Glenugie 1966 (40%. Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label, 75cl, 4699)

Up next a blast from our collective Whisky past. This is only the second Glenugie on these pages, and rightfully so. It’s closed and it’s today, bottlings like this moved into the realm of collectors (who don’t drink it) and anoraks (who do). So what do we have here? A few years ago an anorak posted an article about what clues can be found on a G&M bottling to date it. We see that this bottle doesn’t have a neck label to date it, so it’s not from the 1991 batch, but earlier. We do know it is an 75cl bottle and on the bottom the glass code 4699 can be found. This particular glass container was used in between 1982 and 1991, which isn’t really helping, but narrows it down a bit. I’ve seen this bottle with different cardboard boxes though, so that isn’t helpful either. The box in the picture isn’t necessarily the box the bottle was sold in. Second we do not know if only one bach was released, looking like this. There may be different batches with different boxes who look exactly the same filled in exactly the same coded bottles. I’m guessing the one I’m about to taste is more form the second half of the eighties than the first half, but that’s only speculation. Let’s try it then shall we?

Glenugie 1966Color: Slightly orange gold.

Nose: Very dusty and old smelling. Funky dry Sherry. Deep grassy, slightly waxy and old soft oak(y). Time capsule. Some faint red berry fruit in the background. Add to that a more creamy, vanilla note and some burnt wood. It’s a mere hint that burnt note though. Adds to the character fo the Whisky. If you let it breathe for a while, more and more of this red fruit comes to the fore, cloaked in the wood and creamy notes. Diluted warm caramel and slightly dusty as well. This is an old gem, and needs to be treated as such. It’s fragile at 40% ABV. Don’t be hasty too. With even some more air, hints of licorice and a floral note emerges. Floral but not soapy. Elegant and distinguished florality. Vegetal (with some wood), floral and fruity, that sums it up.

Taste: The wax, diluted caramel and the wood are up front here. Diluted sweetness. It’s slightly sweet at first, but that is quickly gone. It’s so obvious that I do feel that some caramel colouring has been done. Yep, toffee, hard candy coffee bon-bon. More wood, slightly sappy and bitter. It has some creamy nuttiness to it. Does warm hazel-nut milk make any sense? Disappears rather quickly, hence it has a short finish. The finish is made up of toffee and it’s actually almost the only thing that is noticeable in the aftertaste (as well as a hint of paper…).

Wonderful old malt, that has been diluted too much and might have seen some caramel colouring. You know it’s there, but it lost its battle trying to show it to us, since it has been hindered by too much water. Bummer. I have to report this to the Whisky police and hopefully the culprits will be brought to the Whisky-tribunal. Smells great though, that’s where the potential is still noticeable, or should I say that’s where you can still get a glimpse of what could (should) have been…

Points: 83

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Imperial 9yo 1991/2001 “Port Wood Finish” (40%, G&M, Private Collection, Cask #99/48 1.2, 2600 bottles)

Back to some Whisky. This time around we’ll have a look at a distillery not only closed, but also torn down and already replaced. That happened quickly. In 2012 Imperial ceased to exist and just a few years later a new distillery was finished occupying the same very site. Many have thought that the new distillery would be called Imperial as well, when in fact it is called Dalmunach after a nearby pool of the river Spey. Imperial wasn’t hugely popular as a Whisky hence the new name maybe, but Pernod Ricard (the owners) never ceases to amaze us, by installing new stills replicating those of Imperial. Well in some time we can taste the replicated taste of Imperial, but for the time being let’s taste the original, shall we?

Imperial 9yo 1991/2001 Port Wood Finish (40%, G&M, Private Collection, Cask #9948 1.2, 2600 bottles)Color: Full gold with a slight pinkish hue.

Nose: Winey and candied red fruits. Easily recognizable as a Port finish. Barley, paper. New oak and some pencil shavings. Fresh-air notes, with some sugary sweetness following suit. Nice creamy vanilla mixed with fruity acidity. Typical American oak (the cask it was in before it was finished) but also some sandal wood. The Port integrated well and is used well. In those days experiments with Port finishes often went wrong since the Whisky was left in the Port cask for too long. The whole however is pretty simple and young. What you smell is what you get. Don’t expect a lot of development, if any, but keep in mind that even with the Finish, this Whisky is only 9 years old. Fruity Whisky. Smells nice. ’nuff said.

Taste: Creamy vanilla and candy sweetness. Hard raspberry candy and sugar. A chunk of toffee, molten ice-cream and nice toasted cask that gives it a back bone. Milk-chocolate. Actually pretty tasty. You can taste the potential harshness of the Port. Winey yes, a bit. The slightly burnt note from the Port cask stays around. If this was finished much longer it would have been over the top. It was arrested in its development just in time, which was quite unusual in those days, but I may have said that already didn’t I? Tasty young stuff with a pronounced weakness in the finish-department.

Simple yet well tasting stuff. If only the finish would have been stronger. I mean the finish of the Whisky itself, not the Port finish. Still, even for a Port finish from the start of the new millennium, there is nothing wrong with this. Buy a bottle of this and expect it to be empty quickly. This time also nothing wrong with the low ABV of 40%. A higher ABV may have lengthened the finish a bit, but I’m OK with it as is…

Points: 81

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

Rosebank 10yo 1992/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon Cask, MM1413)

Long time no Rosebank. It has been a long time since I reviewed a 1990 Rosebank, bottled by indie giants Gordon & MacPhail. That one was pretty good, it scored a healthy 88 points. Time for another go at Rosebank. This time a 1992 from Murray McDavid, remember them? By the way Murray McDavid bottled two different Rosebanks, both registered as MM1413. (The other one is a 1989, called Mission V). This 1992 is something of a farewell dram since Diageo decided, in it infinite wisdom, to mothball the distillery in 1993, never to work again…

Rosebank was founded in 1798, although some sources mention other years like 1840 and 1773. In the end, Rosebank was sadly mothballed in 1993 by Diageo which preferred Glenkinchie for its Classic Malts portfolio. And why not, nothing wrong with Glenkinchie I say. I’ve tried some very good Glenkinchies, and even reviewed a very good one, a 1987 bottled by Signatory. But why did Rosebank have to go? From an anoraks point of view, bad move since Rosebank distilled some pretty good spirit that turned into some pretty good Whisky if you ask me. Eternal shame.

Rosebank 10yo 1992/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon Cask, MM1413)Color: White wine.

Nose: Softly buttery and citrussy. Full aroma and nicely fresh. Nice acidity and sure some barley. Quite clean. If this isn’t your typical Lowland style, than nothing will be. Highly aromatic with soft wood and a nice grassy feel to it. Good spirit and even though the cask seems not that active (due to the lack of color), the spirit is decent and gentile, and the cask did enough to preserve that, and adding some vanilla and cold creamy butter to it. Lurking in the distance is actually some hints of new make spirit. Nice elegant (cedar) wood with milk chocolate and coffee with creamy notes (or coffee pudding).  Nice vegetal notes as well. Easily recognizable as a triple distilled lowlander. The big aroma is Rosebank from a good cask. Just compare this to the 1979 Rare Malts version (which I know is much higher in strength, but that would be missing the point).

Taste: Slightly toasted wood and creamy again. This starts with a bitterish and sappy oak attack (with some cardboard and malted barley), but that dissipates quite quickly to show it’s even more malty and grassy side. Also coffee and milk chocolate return here. A tad drier than expected and the body is more about new make spirit than the nose. Still not much though. And yes on the palate we can find the vegetal side. The bitterness of the wood stays on throughout. The whole is very nice, and don’t forget about the refreshing citrussy note!

Classic lowland and even though a fairly young Rosebank from a Bourbon Cask, this is clean and such a typical example of Lowland and Rosebank especially. Even this simple Rosebank shows what a mistake it must have been (looking at quality) to close this distillery down. Thank you very much. This particular expression reminds me of some Bladnochs, so I hope that distillery will be saved before it’s too late and someone turns it into their summer home of some sorts.

Points: 86

Caperdonich 26yo 1980/2007 (56.2%, Dewar Rattray, Bourbon Cask #7349, 164 bottles)

Earlier this month my Whisky club reconvened again and this time we picked Glen Grant and Glen Grant 2 as the subject of choice. Glen Grant 2 is better known as Caperdonich. This 1980 was my entry into the line-up and got a lot of thumbs up. Not the winner in the end, because what Whisky could compete with the great Glen Grant, Gordon & MacPhail bottled to celebrate the wedding of Charles and Diana (the clear winner in my opinion). Also present was a highly praised Duncan Taylor Caperdonich from 1972 and two Murray McDavid Missions from 1968 and 1969…

Caperdonich 26yo 1980/2007 (56.2%, Dewar Rattray, Bourbon Cask #7349, 164 bottles)Color: Dark gold.

Nose: Vanilla, but a very strict kind of vanilla. Lots of influence from the wood. Spicy vanilla. Buttery and creamy. Demerara sugar. This also has a nice luxurious paper like quality to it. Old warehouse full of ageing Malts. A wonderful old Malt this turns out to be. The (dried) spiciness is quite complex. Light honey and nutmeg. Have you ever treated yourself at home to a quality vanilla ice-cream and didn’t do the dishes right away? Remember the smell of the dried out ice-cream at the bottom of the bowl? It’s in this very Whisky. Nice! Dried leaves partly from forest plants and partly from dried herbs and to a lesser extent: pencil shavings.

Taste: Vanilla again, but also a hoppy character. You also try the occasional beer don’t you? Toffee and caramel. Just the right amount of sweets, combined with a very zesty, although, tiny hint of fruity acidity. Red fruits, little forest strawberries, half-dried raspberries and other red berries. Where in most cases the acidity isn’t all that well-integrated, here it works like a charm. The fruitiness continues well into the long finish where the hoppy (cannabis?) bit returns. Is there even a tiny, tiny hint of coconut? All of this is given a good and astringent backbone of oak, that is aiding the Whisky along and giving it character. It’s not overpowering, just, but definitely in there. The high strength is noticeable but the Whisky is never hot.

What a great Malt this is. Fantastic development over the time you’re trying it and what wonderful flavours this gives off. This may take water very well, but I have never been feeling the need to do that yet. Thankfully I still have quite some left in this bottle to play around with and mostly, to enjoy myself with it. A great buy. Sad this distillery is no longer producing Whisky. But you never know how modern Caperdonich would have turned out in the first place. Luckily the old Caperdonichs are often stellar, especially from Bourbon casks.

Points: 88

Littlemill 21yo 1992/2014 (52.9%, The Whisky Mercenary, Bourbon Cask)

Littlemill then. These days everybody seems to be raving about this sadly closed distillery. The official bottling seemed not to be very popular in its day and initially not a lot of tears were shed when this distillery closed in 1997 and subsequently was destroyed in a fire in 2004. Lots of Whiskies from the early nineties are bottled recently and surprise, surprise, a lot of them seem to be pretty good if not spectacular! Here we’ll have a look at a Littlemill that was aged in a Bourbon cask. This particular example was selected by Jürgen Vromans a.k.a. The Whisky Mercenary, who to this day has Always picked some great Whiskies. Just have a look at these reviews: Glenlossie, Tormore, Clynelish, Dailuaine and Cooley.

Littlemill 21yo 1992/2014 (52.9%, The Whisky Mercenary, Bourbon Cask)Color: Light gold

Nose: Fruity, waxy and spicy. Vanilla bean and vanilla Ice-cream. A breath of fresh air, but also some sea wind. Spicy oak with mocha. Extremely pleasant. Thin layer of honey and beeswax. Sugared yellow fruits, but also tiny, tiny hints of mustard. Hints of freshly cut oak but also an old cigar box. Cold tea (plain black tea, without milk or lemon). In the best sense of the word, a wood driven nose. Complex and very appetizing. Sometimes dry and dusty, the next very aromatic. Nice stuff!

Taste: Sweet and highly aromatic. A bit wet behind the ears, youthful oak. Yes this Whisky has been in an excellent cask. Lots of wax, beeswax, earwax, but also natural furniture polish, that doesn’t smell like an oil refinery. The wax and wood have an underlying sweetness and are aided by a nice hint of black fruits, and some oaky bitterness. Very well-balanced, and just right. It was bottled at the right moment. Maybe when it was younger it would have been more fruity, but would it have been such a distinguished gentledram?

Not every Bourbon cask is just a Bourbon cask, and not every freshly distilled Spirit that is meant to be a Single Malt Whisky is alike. Still when you take a (freshly used or refilled) Bourbon Barrel or remade Hogshead and put new-made Spirit in it, you more or less know what you’re going to get. Sometimes some especially great wood finds its way into the cask, or the barley was great, or fresh, or from a great variety. Sometimes something magical happens. Single cask Whiskies like these are all about the details so it takes an anorak like Jürgen to pick them out. Well done.

Points: 88

Port Morant 15yo 1992/2007 (46%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Islay Cask, Guyana)

This Demerara Rum from Port Morant was bottled by Berry Brothers & Rudd and somewhere in its life came in contact with a cask that once held Islay Whisky. The label doesn’t state from which Islay distillery the cask came…

BBR Port Morant 1992 Demerara RumColor: White Wine with lots of viscosity.

Nose: Very aromatic with lots of petrol and tar, paper and cardboard and you know we like this in a rum. Vanilla, caramel, Demerara sugar. Industrial at first and not very fruity, Solvents, but not the usual stuff. Small hint of mint and a good body of wood, but nowhere near the amounts of wood that can be found in aged Rums. Fantastic balance, but wait. A lot more is happening here after a while. The wood opens up and the whole becomes more floral and adds notes of dry leaves. That’s a first for me with Demerara’s. Next are some spices, cardamom, white pepper and it finishes of in great funkiness. Actually it never ends, put it away and pick it up again and you smell new things. Wonderful stuff. Although this comes from an Islay cask, meaning peat I guess, I can not detect any peat at all but there is a tiny, tiny hint of smoke. Can’t imagine they would use an unpeated Malt Whisky cask for this.

Taste: Yes there is the peat! Very up front and comes sailing in on a wave of restrained sweetness. Nice. Fits the toasted wood note that comes next. Mocha, toffee and chocolate (not the darkest kinds though), hints of cucumber, can it get any crazier than this? The wood and the peat give off a slightly disturbing kind of bitterness to this not-so-sweet Demerara. The jury is still out if it actually fits the Rum. Sometimes this note resembles an electrical fire. Still, it oozes character and proves again that Demerara’s are a force to recon with. Alas, most distilleries are closed by now, luckily most stills have survived…

It reminds me a bit of a Cadenhead Enmore, also a Demerara Rum from Guyana which will be reviewed in the future. Talking about Cadenheads, also a Scottish independent bottler, that also used some Islay casks, but from them we know they were Laphroaigs, one of the most heavily peated Islay Whiskies.

Points: 87