Advertisement
Old & Rare

Rare Batch 58

by
Bowmore 1991 20-year-old AD Rattray, Bruichladdich 1974 23.5 SMWS, Caol Ila 1974 23-year-old First Cask.

This week sees Angus MacRaild returning – metaphorically – to Islay with three fairly benchmark drams which reveal classical characteristics of their respective distilleries.

First up is a 1991 Bowmore 20-year-old, bottled by AD Rattray. This is a rare single Sherry cask bottled exclusively for the US, and MacRaild finds it a perfect illustration of how Bowmore and Sherry can often tussle with unlikely results. However, the overall impression, he says, is one of power and fun.

Moving to the other side of Lochindaal, MacRaild’s next choice is a 1974 Bruichladdich, bottled in 1990 by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. MacRaild enjoys the charming abundance of green fruits and coastal freshness in what is an excellent and ‘textbook’ example of Bruichladdich’s easy and lush 1970s style.

Saving the best for last, however, MacRaild finishes with a 23-year-old Caol Ila distilled in 1974 and bottled under the First Cask series by Signatory. Citrusy, smoky and medicinal, he finds it to be an example of ‘technically brilliant’ 1970s Caol Ilas.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bowmore 20 Years Old, Cask #2061, Bottled 2011 (AD Rattray)

    Score

    87

    Bowmore 20 Years Old, Cask #2061, Bottled 2011 (AD Rattray)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A big waft of smoky bacon crisps, peppered biltong, hot paprika, leaf mulch, strong black coffee and mushroom powder. Notes of new leather shoes, a suggestion of cordite, mint chocolate chip, salted walnuts and a rather fatty rancio note. A big, hefty, gutsy Bowmore that locks horns with the Sherry cask in a pretty thrilling way. With water there’s lots of fragrant red fruit teas, camomile, black pepper and grilling kippers.

    Palate

    Here the Sherry is perhaps a tad more unstable and out of kilter with the peat, although there’s still some nice notes of lightly toasted raisins, hot cross buns, cinnamon, clove and oxidative old Madeira. Salted almonds, frying pancetta, salted lemons and black olive tapenade. Water calms the dissonance between peat and Sherry somewhat, and out of that comes smoked teas, ham hock, mustard powder, sultanas and cola syrup. A big, smoky, Bovril blast at the end.

    Finish

    Long, lean, salty, meaty, nutty and pretty spicy.

    Conclusion

    I find modern Bowmore and Sherry don’t always dance too well, and this is a bit of a mixed bag on that front. However, the nose is great and the overall impression is a positive one of a big, gutsy and no-nonsense Islay whisky.

    Right place, right time

    All at sea as Hurricane Bovril looms dark on the horizon...

    Advertisement

    Bruichladdich 15 Years Old, 23.5, Bottled 1990 (SMWS)

    Score

    88

    Bruichladdich 15 Years Old, 23.5, Bottled 1990 (SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Rather typical 1970s Bruichladdich with this soft, melon-centric fruitiness and notes of freshly malted barley. We’re very close to the raw ingredients here. Lots of wee notes of pink grapefruit, cider apple, sandalwood, milk bottle sweets, lemon sherbet and then notes like baled hay and straw as well. Develops further with fruit gums, pomegranate, bay leaf and sage. Very lovely. Water shifts things towards savoury breads, Earl Grey tea with lemon, and wee hints of unlit cigars.

    Palate

    Again a straightforward green fruit and cereal profile at first, with apples, pears, melon, a tiny hint of vanilla custard slice and freshly milled grist. Some slightly salty preserved lemon notes and a hint of lapsang souchong tea. Dilution heightens the spiciness; there’s more green pepper and green olive notes now. An element of brine betrays its coastal origins rather nicely and makes for an appetising finish...

    Finish

    Medium length and rather citrusy; lively coastal with a slightly green and sappy edge.

    Conclusion

    An excellent and rather textbook old-style 1970s Bruichladdich. Lots of classic distillery character to enjoy, and an easy drinker to boot. Worth seeking out.

    Right place, right time

    Listening to old episodes of The Goon Show while lounging in a hot tub on Islay.

    Caol Ila 23 Years Old, Cask #12471, Distilled 1974 (Signatory)

    Score

    91

    Caol Ila 23 Years Old, Cask #12471, Distilled 1974 (Signatory)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    An exemplary old Caol Ila aroma of smoked green tea, shoe polish, truffle oil, hot smoky wort, German rauchbier and a kind of concentrated, oily peat note. Underneath all that there’s rather a lot of medicinal notes, such as TCP, Mercurochrome and bandages. Peat-smoked linen, razor clams on a barbecue, green peppercorns in brine and a background wash of antiseptic and coastal freshness.

    Palate

    Some kind of smoked mead mixed with peppered mackerel, iodine, sandalwood, brine, hot smoked bacon, tar liqueur and smoked oatcakes. Wonderfully soft peat flavours with all manner of gentle smoky complexities, medicinal aspects such as mouthwash and iodine tablets and hints of tarry rope, fishing nets, salt ‘n’ vinegar crisps and limoncello.

    Finish

    Long, lemony, lightly ashy, a peaty fug, with a slender coastal barb skewering everything.

    Conclusion

    Yet another great old 1970s Caol Ila. It would almost be boring if they weren’t all so great. 

    Right place, right time

    Sipping limoncello between a microbrewery and a hospital.

Advertisement
Scroll To Top