Over the last decade or so the Douglas Laing series of Remarkable Regional Malts have showcased the classic flavour profiles of the “traditional” scotch whisky making regions.
Many a whisky nerd/enthusiast can (and will) debate about whether or not there actual is a single “classic” flavour from each region – and just how many regions there are, for that matter. There is no denying however that there is a plethora of influences and potted histories available. The Douglas Laing series therefore pools malts from different distilleries within their respective regions to create affordable blended malts, which each have their own distinct brand and/or mascot.
Originally launched under the name “Rock Oyster”, the Rock Island series features malts from Scotland’s many beautiful islands: Islay, Arran, Jura, and Orkney (“amongst others”). Despite having the name Islay in the mix, the emphasis is not so much on peat – they have Big Peat for that – but the coastal and maritime influences on single malt maturation.
The exact blend, age, and split between distilleries’ content in the final bottle is not available, but each bottle is said to have a mix of these 4 distilleries at the very least, and focusses on the final flavour profile instead. They are caught at a hearty 46.8% ABV at their natural colour (quite pale!) and without chill-filtration. At the time of writing a 70cl bottle of this standard NAS Rock Island can be found around £36.
Nice sweet lemon citrus and a light coastal salinity are the first flavours out of the glass. Cut green apples add an extra light fruity layer, joined by a sweet peat backbone.
Almost an icing sugar sweetness initially, followed by a lemon sherbet and sweet malty biscuit flavour. With another sip these really comes together to make a lemon cheesecake set of flavours. Warming and slowly building peppery spice and gentle peat smoke.
Fairly long and peppery considering how light and soft the body is. A good tonsil tingle and sherbet lemons fizzle with sweet peat shortly behind.
All sweetness and light. The mission statement here is island influence and that’s what you get. It’s a little light, a little sweet, a little salty, and little bit peated. It is a fine balance of those signature influences with none of them dominating, rather all complementing one another.
As I’ve found with the rest of the series, this core release to the particular brand would be a great introduction to the respective region for a budding whisky enthusiast, as well as an easy go-to drop for the seasoned enthusiast. Of course the series itself brings about a certain amount of collectibility with each of the 6 brands (Big Peat, Timorous Beastie, Scallywag, Rock Island, Epicurean, and The Gauldrons) all looking unique but cleverly having common themes. There is then the collectibility of the different variants within each brand – such as the age statements, cask strength releases, or the various cask finishes.
On that note, with Big Peat in existence in the Remarkable Regional Malts series, the Souglas Laing team totally had a gap in their range for a lightly peated whisky and this is fresh, sweet, and beautifully tempered with that light sweet peat influence. A wonderful and gentle sipper.
Sample disclosure: The samples used to create this feature were sent directly to Whisky Unplugged by Douglas Laing & Co in response to a previous article posted by us, looking at a compare and contrast of their regular and cask strength releases of the Remarkable Regional Malts’ Speyside brand Scallywag (click here) – and one for their Timorous Beastie permutations (click here). H fortunately the samples were misplaced as part of a house move, it thankfully they have reappeared to make this post and an incoming one about the 10 and 21yo versions of Rock Island. All notes above are however intended as an honest, fair, and independent and review of the whisky, and we wish to thank Douglas Laing & Co for the opportunity.
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