration at 46.4% ABV in first fill ex-Rye Whiskey (63%), virgin Chinkapin oak (26%), and first fill Bordeaux red wine (11%).
Fairly light and sweet dessert-like layers unfold. Fresh fruits smells of apple, white grapes, and maybe even some peach. That sweetness is joined by some vanilla, a touch of cocoa, and a soft peat smoke.
The fruit flavours really pop on those first few sips: apple, peach, apricot, and grapes. Some darker fruits too like raisins, blackberries, and blackcurrants. There’s a distinct single malt barley sugar to it and final, lovely, warming peat. The peat seems to be a complementary flavour, rather than the leading exponent.
For all the light and fruity flavours, this leaves a good, peppery finish and tonsil tingle. A slightly menthol finish.
I think that this whisky has lived up to the hype of its press. [ed: anything that impresses Dave Broom is surely to impress me.] It is a young spirit at the end of the day but, unlike other new whiskies out there, it doesn’t show. It is fresh and soft, with a good body, at a good percentage, whilst delivering a good bite. It is still light without being very spirit-y.
The level of transparency that has been provided about the drink made by Isle of Raasay is fantastic. It’s the first single malt that I think I have seen that has provided such details as close to Compass Box’s blends. Housed within the very stylish and eye-catching rocky bottle is something that you can instantly read all the key aspects and thought that has gone into it.
You’ve got to really admire the path they’ve taken here. They have not opted for traditional cask maturation but have sought to replicate an old style of whisky whilst applying newer methods. I’d go as far to say that gone is the myth that all Scotch needs a bourbon or Sherry cask maturation. Here, the team have explored these 3 separate casks’ influences to varying degrees on their peated and unpeated spirits to ultimately produce a flavoursome, lightly peated single malt with real depth of colour and complexity.
Sample disclosure: This sample was received as part of a paid subscription to OurWhisky. All notes are intended as an honest, fair, and independent review of the whisky, and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.
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