Since miraculously getting my hands on Dornoch Distillery’s Inaugural Release, I hadn’t tasted any other whisky of theirs. Until now. I didn’t manage to secure a bottle, but thanks to Marcel I did get a sample of the Dornoch 2017 5 Years Cask #13, which I believe was first presented during last year’s Dornoch Whisky Festival.
If you’re not yet familiar with Dornoch Distillery, maybe read my previous article on them from a few years ago. But if you can’t be bothered, here’s a short summary. Dornoch is a young distillery in the Northern Highlands of Schotland; they’re deeply traditional and artisinal.
The distillery only uses floor-malted heritage barley varieties – Plumage Archer barley in this case. They’re fermented in open-topped washbacks with brewer’s yeast strains. And their wash is distilled in an Alembic still, which is a historic precursor to pot stills used by other malt distilleries.
An even shorter summary: Dornoch are focusing on experimentation and re-creating the whisky magic from yesteryear.
The painting that adorns the label of the Dornoch 2017 5 Years Cask #13 is made by Gavin Ryan Thomson. It’s called ‘Whisky – The Art of Time’ and if you know anything about Gavin there’s no surprise the inspiration came from Bowmore.
Dornoch 2017 5 Years Cask #13 (55,91%, OB, 2022)
Nose: Some varnish maybe, but otherwise very much cereal oriented with hints of porridge, draff and oat cookies. You could almost convince me this was distilled on the grain. But also rich notes of sultanas, warm apple pie and orange marmalade. And some lemons too. Finally just a whisper of pralines. Taste: The oak is more present here. Somewhat dry, but also whiffs of resin and some gentle, warming oak spices. A touch of apricots, dried pineapple and mead too. Finish: Drying, soft spices and rye bread. A hint of fennel and chocolate too. Medium in length.
I've only ever tasted Dornoch's Inaugural Release, but impressively there already seems to be a shared DNA. This is whisky with a soul. The nose is right up my alley and a perfect mixture between fruity single malt and grain-forward maltwine genever. But the palate can't quite keep up. Still highly enjoyable, but pushing the boundaries of maturation limits in such a small octave cask.