Old & Rare

Rare Batch 35

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Rare Batch 35: Jura, Springbank, Tamdhu

For this batch of old and rare whiskies, Angus MacRaild delves into three impressive, well-aged single malts, all distilled in the 1960s. All of them display admirable, and in some cases exceptional, qualities derived from long, slow and patient ageing in good-quality casks.

First up is Jura 1966, bottled at 32 years of age by Signatory for its 10th anniversary: a terrific example of an older island malt with its invigorating, fresh and fruit-forward characteristics. However, unlike a number of sister bottlings of Jura distilled in the same year, MacRaild finds this one just a tad underwhelming.

You can’t say the same about the next dram: a 1968, 37-year-old Sherried Springbank from bottler Ian MacLeod, part of its Dun Bheagan series. This is a pristine and timely reminder of why 1960s Springbank is regarded so loftily by enthusiasts.

MacRaild finds it a show-stopping and rather breathtaking example of the power, concentration and sheer beauty that this distillate can achieve at greater ages – especially when married with high-quality Sherry casks, as in this instance.

We close with a Tamdhu 1962 bottled in 2006 by Gordon & MacPhail under its ‘MacPhail’s Collection’ label at a perfect 43% abv. MacRaild finds it a delectable and deeply satisfying example of why, when age really works, it can produce some pretty unbeatable characteristics and qualities.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Jura 1966, 32 Years Old (Signatory)

    Jura 1966, 32 Years Old (Signatory)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Opens on salted honey, warm brioche and seashore aspects, such as sandalwood and wet beach pebbles. Some lemon peel, a subtle meaty note akin to Tuscan fennel sausage, and a further mineral-leaning profile. With a little time, the fruits begin to wake tentatively; star fruit, greengage, kiwi, lemon and some unripe melon all appear. Globally it is perhaps a tad tight and closed. Let’s try with a drop of water... Goes more towards coconut now, with some preserved lemon, a little old rope, a scattering of dried herbs and a wee suggestion of beached kelp.

    Palate

    Again with a saline and honey character, like spiced and salted mead. Then white pepper, green fruits, green apple peelings, a little honeycomb and pollen. Also some soot, white stone fruit such as lychee, a hint of aged, dry Gewürtztraminer and some buttered toast. Water reveals dried seaweed, gooseberry jam, crushed coriander seeds, a touch of bitter chocolate and some almond flakes.

    Finish

    Good length. Rather drying, saline and a little fatty – but still frustratingly elusive.

    Conclusion

    It’s well-known that these 1960s Juras can be spectacular. This one remains somewhat frustrating, however. It seems to dance around the edges of greatness to a degree, and remains a little hard to pin down. It’s still a very lovely dram, though – it just struggles, given the provenance and expectations.

    Right place, right time

    A marine biologist gazes out to sea and laments the inevitability of Brexit.

    Springbank 37 Years Old, 1968 Cask #1541 Dun Bheagan (Ian MacLeod)

    Springbank 37 Years Old, 1968 Cask #1541 Dun Bheagan (Ian MacLeod)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Campbeltown
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Deep, intense and concentrated dark fruits! A miraculous combination of precious hardwoods, wood spices, jasmine, smoked tea, cured meats, game, aged Pinot Noir, lanolin, bitter dark chocolate, rancio, balsamico and beef stock. Totally thrilling! An aroma that just seems to keep on evolving and changing by the minute; you could write an essay about it. Water brings a superb earthiness. Deep, echoing sloshes of spice and many dark fruits: dates, sultanas and figs. There’s also a leafiness, along with dried mushrooms, coal dust, wood chat, ancient Cognac and some very dense treacle. With time, the rancio returns with a vengeance on the back of some salted dark chocolate.

    Palate

    Chocolate and black tea bites first, then a stunning mix of dried herbs, very old green Chartreuse, wood resins, herb-infused oils, camphor, wet earth, dark fruit liqueurs, fig paste, cough syrup, maraschino cherries, aged Muscat and a texture like old boot polish. Totally mesmerising! Water increases the fruits rather than the tannin. An abundance of crystallised citrus peels, a few fresher green fruit aspects and, eventually, an immense and elegantly drying spiciness.

    Finish

    Endless, dusky, harmonic, darkly fruity and totally beguiling.

    Conclusion

    What a glory! It’s well-known how immense many 1960s Springbanks can be, but this is a potent reminder of just what an astonishing era this was for the distillery. Sadly, only 84 bottles of this suggests it’ll be a tough one ever to lay hands on. If you get the chance, don’t pass it up: this is the sort of whisky which transports you to a whole other place.

    Right place, right time

    After the Cadenhead warehouse tasting, you return to your Campbeltown airbnb to weather the oncoming storm… and lament the inevitability of Brexit.

    Tamdhu 1962, bottled 2006, MacPhail’s Collection (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Tamdhu 1962, bottled 2006, MacPhail’s Collection (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A totally beautiful mix of polished hardwoods, wood resins, spices, botrytis raisins, old Tokaji, lanolin, beeswax and hessian. The kind of old whisky aroma that is the organoleptic manifestation of sinking into an ancient leather armchair by a fire in a library. Add to this some very old cedar wood cigar boxes, earthen dunnage floors, linseed oil and various dark and green fruits, and you’re sort of there. But, as with so many old whiskies, can the palate keep pace with the nose...?

    Palate

    Yes, it can! There is a spicy nibble of wood, but it’s kept in check with plenty of quince jelly, fig paste, dark fruit compôtes and jams, spiced plums, mulling spices, old Chartreuse, aged Sauternes and a little toasted mustard seed. There’s also some freshly baked brown bread, toasted sunflower seeds and plenty of orange and crystallised lemon peel. A welcome wedge of Dundee cake arrives towards the back of the palate.

    Finish

    Long, resinous, earthy and darkly fruited; laden with more of these wood spice and old waxed furniture qualities.

    Conclusion

    It’s not a great secret that old Tamdhu can be pretty miraculous, and this one does nothing to dispel the notion. A hugely satisfying and seductive old dram that showcases the best aspects of long-term ageing. Heady stuff!

    Right place, right time

    The aged librarian draws closer to the fire and laments the inevitability of Brexit.

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