A few days ago I had the pleasure to be once again a participant of the A.D. Rattray Tweet Tasting, organized as usual by Steve Rush. On the menu were 3 releases already on the market, and two exclusive previews of special Cask Islay editions that will be available next month for one, and in 2020 for the other one.
Founded in 1868 by Andrew Dewar and William Rattray, A.Dewar Rattray first started as a grocer, importing of olive oil, fine wines, Jamaican rums, and they obviously also sold Scottish whiskies. Fast forward 150 years (if you want to know what happened, take a look on their history), and A.D. Rattray is now a whisky broker and independent bottler, with a shop on the west coast of Scotland where you can bottle your own… bottle straight from one of their casks.
If independent bottlers and whisky brokers are quite numerous these days, allowing people like us to discover the true taste of some distilleries without being butchered in bland mass-produced official releases, A.D. Rattray adds a nice touch of mixing this with another pleasure for aficionados: bottling your own bottle straight from the cask. While some distilleries allow this from one or a couple casks in their visitor centre, A. D. Rattray gives us the possibility to fill our bottle, between 200ml and 700ml, from several casks sourced from different distilleries in their cask room. I haven’t got the chance to go there yet (we’ll see about that on my next trip to Scotland or the one after), but it must be quite satisfying to be able to taste and bottle straight from casks of various origins.
So what about the Tweet Tasting?
I digress, I digress you’re right, so let’s get back to the Tweet Tasting. We received 5 samples from A.D. Rattray, with three current releases: Cask Speyside 10 year-old, Cask Orkney 18 year-old and Cask Islay (without age statement), and two previews of releases to come, soon for one (the Cask Islay Sherry Edition, coming out on the 1st of October) or soonish for the other one (the Cask Islay Bourbon Edition, coming out in 2020). Let’s crack on.
Cask Speyside 10 year-old
This single malt from the Speyside region is matured exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. It is bottled at 46% abv, and is not coloured not chill-filtered. You can find it for 40€ / £36.
The colour is Champagne.
Lots of lemon, fudge, vanilla, almonds, bananas, and a floral side I could not pinpoint (I need to nose my garden more). And maybe a sniff of apples.
Citrusy at first, it gets bitter on mid-palate with grapefruit and green apples. The mouthfeel gets oily. Pepper, malt and cinnamon.
The finish has a good length and is citrusy and slightly oaky, the citrus staying quite a bit on the tongue.
This whisky is a bit unbalanced. It’s not a bad whisky, mind you, but the citrus is too much on the front, be it lemon or grapefruit, and it doesn’t leave enough space for the rest. At least the price is really honest for an aged statement.
Cask Orkney 18 year-old
This single malt comes from Orkney, so it’s either Highland Park or Scapa. Since there’s not too much of old stock at Scapa (hence the discontinuation of their 16yo), I think it’s a HP, but other participants were more on the Scapa hypothesis, so I guess it’s a 50/50 (I really do think it’s HP)! Anyway, this single malt is matured in ex-bourbon casks, and is bottled at 46%. As it should, it is uncoloured and non-chill filtered. You can buy it around 60-70€, or around £62 at both Master of Malt and The Whisky Exchange.
The colour is Chardonnay.
Light smoke, honey, vanilla, pineapple, chalk and a pinch of salt. No alcohol kick.
Citrusy and peppery at first, with a bit of coastal smoke, on an oily mouthfeel. Bitter oak, and maybe a bit of honey. Green apple too.
The finish is on oak bitterness and a distant bonfire smoke. It stays quite long with the bitterness on the tongue.
This is a really good dram, with a good complexity, easily sipped. I like it a lot, and at around 60-70€, it’s quite a good deal.
Cask Islay NAS
Once again, it is matured in bourbon casks, bottled at 46%, uncoloured and non-chill filtered. It’s sold at the very honest price of 35-40€ (£33).
The colour is Eiswein.
Yep, that’s an Islay, no question here. Islay maritime peat nose, iodine, salt, oak and citrus, and a smoked meat note of bacon.
The arrival is sweet and citrusy, then you can recognize peat, pepper, ginger, then fruits with apples and grapefruit, before moving to burnt caramel and oak bitterness.
Medium long, on peat and citrus
I suppose this NAS is quite young, but for that kind of price, it is a solid dram. Easy to sip, the peat and citrus work well together.
Cask Islay Bourbon-Edition
(Cinematic voice) Now we enter… the future. Okay, I know, we’re supposed to be with less drama, ahem. We had the chance to taste a bottle taken from the ageing cask of a release due to 2020, so what I’ve tasted here is a younger preview of what you’ll be able to enjoy next year once it’s out. This will be a limited edition of the Cask Islay NAS, still exclusively matured in ex-bourbon casks, when bottled at cask strength. The sample we had was 59.5% abv, straight from the cask, uncoloured, non-chilled filtered, even not filtered at all as some of the other participants even had charred cask particles in their sample (I didn’t). I don’t know yet the RRP, but I expect it to be more or less the same as the Cask Islay Sherry-Edition we’ll taste after this.
Colour is White Burgundy
Neat: Vanilla, caramel, crème brûlée, smoke, game meat (roe deer I’d say but it’s been a couple years since I last went hunting). With water, I get more meat and less smoke.
Neat: sweet for a very short time then the alcohol kicks in. Vanilla, citrus, creamy mouthfeel over time. Once the heat goes down, the peat takes its place. Cigar tobacco leaves. Really thicker mouthfeel than the 46% NAS. With water: more fruits and ginger.
Neat: cigar ash and a bit of grapefruit. Drying on the cheeks and gums but no heat. With water, grapefruit with sugar sprayed on it.
It’s the NAS but cranked to 11. Strong dram, thick mouthfeel, really present flavours, and swims very well. It will be a very solid dram that I’ll probably buy. The price is yet to be communicated, but if it’s in the same range as the Sherry-Edition, I’ll definitely buy a bottle. I won’t rate this whisky as it’s a preview and it’s different of what you’ll be able to buy, but it’s a very solid dram.
Cask Islay Sherry-Edition
Last dram of the evening, this limited edition of Cask Islay is matured exclusively in two types of sherry casks: some Oloroso sherry hogsheads from Tonelería Juan Pino, and Oloroso sherry-seasoned wine casks from Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana. This is bottled at cask strength, at 59.9% alcohol by volume, and as usual, it’s uncoloured and non-chilled filtered.
The colour is Amontillado
Neat: dried fruits, sultanas, tobacco leaves, grist and wood varnish, with peat and smoke beneath. With water, some meat appear as well as caramel, and more tobacco.
Neat: dried fruits, figs, sultanas, cinnamon and ginger, smoke, a wee touch of dark chocolate, but still the citrus on the background. With water: it gets meaty, salty, and smokier.
Neat, the finish is of medium length on ginger chocolate. With water, spices are stronger and make the finish longer than neat.
Like the bourbon edition, it loves water, opening the dram and allowing more flavours to come out. It’s expected to be released at £45 (around 50€) on the 1st of October, and it is quite well priced. I think the one that will be released will be the very same as my sample, but in the doubt, I won’t rate it either.
I really enjoyed this A.D. Rattray Tweet Tasting. My preference goes to Cask Orkney 18yo and the future Cask Islay Bourbon Edition, but the two other Cask Islay are also solid drams you would not regret buying. I’m less inclined to recommend the Cask Speyside 10yo however, for its lack of balance.