Two casks, one whisky
The Double Barrel are a recently released series of vatted malt whiskies from the Glasgow based independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co. A vatted malt is one that contains two or more single malt whiskies and nothing else. The principal behind the series is to mix two contrasting styles of whisky together, usually one in the smoky, peaty style and the other in the ex-sherry cask style. Douglas Laing & Co select only one cask of each and then vatted these together. As a result bottles are limited and should cost between £35-£45, depending on where you find it. We have previously reviewed another in the Double Barrel series that combines smoky Laphroaig and sherry casked Macallan - click here to read.
This version of Double Barrel consists of two nine years old single malts - Ardbeg and Glenrothes. Ardbeg is a distillery on the western Scottish island of Islay (pronounced eye-la) and they produce some of the peatiest, smokiest whiskies in the world. Islay is the home of the smoky style of whisky and Ardbeg was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall. The current owners are drinks company Moet Hennessey and the distillery has a capacity of approximately one million litres per year. Glenrothes is one of the largest Scotch whisky distilleries in the Speyside region of Scotland. It is located within the town of Rothes and has a capacity of 5.5 million litres per year. Despite its size, Glenrothes remains fairly unknown as the Edrington Group, the current owners, use a majority of the whisky produced in their flagship blends of Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark. Their single malts are usually matured in sherry casks.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this version of Double Barrel is light golden, almost lemony. The nose feels sweet and fresh with plenty of soft peat present (think of damp moss and earth). Once you get beyond this initial smokiness, there are other subtle aromas that come through - vanilla, cereal grains, yeast, butterscotch and some zingy citrus (imagine lemons especially). The palate is light and fresh with peaty smokiness again as the prominent feature. This feels more ashy than earthy though and is reminiscent of coal embers or smoke. The effect is to make the palate instantly drier and slightly more astringent than the sweeter nose suggested. Sweeter characters start to come through with time and these balance the dryness well - these include honey, vanilla, cereal grains and nuts (think of almonds). The finish is again quite dry and astringent, this time with a distinct grainy and herbal edge (imagine dried grasses, hay or straw). The overall feeling is of freshness and the dryness/astringency is surprisingly pleasant and leaves your mouth watering and wanting to try more.
What's the verdict?
This Ardbeg/Glenrothes Double Barrel is an interesting whisky and makes more of an impression than the previous Laphroaig/Macallan version that we have tried. The whisky does seem to suffer from a similar problem though, with the smokier Islay whisky suffocating the softer sweeter Speysider. However, this is a pleasant and easy drinking whisky that will satisfy the peaty whisky fans and the uninitiated alike, as it has balance and complexity combined with a decent but not frightening level of peat smoke. Well worth a try.