Raasay – While We Wait

The Isle of Raasay is getting a whisky distillery soon for the first time. The distillery and visitor centre are scheduled to open in the summer of 2017 which is only a few months away at the time of writing.

R&B Distillers are bringing legal distillation to the island for the first time which is an exciting thing in its own right. With that being said, why then I am reviewing a whisky which mentions the island when there is no whisky maturing anywhere in Scotland which was distilled on that island?

Well, whisky production is an expensive business for all producers because of the gap between capital expenditure on production and cashing out after maturation. However, when you decide to build a brand new distillery as a brand new company then the risk and costs only increase exponentially.

R&B Distillers stands for Raasay & Borders Distillers because the company is building not one but two distilleries both on Raasay and in Peedles on the mainland. The Borders distillery has not been started yet but the intention is to begin work after production starts at Raasay.

For now to provide a revenue stream and continual brand exposure to their ventures expressions have been produced using whisky from a Highland distillery. This “While We Wait” bottle is said to represent the kind of house style of the island distillery and the Borders Single Grain bottle the house style of a lowland distillery.

The Distillery

Being built on the western end of the Island in the ground of an old abandoned hotel the actual distillery will be a modern complex I suspect in a similar design to the Kingsbarns distillery in Fife. The hotel will be converted into a visitor centre as seen in the picture above.

The distillery will produce up to 94,000 litres of alcohol per year using a pair of brand new stills. The wash still will hold 5000 litres and the spirit still 3600 litres. Once put in to casks it will all be matured on the island rather than stored centrally on the mainland.

The Dram

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The While We Wait release for its second edition is a blend of peated and unpeated malt from the same distillery in the highlands. This, of course ,makes it still a single malt since the producer is the same for both types of malt. The casks have been bought from the distillery and then finished in Tuscan red wine casks by R&B for 18 months. This is significantly longer than in the first release where the finish was a mere 8 weeks. The producers notes on this don’t hide that the whisky is relatively young but they do not give an actual age. I am not sure if that really helps us or not to be honest.

The expression is bottled in the craft presentation of no artificial colours or chill-filtration and we can expect the same when Rassay whisky is bottled in the coming years. The alcoholic strength is 46% and a bottle will set you back around £50 here.

Tasting Notes

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Colour – straw yellow

Nose – quite a sharp and citric nose. Some chewy toffee is more obvious than the soft red fruit notes from the red wine finish. The whole nose has a dirty earthy edge to it from the peated malt in the mix.

Palate – The texture is creamy and weighty. Milk chocolate with some glace cherries in it. The smoke from the peat is more obvious on the palate than the nose.

Finish – The cask finish lingers in the throat along with the smoke again. The extra maturation time has integrated into the whisky nicely.

Final Thoughts

This is a nice fruity whisky which is really approachable. The strength is not overpowering and neither is the peat influence. The style is of a traditional whisky from a time gone by where peat was a fuel source rather than a flavour source in the production of whisky. The red wine influence is nicely infused into the whisky which I think at least some of whisky was initially matured in sherry barrels so there is a lot going on in the glass.

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