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Vikings on Islay?
The Islay Boys are Donald MacKenzie and MacKay Smith. Hailing from the Rhinns Peninsula on the west coast of Islay, the two men have travelled much of the world but recently returned to their homeland to put their own stamp on the island’s famous spirit. For their branding, the boys have chosen to focus on elements of Viking mythology that link to this part of Scotland’s Atlantic coast, naming their blends after Ketill Flatnöse, a fabled warrior king of the 9th century.
Like so many Viking heros, the historical accuracy of Ketill’s story is debatable, since it comes mainly from a pair of sagas written many, many years after the supposed events took place. The story begins, however, with Harald Fairhair’s victory at the battle of Hafrsfjord. Fairhair had long dreamt of establishing himself as the first King of all Norway and wasn’t about to let any who opposed him escape his wrath. The new King sent Ketill Flatnöse, one of his greatest warriors, to pursue those who fled defeat by sailing to Orkney and the Shetland Isles.
It seems, however, that Ketill was not without ambition himself. Upon reaching the islands, he quickly established himself as ruler of the new colonies, establishing a base from which he could strike the entirety of Scotland’s coastline. Before long, Flatnöse had conquered the Western isles and made his home on Islay. From there, he was able to rule his new kingdom, beginning a dynasty which would dominate the western seaboard for generations as the infamous Lords of the Isles.
The Flatnöse blended Scotch is bottled at 43% alcohol by volume, and retails in the UK for between £25 and £30 a bottle.
Smell: Salt & Brine with the distinctive Peaty Tang of Islay, coupled with Cinnamon and Paprika spices, Toffee and Vanilla.
Taste: Fantastic oily texture, Honey and Creamy Vanilla, silky Caramel, Pepper and Oak with an undercurrent of subtle smoke. The Islay character is there, though kept in check.
Thoughts: This is an affordable offering that seriously delivers on the palate. The Islay Boys have unleashed this dram unto a world that often sneers at blended Scotch but this is fully flavoured whisky with as much character as anything else in its price bracket. It’s interesting that the whisky is bottled at 43% though it is un-chill-filtered. That’s not something you see too often, but it’s refreshing. The natural oils mean it coats the mouth and distributes flavour evenly across the whole palate. Perhaps it is just personal taste, but weight is important to me in a whisky. I like being able to chew on my dram, so this is a big win for me. It’s a wee glimpse into a parallel world where chill filtering was never invented and I very much like what I see there.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.