Of all the Remarkable Regional Malts that Douglas Laing produces, Rock Island might just be my favourite. The announcement of the Rock Island 14 Years Sherry Edition earlier this year was welcomed with applause at Words of Whisky HQ.
I tend to have a preference for whisky that balances the use of peat with cask influence and new make character. For me, Benromach and Springbank are the two most obvious examples. I just have such a soft spot for both brands. But Talisker, Bowmore, Ardmore, Highland Park and Tomatin Cù Bòcan would also qualify.
The new Rock Island 14 Years Sherry Edition is a marriage of single malts from Orkney, Arran, Jura, and Islay, all aged for 14 years, predominantly in sherry casks.
Rock Island 14 Years Sherry Edition (46.8%, Douglas Laing, 2023)
Nose: Even though there’s no Tobermory in here, I can’t help but be reminded of it. Whispers of copper coins and a certain sour note that I believe to be a signature of the Isle of Mull distillery. Could be Jura too. Touches of honey, subtle notes of coastal peat, a sliver of porridge, rose petals and jammy red fruits make for an enticing combination. Taste: Initially a hit of cracked black peppercorns, peanut skins and smoked barley husks. There’s a nice salinity, whispers of candied bacon, nori, and just a touch of gun powder. Also a sliver of aniseed. Finish: Medium to long. Star anise with subtle smoke and a mineral touch.
I don't know what I expected. Good things, yes, but maybe not exactly this. Yet I was very pleasantly surprised. A subtle dose of island influence. It's certainly not an Islay whisky, even though there's some included. Rock Island 14 Years Sherry Edition feels like it is greater than the sum of its parts, which should be the goal of any blend.