Rare bottlings

Rare Batch 6

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Mortlach distillery rare whisky

In preparation for this week’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (28 April – 2 May), Dave has dug out three Speysiders from the vault.

First in the line-up is a rare 28-year-old Convalmore, bottled by Diageo as part of its 2005 Special Releases. A rare opportunity to try a distillery that is rarely seen but which, on this evidence, is deserving of cult status. One of the famed seven stills of Dufftown, Convalmore produced a waxy, fruity malt until its demise in 1985 when it was closed by then-owner DCL. Its empty buildings, now simply hollow shells, now belong to William Grant & Sons, and are still visible from the road. Thisparticular Convalmore was astonishingly cheap for a whisky of this scarcity, age, and quality. So low priced in fact, that even I could afford it.

Second to be tasted this week is one of the earliest of The Glenlivet’s Cellar Collection, which appeared in a 400-bottle tranche in 2001 and carries the signature of the great Jim Cryle. Most of it ended up in the US, but one bottle made its way to Brighton. It was the first ancient Glenlivet I had tried and was the start of a deeper appreciation of a distillery which is well known, but still somehow under-appreciated. Quite fittingly, Glenlivet distillery will be hosting several events throughout the Festival this week.

Lastly, an extremely rare occurrence from Mortlach distillery (pictured, right in 1898) completes our Speyside-themed tasting. This 1938 vintage was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in the 1980s when they were the de facto official bottlers of Mortlach. It’s encountering bottles like this when you begin to appreciate what a debt we all owe independent bottlers. 

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Convalmore 28 Years Old (bottled 2005)

    Score 9.2/10
    Scoring explained >
    Convalmore 28 Years Old (bottled 2005)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Waxiness drips onto the nose immediately with a hint of nut in the background as it slowly gives itself up. It starts off like a chapel late in the night, candles guttering but then slowly awakens as the sun arrives bringing with it a heavy note of tropical fruits and honey. Water is needed as there is still an edge of alcohol which, if you manage to give it time, allows some rancio to develop.  

    Palate

    The sweetness is amazing here. The honeyed element continues this time with more rich tropical fruits and always, even with the water, this needle of heat. Has the slinky flow which typifies waxy whiskies.

    Finish

    Long, fruited and elegant.

    Conclusion

    The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees, and for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs, and light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes.

    Right place, right time

    A midsummer night’s dream.

    The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1959

    Score 9.1/10
    Scoring explained >
    The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1959
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    42.19%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Slightly resinous to start, and over-canopied with lush woodbine, with sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine. A touch of coal like smoke smoulders in the background. It remains fresh with the fruits of the year coming to full ripeness and very subtle touches of oak acting as gentle support. 

    Palate

    Refined and relatively light, redolent with fruit syrups and precise oak tones. It slips and slides along the tongue offering little starbursts of energy. It now shows its age with that clinging quality, the fruits beginning to fade but with the memory of blossom around them. The smoke begins to build. 

    Finish

    Gentle with a touch of oak. 

    Conclusion

    A distillation of harvest time, the leaves yellowing, the fruits ready to drop. 

    Right place, right time

    In the garden, low sun hitting the trees as autumn begins to come calling. 

    Mortlach 1938 (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Score 7.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Mortlach 1938 (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Immediately, the dense, dank aroma of a dunnage warehouse, all bungcloth, clinker, and crepuscular activity. There’s also time for some gingerbread, raisin and malt loaf to show themselves, albeit briefly as the oak begins its dry cobwebbed procession. Then comes smoke and a deep meat-accented rancio. 

    Palate

    A sweet start with much more smoke. A smoky log fire belching up the lum dislodging some soot as it goes. There’s a basket of fresh cut pine logs ready to be added, then some coconut husks are flung on the blaze. The fruit levels are low.  

    Finish

    It recedes back into the darkness, muttering.

    Conclusion

    Age, with his stealing steps, hath clawed me in his clutch.

    Right place, right time

    Huddling ‘round the fire in a cold Gothic mansion. A floorboard creaks…

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