Whisky Focus - Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series 2011 Vintage

Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series 2011 Vintage


13th September 2019
The Solaria Series from independent bottler Whisky Illuminati is a series of five different Speyside region single cask, single malt, cask strength whiskies that were all distilled in 2011 and matured in First-Fill Spanish Oak Sherry casks. This is the first of 3 releases of each whisky with a further 2 releases from the same cask scheduled to be drawn and bottled over the next four years.

Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series

Following on from Whisky Illuminatiís inaugural 'Candlelight Series' the fairly new independent bottler has launched the Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series, a collection five  single cask single malts which have all been sourced from Speyside distilleries.

Each of the five whiskies in the Solaria Series, which were all distilled in 2011, have been sourced from a different Speyside distillery, each has been fully matured in a First-Fill Spanish Oak Sherry cask and rather than release all the whisky from each of the five casks now Whisky Illuminati plan to do something a little different they aim to give whisky enthusiasts the opportunity to explore how Scotch whisky evolves in the cask over time by releasing the contents of each cask over the next four years.

Following this first edition (1:3) release in 2019, there will be a second release (2:3) in 2021, with the final batch of the Solaria Series (3:3) set for release in 2023.

The five whiskies in this first edition batch of the Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series are:

  • Aultmore 2011 Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series 1 of 3
    Cask No.900367 / First Fill Spanish Oak Sherry Butt / 67.5% ABV / 120 bottles
     
  • Artis Secretum 2011 Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series 1 of 3
    Cask No.900284 / First Fill Spanish Oak Sherry Butt / 67.1% ABV / 150 bottles
     
  • Craigellachie 2011 Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series 1 of 3
    Cask No.900328 / First Fill Spanish Oak Sherry Hogshead / 67.9% ABV / 100 bottles
     
  • Glentauchers 2011 Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series 1 of 3
    Cask No.900364 / First Fill Spanish Oak Sherry Butt / 63.4% ABV / 150 bottles
     
  • Royal Brackla 2011 Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series 1 of 3
    Cask No.900077 / First Fill Spanish Oak Sherry Butt / 68% ABV / 150 bottles

All five whiskies have been bottled at cask strength but the knowledgeable whisky drinkers amongst you will notice that the bottling strength is higher than the strength most distillers fill to cask which is around 63% ABV in fact the strength of all five whiskies in the Solaria Series is closer to the strength the new make spirit came off the still, usually around 70% ABV with a double distillation.

I asked Whisky Illuminati co-founder Keith Bonnington about this and he told me: "The casks were purposefully filled at high strength 70%+ because of the nature of the cask and the assumption that first-fill Sherry Oak would stand up to the higher strength. By the same token, you would not, for example, put 70%+new make into a refill (2nd/3rd) bourbon cask as there's a good chance the character of the whisky would remain very 'spirity' until well into maturity.

"What the Solaria Series allows the consumer to do is experience how the whisky changes and develops over time in the best possible cask to stand up to high strength new make.

"What is certain, is that these 2011 Vintage casks are made from the highest quality European oak, sourced from one of Spainís finest Sherry Bodegas, and Iím confident that the whisky will develop and mellow marvellously over the next few years."

If you happen to enjoy any of the Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series first releases then you will not have to hope that you will be able get hold of the next release as buyers of any of the  first releases will automatically be offered the opportunity to purchase the second and third editions upon release.

The Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series bottlings have a UK RRP of £120 each which is a always going to be a big ask for 7/8 year old whiskies, the concept is certainly interesting and having tasted all the whiskies I can say they are all good, a couple are very good, and it would be interesting to see how they develop, it may be a hard sell to shift these at this price but if your pockets are deep enough they are certainly enjoyable cask strength sherried drams.

If you would like to try the Whisky Illuminati Solaria Series bottlings for yourself they are now available from specialist whisky retailers such as Master of Malt
 

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