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Arbikie Distillery Highlands Region Scotland

Highland Rye 2019

Review of the first Scotch rye whisky for almost two centuries.

Provenance: Highlands (Scotland)
Typology: Single Grain Scotch Whisky
Gradation: 46%ABV
Ageing Barrels: Ex-Charred Bourbon and ex-Armagnac
Chillfiltered: No
Additional Coloring: No
Owner: Arbikie Distillery
Average Price: € 230.00
Official Website: www.highlandryewhisky.com/
Vote: 87/100

The Stirling family has a deep connection to the Highlands, having been farmers in Arbikie since the 1920s when the head of the family, Bill, moved there.
Four generations followed tending this fertile and expansive land, until 2013 when John, Iain and David decided to build a distillery (named after the location), reviving a tradition said to date back as far as 1720.
Initial production was of gin and vodka, casking the first distillate destined to become whisky in 2015, with Master Distiller Kirsty Black intending to wait at least 14 years for their first single malt whisky.

Meanwhile, Arbikie decided to take up a tradition that had been abandoned in Scotland for almost two centuries: rye whisky.
Using only raw material grown directly by them, in 2018 they distributed the first Highland Rye, matured for three years in ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry Pedro Ximénez casks with a limited edition of 998 bottles.
Last year’s edition in my hands was the result of four years of ageing in four charred ex-Bourbon and ex-Armagnac casks, producing 1220 bottles.
Not for everyone, given the high list price, but an important innovation in the history of Scotch.
I would like to thank Katie Stirling for the kind bottle sent for the tasting.

Bright golden yellow in the glass.
Spices welcome the nose with intense hints of bark, nutmeg, cumin, fresh orange juice. The aromas pinch the nose with great warmth, against a fruity background (figs and apricots) with touches of chocolate and liquorice roots. Surprising for a Scotch, but very interesting.
On the palate you find the warmth of the spices, less exuberant and more harmonious, in a smooth and sinuous distillate where the fruit aromas (orange, figs, apricots, dates) are recovered and enhance the sweeter component of the whisky, increasing the tones of milk chocolate, sultanas and liquorice. The profile remains spicy, with a sprinkling of chilli pepper, very wintry and comforting. More wood frames the whole, with lots of resin and cloves.
The finish is of medium length, warm and spicy, with fruity touches of orange and dates.

An unusual experience for Scotch lovers and perhaps closer to US whiskies, it nevertheless manages to maintain a distinct and balanced personality, without ever going overboard in tone and keeping the influence of the Armagnac cask under control, which indeed lends a certain underlying elegance. Absolutely worth trying.

Other bottlings in the blog:
Highland Rye 1794

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