In 2018 Douglas Laing rebranded its Rock Oyster whisky to Rock Island. Apparently oysters have a negative connotation to some people and they feared it put off consumers.
Therefore it was simply named Rock Island – after all it represents the Island (maritime) whisky character in the Remarkable Regional Malts range, mainly composed of whiskies produced on Orkney, Arran, Jura and Islay. Still a small batch whisky with slight differences between batches.
In July 2019 they broadened the range with the addition of a Rock Island 10 Year Old (a permanent addition) and Rock Island 21 Year Old (a limited release).
Nose: sweet minerals, with green fruits and sandy beach aromas. Fresh seabreeze, sweet lemons, with very mild peat in the background. White bread and plain malt as well. Mouth: same balance of young garden fruitiness, generous salty notes and medium peat. Fresh and clean, with slight vanilla cream and a hint of peppery oak coming through. Mouth: quite long, again quite coastal with a hint of tar, cold ashes and barley.
A nice mixture of Islay peat with coastal notes and still a hint of green fruits. Nice if you’re looking for an accessible, lighter version of what you’d get from Islay. Around € 40, available from Master of Malt for instance.
Nose: not necessarily more mature than the NAS version, I would say? There’s less roundness with more pronounced zesty notes. Lemon peel, more raw barley and a sharp hint of ginger. More saltiness. Slightly more punchy than the no-age version. Mouth: same feeling, it’s slightly sharper around the corners. Green pears and pineapple, crushed peppercorns and gingery notes. White pepper too. Just a touch of honey before the earthy, salty side comes through. Finish: quite long, with citrus fruits and now also a hint of earthy smoke.
Not sure why, but I like the balance of the NAS version better. Could it be their ages are not that far apart? Around € 50 but apparently still on its way to stores.
Nose: clearly much more mature. Very gentle bonfire smoke with mellow vanilla and old tarry ropes. The fruits are more pronounced here, ripe gooseberries, apricots, sweet citrus. Hay and warm minerals. Whiffs of menthol as well. Mouth: same fresh fruitiness (apricots and pineapple, with exotic touches that you often get in Arran), then some smoky / ashy notes and dark honey. Hints of custard. Perfectly balanced. Finish: medium length, still on these creamy fruits and mellow smoky notes, with a light pinch of salt.
Take the generous fruitiness of Arran and add a mature smoky character, both blended in a perfect way. Great value for money. Around € 85, available from Master of Malt for instance.