...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 14, 2015

WTF Is This? Pride of Orkney 12 years old Vatted(?) Malt

Last Friday, it was Pride of Islay 12yo.  This week is its cousin, Pride of Orkney 12yo.

A similar starting schpiel to last week's:  This is a Gordon & MacPhail product from the '80s and early '90s, and part of a range of Prides, such as Islay, Lowlands, and Strathspey.  And almost verbatim... I'm 75% sure this is a vatted (or blended) malt.  Most online resources say as much.  But whiskybase shows it as a single malt, so I'll leave that parenthetical question mark in the title.  If you do google Pride of Orkney, you'll mostly find auction listings and most of those are of this very mini (50mL) version.  Not a lot of reviews of it out there, other than one from a certain prolific Frenchman, so hopefully this post will help someone on this planet.

The label does state "Highland Malt", which is funny because just two weeks ago my chosen WTF whisky had labelled another Island whisky a "Highland Malt".  So the usage of this vague, marketing/branding terminology goes back long before the recent whisky craze.  The label also displays a photo of St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, which is right up the street from Highland Park distillery.  So, that may have folks thinking this is a Highland Park, if it is indeed a single malt.  But Scapa distillery is also in Kirkwall.  The difference in distance from the distilleries to the cathedral is all of 1 kilometer (2.8km for Scapa, 1.8km for Highland Park).  Thus again, I'd be happy to accept that this is a vatted (or blended) malt of the two Orkney distilleries.

Brand: Pride of
Pride of what? Orkney
Ownership: Gordon & MacPhail
Type: Scotch Vatted (or Blended) Malt
Age: minimum 12 years
Bottling year: most likely somewhere in the 1980s or 1990s
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
(Many thanks again and again to Cobo for this opportunity!)

The color is a dark brownish gold.  Like the Pride of Islay, it leaves one wondering: is it big on sherry or big on e150a?  The nose has much less sherry in it compared to the Islay.  More cereal notes.  More American oak, though not nearly as much as current whiskies display. There's something grungy and dirty on top (sorta Campbeltown-ish, if we can call that a region).  But underneath there's orange zest and vanilla.  With time in the glass, the whisky picks up some green apples, maple wood, and a hint of soapy florals.  The palate is loaded with tobacco and cocoa powder. More sherry perhaps? Minimum sweets at first.  White fruit essences, especially those green apples. It's lightly grassy with some mint leaves.  A little vanilla balanced with a little bitterness.  Gets sweeter with time.  The finish is sweeter than the palate.  Still has that balance of vanilla and bitterness. Menthol and sherry.

This is a satisfactory whisky.  Its pleasures are the reverse of the Islay, wherein this one's palate is much better than the nose.  Like the Islay, the finish is the Orkney's weakest point, possibly the result of the ABV.  Then again, the whole package is so acceptable that I can't imagine it getting that much better at 43% or even 46%.  The peat is nearly silent and the sherry restrained as the spirit pads about casually.

Again, if you have a 70cL bottle in your stash, or one of these minis, you're sitting on an acceptable whisky which I can't imagine would be worth the effort to flip on the secondary market.  So drink it and be moderately satisfied.

Availability - Auctions, I s'pose
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82


  1. Thanks for the info and review! BTW, all the islands except Islay (including Orkney) are still classified in the "Highlands" region under Scotland law. There is no region commonly referred to as "Islands"

    1. Hey Alex. Thank you for your comment and this information! It actually creates even more questions for me. Is this SWA law or Scottish law?

      If it's from the SWA, I ponder point the law serves since under the law more than 90% of the malt distilleries would be "Highlands", which in turn makes its usage on a label even vaguer. Plus some of those "Highlands" distilleries over the years were more than happy to call themselves "Speyside" when beneficial which I'm guessing would not be a separate region under that law.

      If you're referencing actual Scottish law, I'd be really interested in this since I've been a Scottish history buff longer than a Scotch fan. There are centuries of history behind what's considered The Highlands and The Lowlands, thus the Highland Boundary Fault can't be used as a border because it runs independent of human history. Unfortunately, all of the online maps showing up in searches appear very unofficial, with the dividing line appearing all over the place, with a number of "Highland" distilleries falling into the Lowlands, and Islay being scooped up into the Highlands. Any online links with the law or a proper map would be much appreciated!

    2. Hi Michael, I don't know the full history of the law, but it would be both--an SWA regulation that was adopted into law.

      As you probably know, Speyside is a subset of the Highlands, so Macallan can indeed call itself a Highland distillery, but Glenmorangie is not a Speyside. Speyside is legally defined under the same law, as is the border between the Highlands and Lowlands.

      You can find the text of Regulation 10 from the 2009 law here:

      I don't know if it was changed at all under the recent updates to the law, or what the law said pre-2009.

    3. Ah ha. That's a great link. Finally, an official statement about the line dividing the Highlands and the Lowlands. Glengoyne does indeed sit near that line, but so does Tullibardine and Deanston. This is very cool, thanks!