There was some rare good news recently on the American market for Scotch whisky front. Archives, the independent bottler label from the good lads at Rotterdam’s Whiskybase—one of the premier whisky stores in Europe—is finally available in the country. We usually get none of the top independent bottlers from the continent and so this was welcome news, especially as the Archives releases are marked both for the usual value and quality they represent. However, the news was tempered almost immediately by the discovery that these releases are restricted right now to stores in Georgia and California, making it all but impossible for most American whisky drinkers to get their hands on them, given the continuing farcical state of restrictions on inter-state shipping. And, of course, also by the fact that the three-tier mark-up system in the US renders these more expensive than they would be in Europe. I don’t know if the latter problem can be addressed but I am hopeful that availability at least may soon be expanded. At any rate, here is my review of the first of five bottles in their initial American release. I’ll have reviews of the other four as well in the coming weeks.
Though the label does not specify, I gather this is a Highland Park, as is usual for independent releases bearing the “Orkney” name—the only other distillery on the island, Scapa, is not known for releases in the independent market.
Orkney 15, 2003 (55.9%; Archives; hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Prickly, rubbery peat and malt. As it sits the rubber recedes and the malt expands, picking up some mild sweeter notes of pie crust. With time some lime shows up as well. With water the lime intensifies to lime peel and zest and the pie crust expands as well.
Palate: Comes in sweet but the peppery peat is right behind and stronger here than on the nose. Nice, thick mouthfeel at full strength. With time the citrus that pops up on the nose emerges on the palate as well. Water amps up the lime and the pepper and the malt and integrates it all together very well. As it sits there’s more sweet fruit (a bit of peach) and some floral notes as well.
Finish: Medium-long. The pepper fades slowly and a bit of milky cocoa emerges; a nice bit of char at the very end. With time there’s some brine as well and then lemon peel. The fruit that emerges on the palate with water hangs around on the finish as well and there’s more of the milky cocoa as well.
Comments: Another bourbon cask Highland Park that reveals the peat that usually gets covered up in official releases. It was pleasurable but simple neat but water brought out more fruit and complexity. Too bad this isn’t available in Minnesota. Oh wait, it’s being sold for $125 where it’s available; I wouldn’t pay that.
Rating: 87 points.