Earlier this year, we took our first taste of the much-anticipated Isle of Raasay Single Malt. I first tried it in Scotland last summer and then again when our review sample arrived care of U.S. importer ImpEx, and on both occasions I was impressed by the unique complexity this upstart distillery had achieved in a comparatively young single malt. As a refresher, Isle of Raasay relies on three unique cask recipes, aging both peated and unpeated spirit for a total of six very different ingredients from which to build their flagship whisky. In addition to that flagship, however, the distillery also offers cask strength, single cask bottlings of each cask and spirit combination under their Na Sia (Gaelic for “The Six”) Single Cask Series. We were lucky enough to get wee samples of the 2023 trifecta for review, all of which are peated (the distillery alternates peated and unpeated releases annually). Thoughts follow.
Isle of Raasay Ex-Bordeaux Single Cask 2023 – Aged in first-fill ex-Bordeaux red wine casks. Removed from the blend, this wine-aged Raasay spirit stands impressively on its own with a full aroma of fruit cake, grape skin, fig preserves, and blackberry jam. The peat smoke, heathery and mild, is laced throughout, almost adding a creaminess to the experience. The palate is bright and sweet with barley sugar, cherry juice, and grape Jolly Ranchers. A peppery spice helps to reign in some of that sweetness, but it remains rather exuberant. A soft, ashy smoke arrives on the midpalate to further subdue some of those sugary dark fruits, giving way to exotic oak and salty pipe smoke on the finish. A touch sweet but still an impressive young single malt. Reviewed: Cask 18/664. 123.4 proof. A- / $115
Isle of Raasay Ex-Rye Single Cask 2023 – Aged in first-fill rye casks from Woodford Reserve. The nose is initially soft and earthy with a mild rye spice, coffee grounds, and a toasted marshmallow sweetness. The peat smoke, which comes across more as mesquite barbecue, doesn’t fully integrate with notes of vanilla bean and butterscotch that start to take over as things open up. On the palate, a peppery entry of young malt and Tootsie Roll gives way to thinner notes of barley sugar and baking spice. The finish, while nicely spiced, is a bit one dimensional, with caramelized sugar, treacle, and a bit of campfire smoke. Reviewed: Cask 18/627. 124.8 proof. B / $115
Isle of Raasay Chinkapin Single Cask 2023 – Aged in virgin Chinkapin oak. The aroma is sultry and rich with dark toffee and caramel notes, honey roasted cashews, brown butter, and a bit of Cracker Jack. The palate is expressive, if a bit youthful, with lots of cooked cereal and brown sugar atop a big oak profile of sandalwood, dried coconut, and pencil shavings. A bit of candied ginger develops on the midpalate, along with spice cake and some baked apple before dissolving into a warming, slightly salty finish of honey candies, dried cherries, and apricot. Reviewed: Cask 19/56. 124.2 proof. B+ / $115