Before we begin, a Zoom-era amusing anecdote about this dram. Since Stephen moved to Norway, our meetings have been on FaceTime or Zoom. Since the pandemic, many meetings transpire with the three of us in different undisclosed locations, creating, at times, logistical complexities involving blind tastings of small samples. This particular time, an unidentified Impostor mislabeled two of the samples! In particular, my sample of this one, the peaty Douglas Laing Rock Island 21 Year Old, was mislabeled as a particularly sherried dram. As we were sipping and chattering away, I was talking about the evident peat, etc., etc. Various other Impostors thought me crazy, wondering why I wasn’t getting the explosive sherry bomb they were, asserting my taste buds to be washed out, wondering if “Impostor” was too high a compliment for my whisky-reviewing capabilities, etc. Well, dear readers, there’s a lesson to be learned. I’m not sure what it is, but it *feels* like there must be!
On to the review:
The nose of the Rock Island 21 Year Old, 46.8% abv, opens with burnt matzoh, green turpentine-fraught pine needles that aren’t catching fire, but merely smoldering with wisping curlicues of straight peat, homie. My peat receptors are on Defcon Five! There are also rocket engines firing as the main fuel tank disengages, sizzling and hot. Improbably, the rocket is running on smoked peppermint and Jamon Iberico wrapped ’round a staticky dangling old-timey microphone, wreathed also in cigarette smoke, in an “ON AIR” radio booth in which a fedora-wearing, grey-tweed suit-wearing, old-timey sportscaster is, uh, casting sports.
On the mouth, we got smoke on the water, smoke on the land, smoke in the air, and smoke in the smoke. Also, a car cigarette pop-in lighter that was unforgivably dropped into a Seven Up™, fished out, and with naught but a cursory exhalation of (smoky) breath meant to dry off the coils, unforgivably and prematurely pushed into the dashboard, causing a short circuit, leading to—you guessed it!—more wisps of smoke. Paradise by the Dashboard Light, indeed. There’s also some freshly-ground nutmeg, some forgotten tarragon burning in a dry sauté pan, and creamed high fructose corn syrup mixed into a chaotic frenzy by a Cuisinart.
For the finish, the best bank in the world has peat lollipops for the grown-up customers, in which repeated lickings allow a sweetness to emerge, like the rasp of a cough softened by Swiss throat lozenges. I got also honey, produced by jimsonweed-deranged bees. Also: Allen Ginsburg’s Howl, read in tandem by Tom Waits and Jeremy Irons. Also: Smoked Oysters, slip-sliding down the throat as if they lived their mollusky lives hoping for nothing other than an apotheosis in my belly. A life well-lived, smoked oysters! proudly proclaims my tum-tum.
On the scale of mistaken identities–
The Douglas Laing’s Rock Island 21 Year Old Limited Edition Blended Malt is Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe–They’ve both anchored and embodied the key role in vast fantasy epics, they’ve both taken on wildly “indie movie cred” crazy roles since, and by gum, they look so much alike that surely one would be crazy to label one of them “peaty” and the other “sherried”!