Old & Rare

Rare Batch 15

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Whisky tasting notes Rare Batch 15

Let’s start 2017 with a selection of old and hard-to-come-by whiskies. Dave Broom has plucked another trio from the vaults – or, to be more precise, from the vaults of Douglas Laing. As well as the Old Malt Cask range (now owned by Hunter Laing, incidentally), the bottler is also generally believed to have provided the Oddbins Manager’s Choice bottlings.

The first Ardbeg 27-year-old out of two featured below, was distilled in 1972 and bottled in 2000. It is part of the Old Malt Cask bottlings, then owned by Douglas Laing.

Next is a 32-year-old Ardbeg drawn from cask #866. This was distilled in 1972 and bottled in 2004 exclusively for Oddbins.

And lastly, another 27-year-old Ardbeg, distilled in 1975 and bottled in 2002 – also belonging to the Old Malt Cask range.

Beyond the distillery name, all three expressions share another common factor: they come from a time when people were waking up to Ardbeg, but prices hadn’t yet headed into the stratosphere. How times change...

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ardbeg 27 Years Old (1972, Old Malt Cask)

    Ardbeg 27 Years Old (1972, Old Malt Cask)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Manages to mingle together oiliness (motor oil), Neoprene and wet kelp with a dry undertow, before tarred seashore notes come through. Mineral, lemon, slightly medicinal, then a lanolin warmth. Water allows it to become more expansive with hints of ink, dashi and bonito flakes, then samphire.

    Palate

    Immediately phenolic with this unctuous oiliness insinuating itself along the tongue, as flavours of bay rum and light spiciness mingle with lemon and medicine. Intense. It’s only that ooze which gives away its age. As with the nose, water brings out more concentration, with a new water mint element. It fades gently towards the finish where there are… 

    Finish

    ...chilli flakes, menthol.

    Conclusion

    Fantastic, energetic, medicinal and powerful. This is Ardbeg looking along the coast to Laphroaig and saying: ‘Bring it on.’

    Right place, right time

    Bent into the wind on the seashore after a storm. Wind clears your brain, salt flecks your lips.

    Ardbeg 32 Years Old

    Ardbeg 32 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    In similar vein to the Old Malt Cask, but slightly thicker. Here, we are on land rather than the seashore of the 27-year-old. The smokiness is more, er, smoky, rather than phenolic. Bonfire, damp moss, wet hiking boots, black fruits, burnt toast, herbal honey, mastic and bay leaf. It has layers of mature complexity. Water softens and brings out more oak. 

    Palate

    Thick and oily, this time peppery Spanish olive oil, then a mix of the bay leaf, Douglas fir needles and fruits, while a black wave of peat builds. This doesn’t act as a drying element thanks to the oils, allowing it to break softly. With water, it becomes chewier, with burnt cream and hickory hints.

    Finish

    Huge and smoke-filled. 

    Conclusion

    Deep, and highly complex. 

    Right place, right time

    Camping in an old-growth coastal rainforest.

    Ardbeg 27 Years Old (1975, Old Malt Cask)

    Ardbeg 27 Years Old (1975, Old Malt Cask)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Anyone for curry? This is all curry leaf, fenugreek and turmeric, with light nuances of clove. Now the smoke seems either muted or absorbed. Meaty, with some lime pickle on the side. As well as the curried elements you pick out almond and paprika, then Seville orange. Immense depth. Water simply amplifies everything! 

    Palate

    As you might expect, the start is peppery and spicy with huge density. Flavours move into walnut oil, dates, then take a more exotic turn: oudh, rose petals, eucalyptus, incense and those fully integrated phenols. A magnificent beast, which is best taken straight. Water doesn’t harm it in any way, but I like the impact.

    Finish

    Rich, subtly smoked, heady and concentrated.

    Conclusion

    Ardbeg at its most savoury.

    Right place, right time

    An opium dream in a Maharaja’s palace. 

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