Old & Rare

Rare Batch 28

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Rare Batch 28

Old whiskies can be fragile and ephemeral – something illustrated beautifully by the first of the three single malts plucked from the vaults by Dave Broom for this latest batch of rarities.

Distilled in 1949, this 35-year-old Glen Grant, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, has all the complexity and old bottle notes that you could wish for in a whisky of this age and provenance. But those flavours prove fleeting, all too quickly vanishing into smoke.

This thoughtful tone is continued with a 20-year-old bottling of Springbank from Campbeltown, distilled in 1974 and bottled for Germany in 1994. Yes, it’s a classic example, boasting huge complexity, dry smoke and the distillery’s signature oiliness, but the flavours are reticent and need to be teased out of the glass.

After visiting the 1940s and the 1970s, we close by winding the clock back to the 1960s, and a 17-year-old Gordon & MacPhail bottling of Tomatin that ran off the stills in 1964.

Thick, juicy fruits and an evocative waxiness are to the fore but, while there is brightness and ripeness to be found here, a ‘sepia-toned, melancholic air’ persists in the background.

All in all, a selection of thought-provoking whiskies – with a similarly contemplative trilogy of musical accompaniments (see Right Place, Right Time) to match them.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Glen Grant 35 Years Old (distilled 1949; Gordon & MacPhail)

    Glen Grant 35 Years Old (distilled 1949; Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    The nose is dominated by scented rancio elements, decaying soft fruits, pollen/propolis and a light coal smoke element in the background. As it opens, you pick out sandalwood oil, then frankincense, some berry fruits, white currant and orchard fruits that are oozing syrup. It’s this honeyed, mead-like element that carries through with a drop of water. It’s a nose to die for, but only for a short time. The air starts to oxidise it, and everything fades and flattens.

    Palate

    The smoky back note picked up on the nose comes across early, along with some tinned cling peach (the fruits stop being fresh). There is also more acidity than you might expect from the aroma, which adds a good jab of interest in the mid-palate just as the very subtle wood starts to ease in from the sides. In time, things move towards the herbal – angelica, saffron especially. But once again it does fade as it stays in the glass.

    Finish

    Gentle and soft.

    Conclusion

    Fascinating, if fleeting. A glimpse into the past and, just as you think you have got hold of it, it turns to smoke and flies away.

    Right place, right time

    A glimpse of Eden.

    Springbank 1974 (bottled 1994)

    Springbank 1974 (bottled 1994)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Campbeltown
    Availability
    Bottled for Germany
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    The nose is oily from the word go, but this does need work and time to start to reveal its complexities. Even then, you get the feeling it is holding something back. It drifts between a mintiness that then becomes sweet (creamy toffee/Werther’s Originals), before a blast of coal bunker as a charred smokiness begins to come through. That then is eased out of the way by citrus, oiled paper and meadow grasses. When water is added there’s a slightly stern, firm edge underneath, as if it’s warning you not to come too close. But you do, because it’s too tantalising.

    Palate

    The dry smoke is there right at the start; then the flavours flood the palate. All the teasing qualities and slight reticence of the nose are forgotten as the tongue is assailed by the juiciness of clams, tangerine peel, peppery olive oil dribbled on salami. As it appears to get heavier, a blast of sumac-like acidity brightens it up once more. Water adds more brine. Real complexity.

    Finish

    The smoke now takes charge, giving an effect like your mouth one hour after you have finished a cigar.

    Conclusion

    Layered, highly complex, but needing work. A classic. Lucky Germany!

    Right place, right time

    Rainbow on the sea.

    Tomatin 17 Years Old (distilled 1964; Gordon & MacPhail)

    Tomatin 17 Years Old (distilled 1964; Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    An immediate thick, waxy start with masses of juicy fruit that’s given an exotic nudge into maturity by some cedar notes. It’s those soft fruits which dominate though, while in time a waxiness typical of the era begins to come through. Underlying this is a lightly sweet, dusty element that brings to mind the stuffing of an old sofa/old clothes in a leather trunk in an attic, which adds a sepia-toned, melancholic air. Things perk up when a little water is added, with the peach fuzz and soft fruits beginning to build once more.

    Palate

    Rich and fairly robust for Tomatin. The thick, juicy fruits now take charge – this time with an added hint of lychee and subtle, gingery spice. Long, with ripe, elegant fruits and some oak on the edges. It deepens into black banana and, with water and time, you get some chestnut and more rootiness.

    Finish

    A tart, cherry bite.

    Conclusion

    Textured and fruity. A gently decadent glass.

    Right place, right time

    Desire in a glass.

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