Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series

Solaria Series - Whisky Illuminati Header

After launching their inaugural range, the Candlelight Series, last year, Whisky Illuminati have now launched their second range, the Solaris Series. This range comprises five single cask whiskies, but only part of the liquid has been bottled this year. A further portion of each cask will be bottled in 2021, and the remainder bottled in 2023. This is a rather unique approach, which will allow consumers to look at how a single cask whisky develops over time.

The five single casks were all filled in 2011, and come from Craigellachie, Royal Brackla, Aultmore, Glentauchers and ‘Artis Secretum’ – this last one translates from latin as ‘trade secret’ because the distillery has prevented Whisky Illuminati from naming it, but it’s said to be from “one of Speyside’s most revered distilleries”. Four of the five are sherry butts, with the Craigellachie being a sherry hogshead.

Whisky Illuminati co-founder, Keith Bonnington, said of the range: “This is a unique opportunity for whisky drinkers to buy into a developing cask of single malt Scotch whisky, and to fully appreciate how the character evolves in the wood over a period of four years. We selected 100% first fill ex-sherry casks from Spain to mature the new make spirit, with the aim of drawing out maximum impact from the wood to deliver the depth of flavour and colour desired over time. Our policy of bottling at natural cask strength without adding colour or chill-filtering means that each whisky is bottled at between 63% and 68% alcohol by volume, exactly as they appear right now in the cask. To fully enjoy the multitude of complex flavours, gradually adding water to taste is encouraged.”

This is gonna be boozy. Let’s go.

Royal Brackla 2011
Solaria Series
First Edition
150 bottles
68 % ABV
£120 here

Nose: Dark treacle, slightly burnt caramel, cinnamon stick, clove studded ham, cacao nibs, and kola kubes. Then singed orange peel, mango chutney, and three fruit marmalade.

Palate: Very juicy to begin – apricot, plum, blood orange and cherries. Then sultana cake, buttered ginger bread, clove, nutmeg, drying oak, and roasted peanuts.

Finish: Some marmalade on toast with orange oils, cinnamon, and dry twigs.

Aultmore 2011
Solaria Series
First Edition
120 bottles
67.5 % ABV
£120 here

Nose: Very game-y and meaty, as well as notes of pipe tobacco, old leather, black peppercorns, and some struck match. There’s a clean, minty thing too – peppermint?

Palate: Full on oloroso sherry notes, with thick tannins, dark chocolate, woodspice and more of those game-y notes. Some salted caramel too, and a struck match sulphury note.

Finish: Dry leather, cask stave, and strong black tea.

Glentauchers 2011
Solaria Series
First Edition
150 bottles
63.4 % ABV
£120 here

Nose: Dark terry’s chocolate orange, new leather shoes, Baclava, hot cross buns, charred flowers and jasmine tea. Quite gentle, to be honest.

Palate: Fruit loaf, glazed walnuts, dark cherry, prunes, and dates, with some mince meat pie too. Old leather, liquorice, star anise and a real firm oakiness. A bit more robust than the nose suggests.

Finish: Dried fruit mix, unlit cigar and cacao powder gently melt away.

Craigellachie 2011
Solaria Series
First Edition
100 bottles
67.9 % ABV
£120 here

Nose: Uh oh. Plasticine, clay, window putty, copper coins and cured meats. Hmmm. Some hazelnut praline, coffee liqueur and thick oak too, but it’s all very strange.

Palate: Oh dear – boiled turnip, parsnip and carrot. Then used vegetable oil, spinach leaves and more savoury, meaty notes. Some chocolate truffles, rum soaked raisins and oak spices too, but it doesn’t redeem those unpleasant notes.

Finish: A bit more ‘normal’, with chocolate mousse, cherry lips sweets, and chopped logs.

‘Artis Secretum’ 2011
Solaria Series
First Edition
150 bottles
67.1 % ABV
£120 here

Nose: Treacle toffee, honeycomb, Crunchie Bars, golden syrup, cherry brandy, plum wine, fig rolls, sticky raisins, caramel barrels, sweet chewy oak… mmmmm, this is very inviting, and nicely balanced.

Palate: Very chewy, with cinder fotffee, rich honey, vanilla fudge, chocolate covered Brazil nuts, Black Forest Gateau fruits, blackcurrant cordial, and gentle baking spices.

Finish: Blackberries, clove, charred crème brûlée, and firm oak.

Overall: Nosing and tasting these whiskies side by side sure helped to tease out the differences between them. The Glentauchers and Royal Brackla are stereotypical sherry bombs, and are very pleasant drams. The Aultmore is more game-y and savoury, and a much more robust type of sherried whisky. I do worry for that cask of Craigellachie, as there are all sorts of weird notes in that whisky – plasticine, clay, boiled turnip, parsnip, and carrot, and used vegetable oil. Not enjoyable in the slightest. On a more positive note, the star of the show is the Artis Secretum (whatever it may be); there’s a wonderful balance to the whisky, even at this tender age, and a good depth of flavour to boot. £120 for a bottle for any one of these whiskies is a stretch though, but I do commend their approach to part bottling each cask over several years to assess flavour development. Now, to find out what that Artis Secretum might be…



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