Glasgow's independent bottler Douglas Laing recently released a cask strength version of their Rock Oyster blended malt. The whisky is part of their Remarkable Regional Malts, a series of blended malts zooming in on the classic whisky regions of Scotland.
Although we could start a discussion on whether the islands form a separate whisky region or are only a part of the Highlands region, we're not going down that path right now. We're here to pry open a rocky oyster!
At first Rock Oyster almost seemed like an inside competitor for one of the most charismatic blends from the industry: Douglas Laing's own Big Peat, a blended malt with malt whiskies exclusively from the Islay. They even claim to include some magical Port Ellen (note to self: put them side by side one day for an in-depth comparison).
Anyway, Rock Oyster is a blend with malts from the Scottish islands Arran, Jura, Orkney and Islay. Arran is known for being fruity, Jura for fresh and citrusy unpeated malts (although they distill heavily peated spirit as well). Islay of course is known for its peatiness with Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain spirit readily available for independent bottlers.
Identity Card Rock Oyster Cask Strength
- Rock Oyster Cask Strength
- Douglas Laing Remarkable Regional Malts
- NAS Islands blended malt
- 57.4% ABV
Nose: My first impression was literally cheesy. Chaumes from the Périgord region served with a young white wine. Oyster juice with lemon rind. Or that might be my imagination and the Anna Koska imagery playing tricks with my mind. There's a lot going on in the glass. Fresh, clean and spicy. Lemon grass and teriyaki sauce. The malty and young grape aromas pointing to a rather young spirit but that's perfectly acceptable sometimes. Young does not have to be synonymous for bad or low quality.
Peat, coarse sea salt and a bunch of spices that I find hard to pin down in a mortar and pestle. Pears glazed with honey.
A teaspoon of water unleashes a sweet torrent of passion fruit and pomegranate mixed with charcoal and honey. It may sound disgusting but whisky anoraks are going to love it.
Taste: The initial sips reveal lots of peppery and citrusy notes. Tobacco and smoky wood chips. Honey and lemon rind. Wortegemse lemon jenever or my mom's honey-lemon-thyme liquor - with an added smoky dimension - we use to fight off colds during winter. Can't make up my mind between those two.
Water made it succulently sweet peat and vanilla pods. Lots of nougat flavours with some peppery smoke and sweet apples in the background. Caramel with a pinch of salt.
Finish: Marzipan mixed with smoky dried chili peppers.
Price: £50 / €65
Bull's eye for Douglas Laing (again)? Yup, definitely to me. It's a bold one, packed with flavours and a decent balance between sweet and smoke. It feels young and spirity but there's plenty to discover so I'm not complaining. No, I'm lovin' it. Sorry McDonalds but I'm stealing your campaign line for a moment!
Call it a sweet little brother of Big Peat Christmas. So, when will Timorous Beastie get a supercharged version? And a Campbeltown blend? And a Lowlands blend? And... and...
What do other people think of it?
Source and pictures: Douglas Laing
Disclosure: A sample of this whisky has been provided by the people at Douglas Laing Tasting notes and opinions are, as always, my own.