Just when you thought that Scotland had run out of the island to make whisky on, the Isle of the Roe Deer has released its inaugural whisky.
Fourteen miles long and five wide Raasay island, a 25-minute ferry ride from the Isle of Skye, has landmarks like the flat-topped Dun Caan mountain, the ruined castle Broichel, the cliffs of Creag na Bruaich, and, at long last, a fully functioning distillery.
Previously famous for golden eagle and an endemic bank vole and another place Bonnie Prince Charlie hid after the Battle of Culloden, it now has its own premium whisky.
Bottled at 52% ABV the new release was matured in first-fill Tennessee Whiskey casks before being finished in first-fill Bordeaux red wine barrels. It comes presented in a crafted bottle reflecting the natural environment of the Hebridean island in northwest Scotland. The single malt Scotch is the first legally produced on the island whose illicit whisky makers confined their activities to coastline caves.
“This is a really historic moment as the first legal Isle of Raasay Single Malt leaves the island for the first time,” said Alasdair Day, Isle of Raasay Distillery co-founder with Bill Dobbie.
“We are very proud of our lightly peated island single malt, and our beautiful bottle that is made with clay molds of Raasay’s rocks and fossils. It’s like a piece of the island in your hands.”
The distillery offers six-room accommodation in the converted Victorian-era Borodale Mansion and draws its water from a natural spring called Tobar Na Baine – The Well of the Pale Cow. Its Norse heritage is flagged up by names like Arnish (eagle headland), Eyre (sand spit), and Suidhisnis (seething headland). The island, the main village of which is Inverarish, was the home of the composer, Sir Harrison Birtwhistle.
Its first whisky (£99/ $131) offers almond, hazelnut, and sweet spice flavors from the American oak, and caramel, toffee, and creamy chocolate notes from the previous Tennessee Whiskey contents. The French oak Bordeaux red wine finishing adds savory spice and blackberry jam to the front, enhancing the dark fruit flavors and adding another layer of complexity.
What island will produce whisky next? There are a few still left. Perhaps Rona, sister island to Raasay.