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Old & Rare

Rare Batch 67

by
Bruichladdich 37 Years Old, Bottled 2003 (Duncan Taylor); Caperdonich 14 Years Old (Cadenhead); Dailuaine 16 Years Old (Cooper’s Choice)

This week’s rare whisky tasting is a bit of a mixed bag, with the closest correlation between the whiskies being that the distilleries consecutively follow three letters of the alphabet. However, as Angus MacRaild discovers, they are similarly grouped in terms of quality.

First up is a 37-year-old Bruichladdich distilled in 1966 and bottled in 2003 by Duncan Taylor. At only 40.5% abv MacRaild finds it an ‘unusual’ and enjoyable but undeniably tired, old dram.

Next up is a Caperdonich distilled in 1965 – the distillery’s first year of production since 1902 – and bottled 14 years later as part of the Cadenhead Dumpy series. MacRaild finds it an unusual but highly entertaining dram that serves as a neat illustration of how the later, highly-acclaimed older bottlings of Caperdonich evolved in their youth.

The most surprising dram of the flight, however, comes last in the form of a 16-year-old 1981 Dailuaine bottled in 1998 by Cooper’s Choice. MacRaild lauds its unusually medicinal profile and overall completeness, which he claims is an unusual but thrilling departure from the classic Dailuaine profile of the early ‘80s. This is still a relatively inexpensive bottling at auction and, as MacRaild notes, is worth seeking out.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bruichladdich 37 Years Old, Bottled 2003 (Duncan Taylor)

    Score

    85

    Bruichladdich 37 Years Old, Bottled 2003 (Duncan Taylor)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Soft-but-assertive spices at first. Gentle wood notes such as cinnamon and nutmeg are matched with warm ginger cake, hessian, old leather and polished hardwoods. You can feel the oak is tightening its hug. There’s also some sweetness in the form of posh custard and crème caramel, before those old-school Bruichladdich green fruits finally manage to poke their way through. There’s a hint of melon drizzled with honey, green apple and peach syrup. A tad fragile, but still aromatically compelling.

    Palate

    Juicier and fruitier than expected, with the oak surprisingly well in check – seemingly the inverse of what usually occurs with these old delicate malts. There’s candied fruits, green apple, cereals and even a little coastal inclusion. However, it is undeniably fragile and teetering on the brink of being just too old and delicate. While the oak isn’t excessive its presence manifests in other ways, such as in the cold, black tea that nibbles at the edges of the gums, and bitter herbal extracts.

    Finish

    Picks up steam for a final peppery, orangey and zingy hurrah.

    Conclusion

    An unusual old Bruichladdich. One where the fruits have managed to cling on to the bitter end. It’s just that the end is exactly that – a little too bitter.

    Right place, right time

    Midnight political machinations in the public library.

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    Caperdonich 14 Years Old, Bottled 1979 (Cadenhead)

    Score

    86

    Caperdonich 14 Years Old, Bottled 1979 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    At first nosing it is perhaps more reminiscent of an old Irish whiskey than a Speyside malt. Especially with these big notes of baked cereals, metal polish, very light fruits and corn syrup. There’s also a typical old Cadenhead Dumpy profile to it. That is to say: waxes, pepper, old oily rags, diesel engines, camphor and some mineral elements. In time it gets increasingly grassy and sooty, leaning towards bailed hay, freshly-baked wholemeal bread and musty old earthen-floored cellars.

    Palate

    This curious ‘Irishness’ remains in place – green cereals, polish, dried mint – but it’s bolstered by a fuller waxiness, mineral oils, cereals, soot, hessian and wee notes of cloves, salty butter and sugar syrups. A bit fatter and thicker than the nose would suggest. It has an OBE element (old bottle effect), but I would say it’s a good example of this process, where the characteristics manifest more as tertiary complexity than strange notes of porridge, cardboard or glue that can blight other very old bottles.

    Finish

    Good length, slightly dusty and with rather a lot of peppery watercress, wood spice, bitter herbal extracts, cereals, soot and polish notes.

    Conclusion

    I wouldn’t exactly call it a surprise, but I am very happy with this wee Caperdonich. You can get a good sense of how this style of distillate would later evolve into these glorious 40ish-year-old honey bombs that many bottlers were able to offer around a decade ago. Worth trying if you find it. And these funny ‘Irish’ notes are quite entertaining.

    Right place, right time

    Pretend to make a Highball with it. Post the image on Facebook without comment. Then sit back with a dram and enjoy the ensuing nonsense.

    Dailuaine 16 Years Old, Bottled 1998 (Cooper's Choice)

    Score

    89

    Dailuaine 16 Years Old, Bottled 1998 (Cooper's Choice)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    What’s this...? A rather enchanting mixture of crushed aspirin, soft notes of medicinal embrocations, damp ferns, lemon cough drops, wet grains and chalk. I also get putty, kumquats, orange oil and some emerging herbal notes. Straightforward, but highly lovely stuff.

    Palate

    Again this every-so-slightly medicinal profile on arrival. Then it goes towards crisp, dry cereals. Hay, straw, turmeric, butter, chopped chives, hessian, lemon-infused olive oil, parsley, eucalyptus lozenges and metal polish. There’s also pressed wildflowers, more hessian, herbal ointments and a slightly mineral, struck flint element after a while.

    Finish

    Medium but warming, and perfectly pitched between barley sugar sweetness, gloopy kids medicine and white pepper.

    Conclusion

    I’d love to know what this one tasted like when it was bottled; could it have improved in the glass over the past two decades? Either way, this is a delightful, dangerous and surprising Dailuaine that you could quaff all night. I love that totally left-field medicinal element. It is still not particularly pricey at auction – worth seeking out.

    Right place, right time

    Very happily and unhurriedly waiting for the cows to come home.

    (Image courtesy of whiskybase.com)

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