Rare bottlings

Rare Batch 10

by
Glen Grant distillery

Another trio from the vault, assessed by Dave Broom. Leading the way is a fine old Glen Grant, aged for 25 years and part of the Director’s Reserve series. The whiskies comprising the collection were normally reserved for consumption by the directors, and this particular expression is thought to have been bottled in the 1980s.

Yet another Port Ellen (you lot seem to lap them up, so it’s the least we can do) follows suit. The 27-year-old single malt was the first release in the Single Malts of Scotland series, aged in a refill butt.

Rounding up our rare tasting notes is a Talisker from the second tranche of Diageo’s Manager’s Choice single cask range. This was bottled in 2009, having been selected in a blind tasting by the distillery managers of Diageo’s estate. It was drawn from an ex-bodega (rejuvenated European oak Sherry cask), and can still be snapped up for around £450.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Glen Grant 25 Years Old (Director’s Reserve)

    Score 8.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Glen Grant 25 Years Old (Director’s Reserve)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Deep amber in colour. A robust, feral note that brings to mind the sudden, sharp, hot stink of fox den, mixed with beech mast, scuffed-up leaf mould and blue cheese. In time, you’ll get heavy beeswax and dried peppermint leaf. It’s whisky rancio in its darker guise. Is it Glen Grant, though? 

    Palate

    Those powerful rancio notes continue, now with added chanterelle/cep/mushroom basket flavours. There is something very old, slow and of the night about it. The water shatters it – not surprisingly at this age and 43% – so, when encountered, have it on its own.

    Finish

    Bosky. Yew and cypress trees.

    Conclusion

    It’s slightly hard to tell if it is time in cask or bottle that has produced this character – maybe it is a bit of both. Whatever, this is a rich and rewardingly funky dram.

    Right place, right time

    Lost in the woods, the children lie down in the leaves and shiver.

    Port Ellen 1983, 27 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland)

    Score 8.4/10
    Scoring explained >
    Port Ellen 1983, 27 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Here’s Port Ellen’s sweet maritime guise with low smoke and an almost mead-like element. It is this mix of honey and herbs – and, in this case, sea wrack – that dominates the neat nose. Water, however, takes you on to the beach with some mineral elements mixing with meaty savouriness – honey-glazed smoked ham.

    Palate

    This summery aspect continues, with the smoke only getting going by the mid-palate. Until then, all is sweetness and delight: honeycomb of white bread. Then comes red pepper flakes, thyme before it dries quite markedly – and suddenly. As with the nose, water brings out some salinity: sweet clams and more typical chalkiness. 

    Finish

    Dry and firm. 

    Conclusion

    The old-timers on Islay always talked of how Port Ellen was a very sweet whisky, though most post-closure bottlings have been rather flinty. This shows they were right. Of course they were! 

    Right place, right time

    With some trepidation, Brother Kiaran presents his new smoked metheglin to the abbot. 

    Talisker 1994 (Manager’s Choice)

    Score 8.9/10
    Scoring explained >
    Talisker 1994 (Manager’s Choice)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky and Peaty
    Nose

    Very fresh and almost minty (After Eight), with a fresh, green, herbal note (sweet cicely, geranium) that you sometimes get with younger Taliskers, which offers a contrast to the distinct brininess. The high alcohol, meanwhile, helps to amplify the distillery’s signature pepperiness (white pepper in this case) before the warmth of dried citrus and sweet fruits. The smoke shows in a mix of ink, tar and moor burn. With water, the sea spray flies off the top of the wave and lands on hot scallop shells.

    Palate

    Huge and classically oily/tongue-clinging, but with heat and a constant background mutter of peat which stubbornly refuses to leave the mouth. Water makes it simultaneously sweet and salty. The cask is lightly supportive and adds a little depth, rather than overt oakiness of classical dried fruit. With water you get more citrus.

    Finish

    Long, smoked, but restrained.

    Conclusion

    A fascinating, understated Talisker which is in line with the 18-year-old in terms of sweetness and feel, but with more smoke and poke. It is this teasing, almost quiet (this is Talisker, after all) element that is most intriguing – and rewarding.

    Right place, right time

    Sitting outside the Wee Free sooking on a pan drop as the smoke from your grandfather’s pipe wreaths into the air. 

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