Advent Day 8: Cask Islay

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 8 – December 8th134

Cask Islay (A.D. Rattray)

46% abv

Score:  86/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

Another titanic beast from the Hebridean Isle of Islay.  This one is a single malt, but an undeclared provenance single malt.  While rather a rarity in the grand scheme of whisky production, there are cases where malt whisky is bought from a distillery by another company in order to be bottled under their own banner.  The easiest Islay malt to procure in quantity is Caol Ila, but that’s not to necessarily suggest that Cask Islay is in fact from Diageo’s peating megaplex.

The fact that ADR has a sizable collection of single casks – and Grand Poobah Tim Morrison has far-reaching connections in the industry – means that this spirit could theoretically come from any of Islay’s producers.  While I could dig away online to try to suss out the origin (and may later on just for personal satisfaction), I think we’ll leave well enough alone here.

Let’s just say it’s a peaty bugger.  And it could reasonably be assumed to have the DNA either one of a couple of distilleries.  Expect a solid, smoky and ultimately endearing malt.  If, that is, you like your dram with a little bit of balls.

An additional bit of fun:  Until the beginning of this year, Cask Islay was a blended malt (i.e. composed of single malt whisky from two or more distilleries).  It’s highly likely the distillate was almost entirely from one distillery, however, excepting the addition of just drops from another in order to prevent the finished product from being marketed as single malt.  This process is called ‘teaspooning’ (i.e. adding a teaspoonful of whisky from another distillery).

I will say that it’s a shame ADR won’t declare an age for this one.  Ok…hopping off my soapbox to deliver tasting notes.

Nose:  Wet rock and brine.  Cola with lime.  Some medicinal iodine notes.  A touch of butter.  Werther’s Originals, maybe…but mild.  A touch of mint and some heat there (almost tobasco-ish).  And yes…peat and smoke.

Palate:  Slightly fishy.  Smokes fish.  Oysters.  Citrus (could be lemon or lime).  A big mouthful of ocean water.  Also somewhat peppery.  Slightly ashy.  Tastes like a couple of Laphroaigs I’ve tasted straight from the cask (and by that I mean not quite vatted to the current Laphroaig profile we all know).  Fades on apple skins.

Thoughts:  Laphroaig meets Caol Ila meets what I imagine a low strength Octomore might be like.  Neat and charming.  Especially at the price point I know this one retails for.  Worth grabbing.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

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