Old & Rare

Rare Batch 23

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Rare Batch 23

This batch of rare whiskies, drawn up from the vault by Dave Broom, explores three single malt ‘Glens’: Glen Flagler, Glen Ord and Glen Spey.

Glen Flagler was one of the shortest-lived single malt distilleries, founded in 1965 by Inver House Distillers within its Moffat complex in Airdrie, which was also home to the vast Garnheath grain distillery. Mainly used for Inver House’s blends, it was also bottled as both a blended and a single malt before closing for good in 1985.

Here we have an NAS (no age statement) bottling from the 1970s, aimed at the Italian market in an effort to exploit that country’s love of young, fresh whiskies. It’s fair to say that Broom isn’t entirely taken with the result.

Our second whisky is altogether more successful. A Glen Ord bottled in 1993 to mark the 25th anniversary of the distillery’s maltings, it has a ‘deservedly celebratory feel’, Broom says. Glen Ord remains one of only three distilleries currently self-sufficient in its malt requirements (along with Roseisle and Springbank).

We close with a ‘blooming’ example of distillery character from Glen Spey, perhaps the most easily overlooked of the distilleries of Rothes in Speyside. Founded in the same year as its more illustrious neighbour, Glenrothes, Glen Spey is rarely seen as a single malt bottling. This expression dates from a turbulent period for the distillery – it was rebuilt during the early 1980s, and closed down between 1984 and 1989.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Glen Flagler 100% Pot Still (NAS)

    Glen Flagler 100% Pot Still (NAS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Slightly lean with a metallic, spirity touch that briefly brings to mind new column still rum. Underneath is an odd mix of unripe strawberry and a kale-like vegetable hit. The rummy note grows with water, along with some white florals, but it’s rather aggressive, even when diluted.

    Palate

    Better than the nose, soft and quite oily in the middle, but it remains delicate and slightly fragile. Oddly there’s no obvious flavour development going on here. Water amplifies the texture further, but does nothing to bring any aromas to life.

    Finish

    Hot and spirity, even with water.

    Conclusion

    Bottled in the 1970s for Italy in, I suspect, an attempt to tap into that market’s love of young, fresh whiskies at the time (see Macallan and Glen Grant). Not a huge success, it has to be said. One of those ’why bother?’ whiskies.

    Right place, right time

    Wearing cheap aftershave in Portofino.

    Glen Ord 1969 Celebratory Whisky

    Glen Ord 1969 Celebratory Whisky
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    60%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Gentle, elegant, and fruity with ripe passion fruit and clementines, then fuzzy peaches and some very light banana elements in the background. Succulent, and weighty with, surprisingly, only slight nose burn. In time you get a hint of honey and, with water, more old-style waxiness. Gorgeous and mature.

    Palate

    Rounded, with quince jelly, peach and the sensation of sucking on a barley sugar sweet. This thick, chewy quality lasts to the mid-palate, when the alcohol begins to assert itself. Initially, this gives a fresh, almost acidic bite, but begins to grow and obscure the flavours towards the back of the palate. Retronasally there’s more grassiness. It is even more expressive with water…

    Finish

    …though the alcohol still clenches on the end.

    Conclusion

    Bottled in 1993 on the occasion of the maltings’ 25th anniversary, this has a deservedly celebratory feel.

    Right place, right time

    Watching the seniors in the sun at Wimbledon.

    Glen Spey 8 Years Old

    Glen Spey 8 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Light and exceptionally fresh with almond notes from the off. There’s a touch of cask coming through in a green, sappy sort of way – the start of additive maturation. As it opens you get touches of butter icing and a fresh, floral lift. In time (undiluted) the nuts begin to come back, with some pea flour dryness. Water brings out more distinctly bran-like elements, along with an amplification of that green note.

    Palate

    Substantially different to the nose, here the florals are in control, there’s also an added  touch of pear, while any of the nuttiness solely exists as a powdery back note which adds structure, more than flavour. It blooms rather beautifully in the centre, a quality which even water doesn’t dent.

    Finish

    Surprisingly long and slightly dusty.

    Conclusion

    Bottled in the 1980s, this is a good, and slightly precocious, example of distillery character which is saved by a palate which hints at the subtle complexities at work in the heart of this malt.

    Right place, right time

    ‘Did you sleep well, Mr Wooster? As it is now noon, would you prefer cupcakes or Weetabix to break your fast?’

    ‘Weetabix I think, Jeeves. Must maintain standards you know.’

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