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Old & Rare

Rare Batch 61

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Caol Ila 1981 and Glen Mhor 1966 Costumes Series, and Tamnavulin 20 bottled for Moon Import

This week’s tasting is the first of two segments in which Angus MacRaild explores obscure bottlings from Italian bottler Moon Import. The company has gained fame for the artistry of its labels and the ‘thematic’ nature of its bottling series. While renowned for its early series such as Birds and Animals, Moon Imports’ later collections are often overlooked.

Two bottles this week are from the bottler’s well-known Costumes Series. The first is a classic Caol Ila 1981 bottled in 2010 for the company’s 30th anniversary. MacRaild notes that while it is ‘wonderful’, it doesn’t perhaps possess the same ‘oomph’ and quality that many of its sibling bottlings from these vintages often display.

The second is a Glen Mhor 1966 bottled in 1988, which MacRaild finds straddles the more old-school waxy qualities of the distillery’s 1960s style, while also displaying more of the tough and austere qualities that would characterise its ‘70s and ‘80s output.

Rounding things off is a ‘highly renowned’ Tamnavulin 20-year-old official bottling released in Italy by Moon Import in the 1980s. MacRaild finds the Sherried single malt an excellent and commendable example of old-style Sherry cask maturation, and his ‘second best’ Tamnavulin ever.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Caol Ila 1981, Costumes Series, Bottled 2010 (Moon Import)

    Caol Ila 1981, Costumes Series, Bottled 2010 (Moon Import)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Typical aged Caol Ila from this period. Fragrant leafy smoke intertwining with lemon tea, gentle herbaceous qualities, sandalwood, crushed seashells, lanolin and old tarpaulin and acrylic paints. Some supple mineral qualities as well, such as beach pebbles, salts and bath bombs. Gets brinier with time.

    Palate

    A gentle and rather sooty arrival, with hints of burnt wood, bonfire embers and anthracite smoke. Green tea, miso, antiseptic diluted with brine, preserved lemons, herbal toothpaste, gently smoked oatmeal and bouquet garni. More citrus notes with hints of limoncello and tonic water, grapefruit rind and chocolate limes.

    Finish

    Good length, with plenty of lemon, brine, shellfish, wet rock and faint peaty notes.

    Conclusion

    Excellent old Caol Ila, although perhaps bottling at cask strength might have propelled it a notch or two further – it doesn’t shine quite as brightly as similar Caol Ila casks from this period.

    Right place, right time

    Breakfast round a still-warm campfire.

    (Photo: whiskyauctioneer.com)

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    Glen Mhor 1966, Costumes Series, Bottled 1988 (Moon Import)

    Glen Mhor 1966, Costumes Series, Bottled 1988 (Moon Import)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A big spoonful of molten, fruity wax. We’re far away from the concrete-hardened strangeness of latter-era Glen Mhor from the ‘70s and ‘80s. This is rather more old-school, Highland funk with white mushrooms, aged Loire Chenin, petrichor, bouillon powder, wax candles, lemon peel and dried mint. A wonderfully leafy and easy earthiness pervades everything. A few dandelions, daisies and grassy olive oil notes bring a sense of meadow freshness.

    Palate

    Cough medicine and orange squash. Some pineapple syrup, white jelly beans, cheap dessert wines, Madeira cake and some new leather shoes. Hints of vegetable soup, miso broth, white pepper, lemon-infused oil and a touch of coconut. Strange but undeniably entertaining. With time there’s a slightly odd plasticine and hot plastic side that is not entirely pleasant.

    Finish

    Medium. Getting a little tough and brittle. Concrete, chalk and bitter lemon.

    Conclusion

    Started well and then took a jump forwards in time to a more familiar and austere style of Glen Mhor. Yet there is plenty going on here and it’s never not a fun whisky.

    Right place, right time

    First prize in the national urban sheep shearing contest.

    Tamnavulin 20 Years Old, Bottled c.1980s (Moon Import)

    Tamnavulin 20 Years Old, Bottled c.1980s (Moon Import)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Caramelised brown sugar, rhum agricole, Mint Julep and Jamaica ginger cake. Then stem ginger in syrup, sultanas, orange cordial, carnations, Bourbon biscuits and plentiful tobacco. Pure, old-school Sherry cask goodness. Gets rather spicier with time, with lots of black pepper, mustard powder, miso broth, damsons, wet leaves and balsamic.

    Palate

    Milk chocolate, cocoa powder, walnut oils, pine cones, buttered brown toast with golden syrup, brioche – in fact we’re really in a rather grand patisserie. Hints of cough syrup and cherry throat sweets, herbal extracts, juniper seed and camphor.

    Finish

    Long, earthy and bready. Full of walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon polenta cake, aged balsamic and bitter coffee.

    Conclusion

    An excellent, old-school, Sherry-driven malt whisky. My second-favourite Tamnavulin after the 35-year-old bottled for Japan. Although I’m not sure it is possible to pinpoint any distillery identity amongst all this Sherried goodness.

    Right place, right time

    Chomping cigars on the veranda. 

    (Photo: whiskyauctioneer.com)

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