St. Magdalene 1981/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, II/BJ)

If you thought both Cragganmores were bottled a long time ago, then you must have a look at this St. Magdalene. This one was bottled one century ago. The 20th century to be precise. Nope its not antique yet since this was only bottled in 1999. Remember Prince? St. Magdalene itself is alas no more. Closed in 1983, it’s buildings now housing people ins stead of casks. An eternal shame led by economics of the eighties. In those days we had a Whisky loch (lots of unsold Whisky), and today almost a shortage. Big disappointment here, since St. Magdalene is my favorite Lowland distillery. Just have a look at my review of the legendary 1979 Rare Malt edition. By the way, bottles of this 1981 Gordon & MacPhail that were sold in Germany had stickers on the back that informed the public about caramel coloring…

St. Magdalene 1981/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, II/BJ)Color: Gold.

Nose: Nice, grassy and citrussy. Quite nice and elegant after all those heavy hitters I reviewed before. Waxy and fruity, again in sugared and dried apricots. Quite grainy too, it’s almost like an old blend from the sixties. Vegetal, less grassy actually but more like fern and almost flowery. Sweetish and waxy apple skins. Marmalade. With some air mare grassy and vegetal. Dry grass and hints of hay, making this an easily recognizable Lowlander. Distant white pepper and some slightly rotting wet wood or bad breath. (not bad here). Not un-complex, and very pleasant to smell. A shame this style is almost disappearing. Do cherish your old Magdalenes and Rosebanks people!

Taste: Sweet (paper) and fruity. Pleasant stuff. Yes, quite light and fragile, but that is helped along by the sweetness. After the sweetness comes wax, paper and cardboard, still quickly overthrown by a delicious fruitiness. Warm apple juice with apricots, Short peak of prickly black pepper. Hidden behind the fruity (not sugary) sweetness a hint of black coal. Highly drinkable. Decent finish with a nice fruity aftertaste.

I thought this would be killed by reduction and caramel coloring, but no. It still has a lot of life in it, just like the ancient Gordon & MacPhail Strathisla 30yo I have on my lectern. That’s also elegant, brittle and light, but still giving a lot. I feel old malts could “take” a lot more than today’s modern Malts.

Points: 87

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St. Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, OB, Rare Malts Selection)

As mentioned before St. Magdalene is my favorite Lowland distillery. Compared to the others it seems St. Magdalene always was willing to show some muscle ánd being faithful to the Lowland style. I like lowlanders with a big body. A few days ago I reviewed a Douglas Laing Platinum Linlithgow from 1970, but for ages now this 19yo Rare Malts edition has been my favorite. I know this is only one style of St. Magdalene because there are also some really great St. Magdalenes from the 60’s bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Those bottles look completely different (dark) and are bottled at 40% ABV, and still can be fabulous. As some of you might know I’m a member of “Het Genietschap” and luckily there’s also a whisky madman there (come to think of it, they all are whisky madmen and women over there), who has the tendency bringing those 60’s St. Magdalenes quite often. André thanks! I hope he lets me take a little sample home someday, so I can review it here…

Color: Gold

Nose: Sweet and full with hints of smoke and very nice wood. Caramel with a some cream and vanilla. Flowery quality, not so much grassy. Yellow fruit. Powder, slightly toasty and spicy again. Bonfire on a damp evening, after a drizzle. And after a while, a second wind. The is another explosion of aroma’s. This time more like sweet lemongrass vanilla yoghurt. The wood turns from spicy to sour. It’s a different ballgame now. More green components now. Plants after watering. Dry summer wind, laden with pollen. Vanilla Ice cream, clay. More smoke…It just goes on and on. One of the best lowlanders I know.

Taste: Sweet and here it is grassy, well more like hay. Big fruity body. Yeah this is my baby! it has some oak, but that’s far away and complements, transports the big bold body. Yellow fruit, hints of peach and a bit more than just a hint of pineapple. Like with the nose, this grows to. The body becomes even more big, with hints of rubber even, can you imagine that, in a Lowlander? The wood taste that emerges is just fabulous. Perfect sweetness that is kept on a leash by a new acidity. Fruity acidity, lime maybe? Not only the acidity, more and more a nice component from the wood makes this a three unity. Also, and this comes very late into the fold: a nutty component. Almonds and chestnuts. This whisky will never end…

I’ve had this lots of times and the fact everything happens in beautiful layers is what makes this whisky unique. Give it lots of time to let it all happen. Use a big copita they use for brandy or cognac. Forget about the strength and forget about water for the first hour you have this in the glass. Give it time, waltz it around in your glass, play with it, sniff it in tiers. Give it a chance and you’ll be rewarded. What a whisky, what an unusual great balance. WOW!

You know about those deserted islands questions? Well, I bring this and a Brora 1972 (and a glass), and worry about the rest later.

Points: 96

Linlithgow 31yo 1970/2002 (52.4%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, 139 bottles)

This was staring me in the eye for a while now, and since this is my favorite Lowland distillery, no, one of my favorite distilleries of them all, it is time to try out a very old Linlithgow. Well Linlithgow’s on the label, but it is better known as Saint Magdalene.

What could be more appetizing to you than the fact that the site of St. Magdalene in Linlithgow, West Lothian, housed a Lepper Colony in the 12th century, or that the water didn’t come from an ancient super pure melted snow mineral water source, but from the Union canal nearby. But enough facts. If you want more, have a look at Tomas Karlsson’s site.

Founded in 1798 and closed like many (good) others in 1983. The distillery is no more and there are no casks maturing there anymore, only people. It’s an apartment building now. What a shame. Didn’t they know then, it was this good, am I wrong, or isn’t it about the quality anymore…

Color: Light Gold.

Nose: Malty. Light citrus freshness and seems very clean at first. It doesn’t take long for a lot more to show up. Grass on a hot day. Dust and hay. It has a touch of floral sweetness to it. Given some time, there is a new depth to this. Or a “growing” depth you see in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Oily, fatty, toffee, licorice and hot tar (all in tiny amounts). No wood. Very special.

Taste: Thick, grassy and medium sweet. Dried apricots and apple skins. It isn’t the same as the nose (for me the nose was not fruity), but it complements it very well. Again there is almost no wood. It’s there really, but it is hidden well and transports the body. You can taste the balancing spiciness or distant bitterness (again, hidden well) and the sourness in the finish is from the oak too. Great balance.

For some people these whiskies are to light, or more of an acquired taste, but if you work on this a bit, it will be really rewarding.

It’s a first for me, but this is one, I’d recommend, you enjoy in absolute silence and by yourself. Almost any other Single Malt is best shared with friends, but this is a private one, maybe because the beauty lies in the details. But that’s not all. This has a lot to give and it doesn’t give it all at once. Again time is a friend here. I’m quite stunned also that this is a 31yo and that it’s from 1970, because it can come across much younger. For me it resembles some of the 1982 expressions also bottled by Douglas Laing. I’m a fan!

Points: 91