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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Cask Islay Whisky Review!

At first glance you might assume this was a blended whisky. But no, it's a mystery single malt!

Cask Islay is one of the few 'mystery distillery' independent bottling's of Islay single malt (Finlaggan being probably the most widely known). The source distillery is usually un-disclosed, usually at the behest of said distillery or it's owners. Clues can sometimes be found in the name of the whisky, e.g. Port Askaig is likely to be Caol Ila, but there's no such luck in this case.

Cask Islay is sold by A.D. Rattray, an independent bottler based on the West coast of the Scottish mainland. They market another brand of mystery single malt sourced from Speyside, named Stronachie (18 yo reviewed here), and a blended whisky named Bank Note. The company is owned by Tim Morrison, formerly of Morrison Bowmore Distiller's, the parent company of Bowmore distillery, under Beam Suntory. So is Cask Islay a Bowmore? Who knows. The internet rumour-mill tells me it could be from Bunnahabhain, and that it's a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. 

There was previously a blended malt (sourced from multiple distilleries) version of Cask Islay, but these days it's a single malt (from a single distillery). There's no age statement, or statement about chill filtration or colouring on the label. We can semi-safely assume it hasn't been chill filtered thanks to the bottling strength of 46%, but if that is the case, I wish they'd state it on the label! It is quite well priced though, at around $80 AUD at Nippy Sweetie Whiskies, who kindly supplied the sample for this review. It still has some big competition at that price level, so how does it stack up?

Cask Islay Single Malt, NAS, 46%. Islay, Scotland.
A.D. Rattray independent bottling, from an un-disclosed distillery. Possibly non-chill filtered, but not stated on label. 

Colour: Pale gold.

Nose: Definitely Islay! Brine, coastal air, hot sand. A little tropical fruit, pinch of fresh black pepper. Dried seaweed, toasted marshmallows, tiny hint of coastal peat. Nice.  

Texture: Medium, a little heat as well. 

Taste: More peaty than the nose suggested, a dry & spicy peat. More black pepper as well, plus some dry chilli flakes, some after-shave / eau de cologne, fresh apples, and a hint of raw alcohol. 

Finish: Medium length, pepper & chilli still there, quite hot actually. The after-shave is back too, and a little peat behind. Those apples have oxidised (turned brown) now, and they're much more prominent, too prominent for me to be honest.  

Score: 2.5 out of 5.

Notes: Basically - really enjoyed the nose, didn't mind the taste, didn't like the finish. It's definitely young and lightly-peated, and I'm having trouble picking the distillery. I'm going to go with a lightly-peated Bunnahabhain, but I could be wrong. If I'm not wrong, it doesn't hold a candle to the heavily-peated Bunna's I've tasted, although it is considerably cheaper, so not really a fair comparison. **UPDATE: I've been told it's actually Caol Ila, via Facebook. Wouldn't have guessed that!**

If it had lived up to the nose, it could've been a winner, so I am a little disappointed, particularly with the finish. As always though, this is just my opinion, whisky is a subjective thing, so you may feel differently. But for me, even at the decent price, this one can't compete with the entry-level official bottlings from Islay.

On a more positive note, the enterprising folks at Nippy Sweetie have recently started doing 100ml bottles of selected whiskies. They haven't asked me to mention it, I just think this is a brilliant idea! Particularly for some of the rarer and more expensive malts, where it can be daunting to open a bottle, even more so if you know it'll take you a while to finish it. A 30ml sample bottle isn't always enough when you're enjoying a new whisky, so these are much better! Just leave some for me, please!