*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
Dunvegan Castle, sitting on the shores of Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, has been the traditional home of the MacLeod Clan for the better part of nearly 800 years. Since the Isle of Skye brand is owned by Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd., well…you see where I’m going with this. Far be it for me to post a review without some sort of slightly relevant connection that may (or may not) add to the overall impression of a whisky. First built on a prominent promontory of basalt as defensive stronghold, the castle had just one water-facing entrance and its own fresh-water spring making it an exceedingly formidable bastion for any anti-Macleods to think about taking over. Over the years the castle took on a more lord-ish, estate look, with another entrance added in the 1700’s and an extensive Victorian re-design in the mid 1800’s. Today, The Dunvegan Castle is a popular tourist draw and houses such Macleod Clan relics as the Dunvegan Cup, the Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, and Sir Rory Mor’s Horn. All of which just by their names alone are worthy enough of their own post, so I’ll say no more about them here.
The Isle of Skye 12 Year Old just made its first US appearance last Fall hoping to capitalize on the success of its younger brother, the Isle of Skye 8 Year Old. Like the 8 year old, this blend is made up of a high percentage of single malts from both the Speyside and the islands, including…you guessed it, a bit of Talisker. As with the others in the Isle of Skye line-up, after the 12 year old has been blended it is re-racked in barrels to get to know itself a little better – a somewhat unique twist on the usual process.
The Nose: Initial impressions of stone fruits – ripe plums and stewed prunes, vanilla toffee, and briney peat. Nice secondary notes of soft, malty grain, cocoa powder, and faintly woody cinnamon. Just a touch of dryish peat smoke wafting over it all. Relaxed yet complex nose with great balance between the sweeter fruity notes and the more earthy peat.
The Palate: The Palate is a bit bolder than the nose and opens with a bit of butterscotch, pale sherry, and dried fruit. Smoky peat and roasted salted nuts follow suit and are soon joined by a well-mannered round of oaky spice, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, clove, and a bit of cardamom.
The Finish: Cardamom and vanilla trail off leaving a subtle breath of peat and ashy smoke.
Thoughts: A really delightful blend. While I did enjoy the Isle of Skye 8 Year Old, there is a bit of disconnect between the sweeter, softer aspects and the peaty island ones, not off-putting mind you, but there. The Isle of Skye 12 year old is much more integrated and smooth. The island and peat influence is perhaps less pronounced but more prevalent if that makes any sense. For around $35-$40, this is a pretty good value. There’s a quiet complexity here coupled with terrific balance and a smooth drinkability that make it a dangerous bottle to open amongst a small group of friends…it won’t last long.