Isle of Raasay released its namesake whisky back in 2021, but it took a bit longer for this Hebridean single malt, distilled on a tiny island north of Skye, to wash up on our shores. We chewed over a stopgap bottling of sourced single malt from the distillery, cutely dubbed While We Wait, a few years back. We found that bottle wanting, but this homegrown Raasay offering appears to be a very different single malt.
For starters, Isle of Raasay is producing both peated and unpeated whisky from 100% Scottish barley and then blending the two to create a lightly peated style inspired by Hebridian single malts lost through the ages. The distillery’s cask program is also pretty unique. While most single malt is aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, Isle of Raasay is harnessing the unique flavors and properties of first fill rye whiskey, new Chinkapin oak, and first fill wine casks from Bordeaux. All of these, six different whiskies, find their way into the flagship blend (with proportions varying slightly from release to release). Let’s check it out.
The nose is impressive; fresh and honeyed with a lacing of soft, damp smoke and notes of baked apple and vanilla pound cake. The smoke diminishes as it opens, integrating into the overall aroma as sweet ash and pipe tobacco elevate sweeter notes of orchard fruit and custard. The palate is light bodied and elegant with a gentle, white pepper spice. Notes of golden raisin, cinnamon toast, and barley sugar comprise a rather sweet profile with only a very subtle, heathery peat note hiding underneath it all. For how well the smoke was presented in the aroma, it’s a bit surprising how subdued it is on the palate. The finish is a touch thin, but a flourish of woody spice helps to extend the experience with fading notes of applesauce and clove.
The distillery has been operating only since 2017, so we can presume nothing in this bottle is more than 5 or 6 years old. That said, this is a lovely, easy drinking single malt that tastes already quite mature and complex. I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses in the coming years.
B+ / $70 / raasaydistillery.com