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Friday, February 2, 2024

Isle of Skye Blended Whisky from the 1970s to 2010s

The Isle of Skye brand may have been created by Ian Macleod himself in the 1930s. He was a skilled blender, was born on Skye, and the island was home to his clan many centuries earlier. His whisky company (and thus this brand) was purchased by Peter Russell & Co. in 1963, and has remained under that ownership ever since.

Supposedly the Isle of Skye blends' malt elements are a mix of Speyside (think Glens Farclas and Rothes) and Island singles, with Talisker at the core. I qualified that previous sentence because I've never found any actual Talisker in the stuff.

Today's tasting is not going to be particularly helpful to those looking for a view into the brand's contemporary state. I mean, this is still Diving for Pearls. So here's my trio of Skyes:

1. Isle of Skye 8 year old, bottled in the early 2010s. I reviewed this very bottle 11 years ago, and the whisky has sat in the sample bottle for just as long. It's probably in great shape! (43%abv)
2. Isle of Skye 8 year old 5cL, bottled late '80s to early '90s. I found this mini bottle in a Campbeltown shop back in 2016. (40%abv)
3. Isle of Skye 18 year old, Private stock #45, bottled 1970s. Part of a split from a bottle that was opened just last year. Yes, this has 1950s distillate within. (43%abv)

Isle of Skye 8 year old
bottled early 2010s
Isle of Skye 8 year old
bottled late '80s to early '90s
Isle of Skye 18 year old
bottled 1970s
Nose: Pleasant layers of nuts, first almonds, then acorns(!), then hazelnuts. Everything else is pretty quiet, with bits of soil, vanilla-ed grain, and cinnamon rolls here and there.Nose: Same nutty notes?! More earth, though, and some toasted coconut in the middle. Smaller notes of dead leaves and shoe polish appear later on.Nose: Heavier and brinier than the other two, though the nutty base remains. Limes and milk chocolate line the sides. Hints of seaweed and oloroso arise after 45 minutes.
Palate: I think I'm getting OBE from my own sample bottle. Who knew? But it is gently sweet, with honey and brown sugar, with moderate notes of oranges and oak spice.Palate: Oh wow, LOTS of Old Bottle Effect. It's like drinking metal, glass, and dust. And cardboard. Vanilla syrup-coated coal? It gets bitterer with time.Palate: This one has the thickest mouthfeel of the three. The least OBE, too. Sweet oranges and tart lemons balance out the vanilla and brown sugar, with a sharp peppery bite in the background.
Finish: The sweetness vanishes, leaving behind citrus and oak spice.Finish: Bitter cardboard and simple syrup.Finish: Oranges and lemons remain, though the sweetness retreats. A pinch of cayenne in there too.


Isle of Skye 8 year old, bottled in the early 2010s
Odds of Talisker actually being in the blend: 10%
Eleven years ago it lost in a Taste Off with Johnnie Walker Black Label. Today, this version would beat the current Johnnie Walker Black blend. This Isle of Speyside, er, Skye isn't spectacular, but it's quite drinkable on its own. Might even be better on the rocks or in a highball. I don't see any reason to change the original grade.
Rating: 81

Isle of Skye 8 year old 5cL, bottled late '80s to early '90s
Odds of Talisker actually being in the blend: 25%
While I'm not sure if Old Bottle Effect was what ruins the palate, I do like the nose better than the more recent bottling's sniffer. Many minis with this generous of a fill level survive the years, but this one's a bummer.
Rating: 73 (generous)

Isle of Skye 18 year old, Private stock #45, bottled 1970s
Odds of Talisker actually being in the blend: 75%
Considering the whisky's ingredients, as well as JW Black's quality during this era, a drinker could be disappointed. And it's not of an "old school" style. But this is a blend I'd be happy to sip, in fact I'm enjoying the second half of my sample right now. It's balanced but also quirky, and requires no tinkering. It's the clear winner here. I'm sure you're all shocked.
Rating: 85