Isle of Arran Corriecravie and Rock Island Rum Cask on Taste; Laphroaig Expansion and New Packaging Launch

Hello everyone

A few columns ago, I shared my own tasting note of Isle of Arran‘s Kilmory from its Lagg Distillery (the peaty one) and mentioned that the other early offering, Corriecravie Edition Sherry Cask Finish, would be out soon. It is now and a sample arrived just this last weekend. Also, a new release came in announcing the launch of Rock Island Rum Cask from Douglas Laing & Co., Rock Island being their island blended malt range. There are worse ways to spend a morning than nosing and tasting interesting whiskies.

My former brand Laphroaig (long ago, in a galaxy far, far away), also had some news this last week or so, showing off their new lighter packaging and announcing a public consultation with the people on Islay (Ileachs) regarding expansion of the distillery and upgrading facilities there, including the visitor centre. All exciting stuff for one of my two favourite distilleries. Two? Yes, my heart is divided in two. The other one is on the mainland.

Let‘s look at Rock Island Rum Cask Edition first. The Douglas Laing people were kind enough to supply also a little sample of the Rock Island 10 Year Old and Rock Island Original (both of which I‘ve tried before) but time hasn‘t allowed me to compare them all side by side. This Rum Cask Edition contains whiskies from Orkney, Arran, Jura and Islay so plenty of potential flavours to play with there. It‘s bottled at 46.8% vol with no chill-filtration and no added colour. Also, there is no age statement. The whisky was finished exclusively in Plantation Rum Casks from the three Caribbean islands of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad.

Appearance: Medium barley gold; clear; lemon and pale brass highlights.Tears slow and sticky and fairly close.

Nose: Light smoke but also candyfloss sweetness; demerara sugar; clean sea air notes too. Touch of warm tropical fruit; drier notes of wax and white pepper; very light honey and vanilla.

With water, less sweetness but waxier and creamy. Cream cheese frosting; some soft oak and a tiny touch of pineapple.

Palate: Light smoke which deepens on the palate; some slightly burnt caramelised sugar; char and tar too. Medium mouth-coating.

Finish: Long, smoky with both sweetness and bitterness of char; ginger notes; drying.

A distinctly pleasant addition to this range. I managed to hold a little bit back to try and compare with the other two Rock Island samples when I get time. Price-wise, expect to find it at around £65 (UK pricing) and it‘s available globally.

Now for the Lagg Corriecravie Edition Sherry Cask Finish (55% vol; no chill-filtration or added colour).

Appearance: Rich amber/teak; orange marmalade highlights. Colour rather like sherry after soaking raisins for fruit cake. Tears very close and clingy, hugging the glass.

Nose: Lovely smoky honey sweetness; tiny bit of struck match; rich dried vine fruits. Some warm sweet spices – clove, allspice, powdered ginger. Orange oil and heady florals.

With water, a bit more of the struck match note; warm smoke and oak wood and some char. Quite rch and full for a young one – as this is Lagg, it is still young.Still fresh air notes, though and a touch of salt. Malty.

Palate: Mouth-coating.Ginger and clove spiciness; caramelised brown sugar; rich smoke and toasted barley sweetness. Dab of salt and some cocoa powder. Not as sweet on the palate as on the nose.

Finish: Long smoke, chewy, bit of tar and char with a dry ending. Cocoa/coffee ground bitterness but sweet notes too.

I‘d be keen to try this again when it‘s been in its various cask types some years longer. An impressive start and rather moreish now. The whisky has spent most of its young life in bourbon casks before resting about 6 months in oloroso sherry hogsheads. The barley variety is Concerto and peated to 50ppm in the kiln. It‘ll be priced at about £65 too from and specialist whisky retailers. Only downside for me is the rather firm tear strip on the seal over the wooden stopper head – not great for the fingernails.

Back to Laphroaig and the new packaging recently launched is supposed to reduce their carbon footprint by nearly one third. You‘ll see also that the tube, used for many years, has become a carton which is recyclable. There‘s a new beechwood top to the stopper too. All laudable stuff and a  really lovely packaging refresh with more tactile and handcrafted elements. In another move, they‘re intending to rename Laphroaig Select as Laphroaig Oak Select, „to better reflect how the casks impact the flavour of the whisky“. Don’t really get the need for that and I’d be interested to know what research informed the decision.

Other very positive and important news from there is that they are holding a community drop-in day on 23rd August to learn more about plans to expand the distillery and enhance facilities before final planning permission is sought. It‘s so good that Laphroaig‘s popularity makes it necessary to produce more. There has been money spent on the distillery in the last few decades but nothing „life-changing“, as it were. The Beam Suntory people (owners), the project architects and local team members will be on hand for consultation and they are open to ideas as to how they can best support their island community. This is a great example of how to treat your island home and local community and I hope it all goes well. There‘s contact detail for more information so I hope to have more in the end-August column.

Lastly for this time, the lovely piece of Bruichladdich glass artwork mentioned a column or two ago will indeed be on show at the distillery. The first piece on it that I saw didn’t include that info. That means another good reason to go to Islay.  As if we needed any more…

Till then, happy dramming.




Leave a Comment