Dornoch Distillery Cask #16 & Dornoch Distillery Cask #54


Today we’re looking at two single cask releases from the Thompson Bros owned Dornoch distillery.

Dornoch Distillery Cask #16

Region: Highlands

ABV: 54.2%

Price: £95.00

Cask #16 was distilled on the 28th of August 2017, and spent four years in a ex Journeyman Bourbon Octave before being bottled in March 2022. Only 85 bottles were released.

Nose

This has a very fruit forward nose that opens with notes of strawberries, apple juice, vanilla and brioche buns. Going back to it and there’s melted butter on toast, oak, cereals and parsnips. There’s a spicy note here that’s hard to place, but we’re going to say it’s star anise. We wouldn’t have been able to guess how young this is just from the nose.

Palate

We’re getting caramelised toffee, bitter chocolate, strawberries, ginger smoothie, and orangeade. This has a good finish with a little peppery spice lingering on the tongue. This is is very smooth and easy drinking even at cask strength. Going back to after air and there’s some runny honey and a slight ash / burnt note that we’re not finding unpleasant.

Nose (with water)

With the introduction of water the ash note from the palate is now showing on on the nose and it brings along with it the caramelised toffee and a hint of oak. Going back to it after some time and we find there’s also some double cream, and a mintiness that reminds us of a rye whiskey.

Palate (with water)

A splash of water dampens the spice along with some of the sweetness. There’s some honey and a touch of mint / basil on the palate now. This has a medium finish, with the sweet notes lingering on the tongue. Personally, we’d skip adding water to this.

Conclusion

This is our first release from Dornoch distillery and we’re very impressed with it. We need to try a few more samples from the distillery to make a a final judgment, but based on this alone we could be looking at the best new distillery we’ve tried since Ardnamurchan. It’s expensive for a 4yo, but given the limited amount of whisky available we’d be willing to give it an 8/10.

Score: 8/10


Dornoch Distillery Cask #54

Region: Highlands

ABV: 55.5%

Price: £95.00

Cask #54 was distilled in January 2018 using Plummage Archer barley, the whisky was matured in a first-fill 100 litre ex-bourbon cask. Cask 54 is the third cask to be released from Dornoch distillery, which yielded just 178 bottles.

Nose

Initially we’re getting a note that reminds us of tracker bars - nuts and caramel with oats. There’s also fruity notes of green apple, and grape juice. Along with some candied ginger, and dark chocolate. This one is more obviously a young whisky as there’s also notes of ethanol, yeast and barley that betrays its age.

Palate

The first thing that hits you as you taste this is the alcohol bite. After you get past this the sweeter notes start to come to the fore. There’s custard, golden syrup, and vanilla essence. There’s also a hint of fruit here, but nowhere near what we we were getting from cask 26. It’s also significantly more spicy, and really tastes its age.

Nose (with water)

The addition of water dulls some of the ethanol / younger spirit notes, but also takes with it some the fruity notes. We’re now getting heaps of golden syrup, almost as if we’ve stuck our nose straight in a tin of Lyles. There’s also some watermelon, butter and a touch of mint in the background.

Palate (with water)

With water this is easier to drink, but it’s still a little too hot for our tastes. Fortunately the sweeter notes haven’t been dampened too much by the dilution and we’re now getting lots of vanilla marshmallows, and chocolate. There’s also still a slight fruity note that’s now showing predominantly as grape.

Conclusion

We’d probably be more impressed by this dram if we hadn’t just tried cask #16. This isn’t bad whisky. In fact it’s well above the average 4 year old whisky, but given we know the distillery can do better, and given that this is £95 for a 500ml bottle we can’t give this any higher than a 7/10.

Score: 7/10

  • 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
  • 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
  • 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
  • 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
  • 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
  • 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
  • 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
  • 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
  • 2 - Pour it out
  • 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.

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