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Old & Rare

Rare Batch 59

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Dalwhinnie 15 year old, Longmorn 15 year old, Glenkinchie 10 year old

Exploring the world of rare whisky needn’t break the bank, as Angus MacRaild discovers in this week’s reviews, with three official single malt bottlings from the 1980s.

Up first is a Dalwhinnie 15-year-old, the first of two very early examples of the Classic Malts series, a range created by United Distillers (the precursor to Diageo) to showcase its distillery portfolio. MacRaild finds it a solid example of Highland malt whisky that is approachable as well as interesting, with a few stray notes of ‘old bottle effect’ (OBE) to keep tasters on their toes.

Another Classic Malts release comes from Glenkinchie in the guise of a more youthful 10-year-old. MacRaild notes how its distillate-forward profile really highlights Glenkinchie’s inherent sweet grassiness and floral, citrus elegance. ‘Rather subtle and elegant,’ he says.

Capping things off is a 15-year-old Longmorn, one of many examples in this livery from the 1980s that MacRaild says showcases the distillery at its classy, exotic, fruit-laden best. He delights at its waxy, fat texture and elongated finish. Slightly more expensive than the others, he notes, but still representative of a good value rare whisky at auction.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Dalwhinnie 15 Years Old, Bottled c.1980

    Dalwhinnie 15 Years Old, Bottled c.1980
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A surprisingly elegant aroma of shoe polish, mirabelle and yellow wild flowers at first nosing. Wee hints of pine sap, white jelly beans and an increasing touch of metal polish and steel wool which nods towards OBE. Not surprising in a whisky which has now been in a bottle for more than 30 years. There’s also waxes, cooked grains, ink and a slightly mashy quality underneath.

    Palate

    Good weight and texture for 43% abv. Sunflower oil, waxed canvas, baking parchment, tea tree oil, wood extracts and hessian. Develops further with notes of cooking oils, linseed oil and a touch of marzipan. Still these nice wet grain and cereal qualities, also mashed potato with chopped chives through it and more metallic, sooty and waxy aspects. Again nodding towards OBE characteristics.

    Finish

    Medium in length and rather fresh, like sinus-clearing vapours of wintergreen, lemon balm and then a pine and soot note in the aftertaste. Unusual but good.

    Conclusion

    These are very good drams for the money they still fetch at auction. It’s a kind of basic, emblematic old-style bottling that is educational, fun and, crucially, actually very pleasant to drink. Worth seeking out if you’re wanting to understand older bottlings a bit more without breaking the bank.

    Right place, right time

    A rowdy game of cards at 3am.

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    Glenkinchie 10 Years Old, Bottled c.1980

    Glenkinchie 10 Years Old, Bottled c.1980
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    A packet of milk bottle sweets, trodden ferns, rapeseed oil, buttermilk icing and freshly steeped barley. Continues with notes of buttered toast, chopped parsley, lemon oil and dried tarragon. Rather subtle and delicate but there’s a quiet, fruity depth about it as well.

    Palate

    Bigger than contemporary Glenkinchie and far more driven by the distillate. Soft green fruits, grassy olive oil, some flinty mineral aspects, lemon thyme, muesli and sultanas. Hints of Madeira cake and blossoms as well. Like the Dalwhinnie, this also displays some notes of OBE but they’re more subtle. The strength also carries very well – it almost feels bigger than 43% abv.

    Finish

    Good length with very soft peppery spices, lilies, pollen, cut grass, chopped green herbs, citrus pith and pink grapefruit. A touch of blood orange in the aftertaste.

    Conclusion

    Very good, and something of a surprise. Many of these very early batches of the Classic Malts seem to have been really excellent. Another great and emblematic bottling to seek out at auction that’s still comparatively cheap.

    Right place, right time

    A summer afternoon in Edinburgh’s Meadows, sometime around June 1988.

    Longmorn 15 Years Old, Bottled c.1980

    Longmorn 15 Years Old, Bottled c.1980
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Typical old-school, fruit-forward Longmorn with these wonderful exotic notes of papaya, guava, melon, green banana and pineapple. Even touches of lychee and mango as well. You can also find grapefruit, fresh herbs, lime zest, some old chalk dusters, metal polish, white pepper, toasted almonds and watercress. A rather elegant and vivid old-school dram.

    Palate

    Similarly juicy, citrusy and sharp, only here it’s waxier, gloopier in texture and with more chiselled mineral notes and a bigger sense of structural heft. Some honeydew melon drizzled with golden syrup, toasted oatmeal and a hint of molten marshmallow sweetness.

    Finish

    Long, resinous and fruity. Bitter fruit oils, citrus piths, dried and crystallised exotic fruits and a supple, elongated waxiness.

    Conclusion

    There are many versions and variants of Longmorn in this livery from the 1980s into the 1990s. All that I’ve tasted have been similarly superb whisky. Tropical, waxy, fat, old style malt whisky. A style that’s pretty much vanished today, sadly. Another one that’s well worth seeking out.

    Right place, right time

    Gleefully re-cataloguing your whisky collection and getting gradually high on your own supply.

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