Rock Island Regular, 10yo and 21yo by Douglas Laing (Review Flight)

Rock Island by Remarkable Malts and Douglas Laing (Blended Malt Scotch Whisky Arran Islay Jura Orkney BarleyMania Tasting Notes)

The whisky formerly known as Rock Oyster. Back in April, Douglas Laing re-branded the Islands expression of its Remarkable Regional Malt range as Rock Island. What lead to this decision, I do not know – but I will hopefully do so once my planned interview with the Glasgow-based bottler and blender is done. Till then, I have another interesting read for you: my tasting notes for a trio of Rock Island whiskies, namley the regular NAS version and the 10 Years Old as well as the 21 Years Old. Anchor up and cast away, the Scottish islands are calling!

by Tobi

Rock Island
(Remarkable Malts • Blended Malt • Islands • Oak casks)

Though the folks at Douglas Laing have recently given this whisky’s packaging an overhaul, they left its tried and tested recipe untouched. Consequently, Rock Island still encompasses drops distilled on the islands of Arran, Orkney, Jura and Islay. It opens with a massive, compact nose full of minerals, brine and smoke. Additionally, there are sweet butter cookies and slightly sour fruits like pomelos or limes. The taste is very mineral with quite some weight to it. While the nose already had some noticeable peat, the palate ups the ante in this regard (but we are not talking Islay levels of peatiness here). Other flavors in this salivating sip are honey, herbs, vanilla, lemon and sweet apple. Towards the end, the Rock Island gets more sweetish and fresh. But the mineral notes keep shining through as well. When all else is gone, earthy peat and burnt pastry remain alongside crunchy fruits of green and yellow color.

Rock Island 10yo
(Remarkable Malts • Blended Malt • Islands • Oak casks)

The 10-year-old Rock Island marks the first permanent entry to the brand portfolio with an age statement. In the nose, it is lighter than its NAS counterpart. To me, it offered lemongrass, butter cookies, cough candy, clotted cream and dandelion enriched by a thin vapor of smoke and some spices. Its thick mouthfeel was much oilier than I expected after the light-ish bouquet. On the tongue, maracuya milk, maple syrup and yellow peers mixed with chocolate sauce, apple puree and cigarette ash. This pleasant interplay of flavors developed into a smooth finish of medium length. Here, I found the contrast between light fruits like lychees or grapes and heavy stuff like honey or shortbread especially fascinating. To round things off, these notes appeared together with natural licorice and a thin whiff of smoke. Now… who’s up for a tasty trip to Scotland’s isles?

Rock Island 21yo
(Remarkable Malts • Blended Malt • Islands • Oak casks)

Rock Island 21 Years Old is the oldest special edition in the brand’s history – and probably also the best! Upon first sniff I already knew that I was up for something very, very special. A briny sea breeze carried along a complex interplay of other scents: juicy oranges, sour peaches, dried cloves, softened leather, lemon-flavored buttermilk, camomile tea bags and raspberry pudding. Also a fresh aroma I cannot really pin down and thin smoke rising up from sizzling spring wood. The palate was initially a bit of salty. In the following it developed an almost veggie-like quality, which was then joined by dark smoke. The 21-year-old Rock Island felt less oily its younger counterparts; instead it had something light-footed and prancing to it. Next to the flavors mentioned before, I also found sweet apples, soft marzipan, sugared cappuccino, hazelnut cake, gooseberries, cigarette puff and egg white foam in it. Plus green-ish wood and honeyed herbs. The whisky’s medium-long aftertaste seemed a bit reluctant at first. But it was also very delicate. Towards the end, the smoke vanished, while the sweetness increased. Veggie notes and honey flavors remained on my tongue alongside soft fruits and crumbly sea salt fudge. To give you an impression of just how much I loved this whisky, let me close by telling you this: Two sips into my sample dram, I picked up my phone and ordered a full bottle of Rock Island 21 Year Old straight away!

Rock Island (Blended Malt / Islands / NAS / unlimited / 46% / ~40 Euro)
Rock Island 10yo (Blended Malt / Islands / NAS / unlimited / 46% / ~50 Euro)
Rock Island 21yo (Blended Malt / Islands / 21yo / 4,200 bottles / 46.8% / ~90 Euro)

Douglas Laing @ Web: (Blender)
Bremer Spirituosen Contor @ Web: (German Importer)
Remarkable Malts @ Instagram: (Whisky)

*** Whisky samples kindly provided by Douglas Laing & Co. ***


    1. To be honest, I did not even recognize this at first. I follow the Remarkable Malts on social media closely, but somehow my brain was so used to the Rock Oyster name that I just kept reading it – even though the labels and the texts had been saying Rock Island for weeks. :D

      Liked by 1 person

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