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A.D. Rattray was founded by Andrew Dewar Rattray in 1868. The company began life as an importer of wines, spirits and olive oil but were soon blending scotch whiskies from all over the country in order to give their customers a unique product tailored to their tastes. The business enjoyed significant success and their horse drawn carts were a common sight around turn-of-the-century Glasgow and all along the River Clyde.
When Andrew Rattray passed away, the business fell silent for a time but was eventually acquired by whisky broker William Walker. Walker’s daughter later married Stanley P. Morrison, founder of Morrison Bowmore and one-time owner of Bowmore, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch distilleries. When Morrison sold his distilling empire to Japanese giants Suntory, he revived the A.D. Rattray name as the inspiration for his next venture; an independent bottler and blender of scotch whisky.
In 2011 the Morrison family opened the A.D. Rattray Whisky Experience in Kirkoswald, Ayrshire and in 2017 they returned to distilling as the proud owners of the new Clydeside Distillery in Glasgow. That project celebrated an important milestone in late 2020, with the oldest of their spirit reaching the all-important three years of age. For the first time, the Clydeside Distillery has its own whisky!
Back in 2014, Rattray released Cask Islay, a single malt from an undisclosed distillery on the famous whisky island (it’s rumoured to be Caol Ila, which is usually a safe bet on these occasions). Bottled at 46% and priced sensibly, it is a very pleasant dram that offers an affordable access point to the occasionally daunting world of Islay whisky. The Cask Islay brand has since been followed by Speyside and Orkney versions.
*I visited the Clydeside Distillery on the first day it opened to the public back in 2017 and bought a bottle of Cask Islay at the special price of £25. You can read a report on my experience here.
*Huge thanks to David at the Jar in Troon for the samples. https://www.thejartroon.com
Cask Speyside 10 year old
A single malt from an undisclosed distillery on Speyside. The whisky has matured for 10 years in bourbon casks before bottling at 46% abv. Retails at £35.
Smell: Butter. Vanilla. Barley. Bread. Shortbread. Baking spices. Hobnob biscuits. Fudge. A bit floral with some fresh mint. Lemon curd and Danish pastries.
Taste: Gentle arrival with honeyed malt. Buttery biscuit. Lemon cake. Crisp apples and lemon juice. Cinnamon and a little oaky depth with mixed peppercorns before a dry slightly woody finish.
Thoughts: Not the most spectacular whisky I’ve ever come across but it’s perfectly adequate for the price. The higher bottling strength and lack of chill filtration have given the buyer more depth of flavour than they would get from many lower strength Speyside drams of a similar age.
Checks all the boxes for an affordable introduction to the lighter side of the Speyside region and presents itself better than many branded malts of far greater fame. Uncomplicated but not dull, it’s budget-friendly, enjoyably drinkable whisky.
Cask Orkney 18 Year Old
There’s only two distilleries on Orkney so it shouldn’t take too much detective work to identify the origin of this single malt. Aged for 18 years in ex-bourbon casks, it is bottled at 46% and retails at the fantastic price of £65.
Smell: Heather honey, breakfast cereal and sawdust. Vanilla ice cream. Lemon curd and sponge cake. Little touch of citrus and oak spice.
Taste: Chocolate orange creams. Caramel. Peanuts. Apple. More oak here than on the nose. Pepper. Little touch of brine and the lightest wisp of smoke.
Thoughts: Officially, we don’t know where this came from. Unofficially, I think just about everyone has a fairly strong idea of its provenance. If such assumptions are true, the price tag on this bottle is quite exceptionally low. In fact, regardless of the liquid’s beginnings, £65 is an attractive tag on a bottle of spirit almost two decades in the making.
The dram never quite threatens to reach the level of excellence you might expect of such a whisky, at such an age, but it nevertheless offers an approachable way to experience and enjoy the intricacies that develop in a spirit over years in cask. Old whisky doesn’t necessarily mean better whisky but it almost always means more expensive whisky. Yet here is A. D. Rattray, bottling up some 18 year old malt from a very popular distillery and making it available for a very reasonable price. Good on them.
If either of the bottles reviewed in this article have caught your eye, you can purchase them from Master of Malt at the links below. *Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid commission on any purchases you make. **Other retailers are available.
Buy Cask Speyside 10 Year Old here.
Buy Cask Orkney 18 Year Old here.
For more on A. D. Rattray visit here