Linlithgow 18yo 1982/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Vintage Collection, Cask #3002, 472 bottles)

Here we have a rather “young” Linlithgow, a.k.a. St. Magdalene. I really, really loved the extremely layered St. Magdalene 19yo, that was released three years prior to this one, so when this came out in 2001, I snapped up a few, expecting a similar experience to the one year older and cask strength expression mentioned above. Hey it was reduced a bit, and only one year older, so it could happen, and it was half the price of the 19yo! At the time, Whiskies from the Vintage Collection were never expensive, as was the case with this one. They sold this at the price of what a Springbank 10yo sells for today. Remember, even in 2001 this was already a closed distillery, so go figure. It was a different Whisky world back then. If I look around the net today retail price for this one is £699,-, and if you read this in 2025 it will probably be even higher, or have we all moved on to something else? If that is the case, why are you even reading about an old Whisky nobody cares for anymore?

Color: Pale gold, straw.

Nose: Extremely malty. hints of sugar-water and ear wax. Fruity and grassy. A Lowlander alright. A breath of fresh air. Toned down, almost shy, but don’t think this is light, because it’s not. It shows quite some aroma. The quiet (big) guy in your class, but you already know there is more to it than meets the nose. Yellow fruits and whiffs of American oak, It is definitely something from the past. Somehow Whiskies today aren’t like this anymore. Its like sitting alone in a field, middle of summer, nothing more than crickets and almost inaudible distant sounds of the rest of the world. Life is beautiful. Hints of cold butter and hay. Warm wood and a bit of old vanilla. Definitely not as multi-layered as the Rare Malts bottling mentioned above, and it hasn’t its evolution either. This is more straightforward and shy (again). Perfectly balanced nose. It got plenty of time to breathe and it can handle the air. No worries then of oxidation. By the nose alone another great example of the variety of St. Magdalene. Closing this distillery is a real loss, and this one is not coming back, so what you are holding in your glass is a piece of history, hence the hefty price-tag.

Taste: Sweet on entry. Malty, barley sugar. Slightly warming. Paper and cardboard. Creamy, with toffee on entry but it gets thinner towards the finish. Lots of fruits emerging at different moment when you keep it in your mouth, making for a sweetish, fruity, friendly Whisky. Only a slight bitterness reminiscent of toasted wood emerges. Less “big” than the nose suggested. In comparison to other Whiskies from this distillery, this might be a rather simple expression, (is it?), but still it oozes something special. Memories of black coal, and motor oil. If so, this can only have trace amounts noticeable, because in essence it is a sweet fruity Whisky. Simple, maybe, but it rewards you with aroma’s from the past, coming from a distillery like no other. Near the end of the body a somewhat burnt note emerges, burnt wood, hot machine (oil). Very nice industrial edge after the friendly fruitiness.

I spent a lot of time with this Whisky over the years, and I remember, when freshly opened, it showed a lot more of the waxy notes and even quite some bitterness. So don’t be afraid of oxidation, even when this is a reduced Whisky, because it will only get better. In the end it turns out much better than I have always thought it was…

Points: 86

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Port Ellen 31yo 1982/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, DL REF 9964, 286 bottles)

Next up, yet another Port Ellen, yes, Master Quill gets spoiled again! This time by Cara Laing ehhh Leggat (daughter of…) and Chris Leggat (now the son-in-law of…). Yes in the time between me receiving this Port Ellen, and reviewing it now, these two got married! Congratulations (again) guys! So let’s call this Port Ellen their wedding dram, shall we?

For those of you who didn’t know already, there have been some changes within Douglas Laing company. Brothers Fred (father of… & father in law of…) and Stewart Laing parted ways and divided the old Douglas Laing firm between themselves. Fred retained the ‘Douglas Laing’ name, ‘The Provenance’ series and ‘Big Peat’ and last but not least acquired the help of daughter Cara, who had to be bought back from Bowmore.

Stewart had to think up a new name: ‘Hunter Laing’ (also a family name) and has the highly succesful ranges of the ‘Old Malt Cask’ (OMC) and the ‘Old and Rare’ (O&R) series. Although OMC is probably the most impressive series the brothers had together, Fred created the new series of Old Particular, not wholly different from the OMC (and O&R lettering, if you ask me). So the loss of OMC and O&R are almost painlessly intercepted with The ‘Old Particular’ range and the ‘Directors’ Cask’ range. The future is looking great for the Laing’s and Leggats!

Color: Almost copper gold.

Nose: Lovely old and mellow peat, not very smoky, although there is some wood-smoke in here. Swamp-like plants (although this sounds horrible, it’s quite the opposite). The swamp also contained some lavas. Small hints of licorice and tar (worn down tarred rope). Under this all, some yellow sugared fruits want to emerge. Old dried apricots. (No I’m not mad). unusually mellow Port Ellen, but therefore absolutely lovely. Great balance too.

Taste: Sweeeeeeet, sweet and chewy at first. Fruity sweetness with ash and licorice again. Again old peat, very mellow. Small hints of mint (the mint stays in the back of my throat after the finish, it’s absolutely there), almonds and clove. A little bit of wood, but nowhere near the amount to be expected considering the age, also no bitterness. Quite a lively and full-bodied Port Ellen, but not a lot of legs in my glass. Medium finish but that fits the profile, it’s in no way an extreme Islay Whisky, but a more introvert and stylish Whisky. I love it!

Nothing to complain then? Not really, life is great, still having these Whiskies around, although more and more expensive. I was a bit surprised the finish wasn’t longer considering it’s a Port Ellen at 51.5% ABV, and comparing this to DL REF 4112, but really, who cares. The Whisky is great, the packaging looks great, Cara and Chris look great, and at the time of writing, the sun is shining, what more can we ask for. Ehhh, so more Port Ellen maybe…?

Points: 92

Thanks go out to Cara & Chris for providing the sample!

Bowmore 26yo 1982/2009 (53.4%, Master of Malt, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 195 bottles)

And here is another Master of Malt bottling. Earlier I reviewed a reduced Tomatin, that was a true disappointment. I didn’t even know it’s possible to ruin a Tomatin, since usually I like Tomatins. So with this one I do worry a bit. This also is a Bowmore of the eighties, which quite often turn out to be your better hand-soap (lavender and violets come to mind). I once tried a 1989 Berry Bros. & Rudd bottling that made me physically ill. That was a first for me, so I tried that one half a year later and it happened again.

Color: Gold

Nose: Powdery and sweet. Not very Islay to be frank, hardly any peat or smoke. Lots of flowers though, soap, also some clay and thick, so it seems to have body. When freshly poured it is very closed. After a while some smoke trickles trough. Hey, waiting even longer there is peat too. All in minute quantities. Again not very Islay-ish. Is this really a Bowmore? Wet paper and a small hint of licorice. It’s not bad, but not very balanced either. Now we have sour oak. It’s fresh, fruity and floral, luckily not over the top lavender-soap eighties Bowmore.

Taste: Sweet and syrup, with ash and some wood. It actually attacks you in the beginning. The sweetness disintegrates quickly into something acidic. It’s like a syrup that shows, when stripped from your throat, some lemon. The attack is nice, and the middle is also quite nice, but bold tastes fade and leave you with a fairly dull and anonymous finish. What can this be, a strange and unusual Bowmore distillate in a Fino Sherry cask? Well, let’s leave it at that.

In the end it’s not a FWP-Bowmore from the eighties, but it also isn’t recognizable as a Bowmore either. It’s ok on the nose and when it enters your mouth is shows some promise. Halfway through though and especially the finish are a bit weak, which is a surprise after the bold body. But the most remarkable achievement is making and finding a Bowmore that has nothing to do with…Bowmore!

Points: 84

Old Pulteney 15yo 1982 (60.9%, OB, Millennium, Single Cask, Sherry Cask #1305, 229 bottles)

Two months ago I tried a rather young Old Pulteney from a Bourbon cask bottled by indie bottlers Cadenhead. That one was already quite nice for such a young whisky. As could be expected, the whole was rather clean and probably showed the characteristics of the Old Pulteney spirit. Rummaging through my stash, I found a sample of another Old Pulteney. This time one bottled by the distillery itself. Twice as old as the afore-mentioned 8yo ánd from a single Sherry cask. Thus some similarities and some differences. Both are super high strength Whiskies.

Color: Copper Gold

Nose: Creamy sherry. Very rounded out. Mild ánd spicy. Nice perfumy wood, that isn’t announcing obvious sourness, but smells like it will be sweet. Milk chocolate, powdery and some sea air. Very good balance.

Taste: Yeah! Hints of wood, with toffee, caramel, menthol and perfect sweetness, but there are some raw edges here and there. Mild woody spiciness completes the whole experience, where the whole is definitively more than the sum of its parts. Great warming touch in the finish. By the way the finish is also drier than one would expect. But still, this is really a stunner! The balance returns in the taste as well, so the whole is pretty fabulous.

This is so tasty that at this strength it is just to easy drinkable, dangerous stuff.

One point of criticism though. This bottle shows how great Old Pulteney can be. For me several Old Pulteneys bottled by independents also show this. Why then don’t I like the standard bottlings? I tried the 12yo and the 17yo (no notes available yet) and I didn’t like both that much. The first higher strength Isabella Fortuna bottling was a bit better, but still…

I’ll keep trying, but for the time being I will be more interested in the single cask bottlings of Old Pulteney, than their standard range.

Points: 91

Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2002 (43%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Spring/Spring, Cask #2733)

For the Douglas Laing brand, It all started in 1998 with the Old Malt Cask series, to commemorate their 50 years in business. Therefore if possible the series is bottled at 50% ABV. Later a more luxury series was introduced called The Old and Rare series. Although it is better known as the Platinum Series. In fact there are a lot of ‘names’ on their labels. The third series I would like to mention here is the Douglas McGibbon’s Provenance series. A series placed under the Old Malt Cask series, also with lower ABV, usually 43% or 46%, but also cask strength and small batch versions exist. There are also some newer series, like the Director’s Cut, introduced in 2011 with cask strength single cask single malts and single grains. Other series by Douglas Laing are the Premier Barrel and Douglas of Drumlanrig.

So let’s try an oldie but probably goldie. Yes another Port Ellen. One bottled in 2002. You remember there are a lot of names and stuff on the labels. On this label it is also stated that the whisky was distilled in spring 1982 and bottled in spring 2002.

Color: Gold

Nose: Fresh, lightly peated sea air. Yeasty. Sour fruit, sour cherries and lemons. Small amounts of complex rubber. For me there are two types of rubber here. The orange rubber air tubes you encounter in a laboratory ánd the black inner tube of a bicycle. Slightly sweetish nose and the whole is a bit dirty. Total smell is light, probably through reduction.

Taste: Very grassy, malty and some sweetness. Lemon curd, black and white powder and just now the peat. Bicycle tyre rubber. No laboratory tube. There is also a biological side to it. Hard green leaves and crushed bugs. There is also some bitterness here. There is a lack of balance in the nose. It does have a few distinctive markers but they don’t necessarily work together perfectly.

A bit of a shame this got reduced. For me the ‘rubbers’ would have been great without reduction. Still this is an example of the uniqueness of Port Ellen. It doesn’t compare to all its sisters on Islay. Eternal shame the distillery seized making Single Malts.

Points: 87

Port Ellen 29yo 1982/2012 (55.5%, Old Bothwell, Cask #2041)

Today my good friend Erik L. came over and brought two bottles with him. Today I’ll review the first one of those, yes, another Port Ellen! So when we thought we had it all yesterday with the Blackadder Port Ellen, we continue today with a Port Ellen from Old Bothwell.

Old Bothwell is a company from Bothwell, Lanarkshire Sur near Glasgow Scotland. It’s a company that specializes in bottling their own stock of wines and spirits with the possibility of personalized labels. In the whisky-world they became quite famous for bottling a series of great Port Ellen’s. Alas Old Bothwell just bottled their last cask of Port Ellen, so now they will move into other whiskies. First up are a Tormore 1988/2012 and Macduff 1980/2012.

Color: Gold

Nose: Very peaty and foremost, very smoky at first. Reminds me of one of the Douglas Laing Port Ellen‘s reviewed earlier. Bonfire, lots of fire-parafernalia such as ash and smoke. After (some) breathing, more perfumy and salty peat, it smells a bit like peat from flowers! Very nice balance. Citrus, lemon, and again a bit meaty. Again, I don’t get the rubber Port Ellen’s used to have for me. It’s probably not there in 1982 Port Ellen’s. Fresh, sea-air laden with mint. This has also a vegetal side to it. As you might have guessed, this nose is very nice.

Taste: Half sweet, big bodied and vegetal. Peppered and slightly bitter/woody peat. Ashy. In a good way a lemonade like quality due to some fresh lemon peel and sea air. It definitively reminds me of sea air that can be smelled here in Holland too. Seems to me this has yet to reveal its full potential. The wood here is sour, and leaves a somewhat strange bitterness on the finish.

Let this breathe for a while. I guess the second half of this bottle will be the better half. The bottle I’m tasting now, is almost full. But this Port Ellen already scores…

Points: 89

Cardhu 22yo 1982/2005 (57.8%, OB, 3600 bottles)

Cardhu is a very special distillery in the portfolio of Diageo, since it is their biggest selling malt (Spain and France mainly), but when talking to other enthusiasts the response isn’t all that…well enthousiastic. There is only talk of old bottles of Cardhu. Since 2006 a special cask reserve is issued, which isn’t welcomed with open arms, but since it sells so well, it must be the ultimate entry-level whisky. Personally I don’t like it.

Founded in 1811 by the illicit distiller John Cumming, who became legal in 1824. In 1884 the old distillery is replaced. Purchased by John Walker & Sons in 1893. Then in 2002 a small revolution took place. Cardhu, the whisky was silently changed into a vatted malt. (Several single malts blended together). The bottle and the label stayed the same, just the word ‘single’ changed into ‘pure’. Well this didn’t last long,  in 2004 the ‘pure malt’ was withdrawn. Luckily in 2005 this 22yo was issued.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Hmmmm, smooth. Sweet mocha. Fatty milk chocolate. Very elegant wood. Noses sweet and yes, smooth. It doesn’t seem overly complex, but is does smell very balanced. Everything fits and is instantly likeable. Hint of mens cologne, and an even smaller hint of sweat. Great!

Taste: Sweet and malty, with a sweet/spicy kick, and a peppery, warming, yet still sweet finish, with some butter and cream. A combination to die for. Very good. The wood profile is great, it’s there, but some components aren’t. Not a lot of bitterness, some sourness, but still it’s there with its spiciness. Again not overly complex, but all that’s there is great! Apricots on syrup are presented very late in the finish, excellent vegetal and green finish. Even though the fight between the sweet and sour seems a bit unbalanced, it is very interesting.

Points: 91