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Old & Rare

Rare Batch 68

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Dallas Dhu 32 Years Old, Old Train Line, Bottled 2007, (Jack Wiebers); Macallan 25 Years Old, Casa De Vinos, Bottled c.2000s (Malt Whisky Wholesaler Pty Ltd); Scapa 26 Years Old, Dun Bheagan, Bottled 2004 (William Maxwell & Co)

Angus MacRaild has selected a disparate trio for this week’s tasting, which includes one closed distillery, one arguably closed distillery and an ‘unusual’ rum cask-matured Orcadian malt.

First up is a 1974 Dallas Dhu bottled at 32 years of age by Jack Wiebers for its Old Train Line series. Despite being matured in an ex-Bourbon barrel, this whisky behaves more like a Sherry-matured malt, says MacRaild. Like many of Dallas Dhu’s 1970s whiskies, it is, in his view, slightly underwhelming.

The same cannot be said about dram number two, a 1975 Macallan bottled at 25 years old by Australian whisky company Malt Whisky Wholesalers for its Casa de Vinos label. MacRaild finds it a ‘stunning’ example of old-school, Sherried intensity. It is the kind of liquid that Macallan built a global reputation on, even if it was – arguably – distilled at what is now technically a closed distillery (Macallan opened its new distillery in June 2018, mothballing its original site).

Rounding things off is an unusually light and fragrant example of Scapa distilled in 1977 and bottled at 26 years old by William Maxwell & Co. as part of its Dun Bheagan series. It is supposedly matured in an ex-rum barrel, but MacRaild is personally relieved to find that the cask has had minimal influence on the whisky. Instead, he notes, it’s an extremely light, fragrant and ethereal Island dram.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Dallas Dhu 32 Years Old, Old Train Line, 2007 (Jack Wiebers)

    Score

    83

    Dallas Dhu 32 Years Old, Old Train Line, 2007 (Jack Wiebers)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    An enticing prickle of quince, apricot jam, sultana and fig on the first nosing. Lots of dark and gooey fruit jellies, black wine gums, a freshly-opened bag of Haribo and some damson conserve. There’s a dense, wee core of fudge and toffee holding all these fruitier elements in its gravity. With water we’re edging towards prunes, muscovado sugar and wee buttery and floral aspects. Very nice, but perhaps a tad too ‘safe’.

    Palate

    Not as promising on arrival as the nose suggested. There’s a slightly weak cardboard element and some tea-like qualities, which feel a little flat. Milk bottle sweeties, sandalwood, some herbal resins and bit of furniture oil. Boot polish and a touch of earthy rancio in the background. Water improves things. There’s more spice lifted out of the depths, with jasmine, scented candles, pot-pourri, raisins, camphor and a little nutmeg.

    Finish

    Good length once water is added; gets increasingly earthy, sooty and peppery.

    Conclusion

    I generally find Dallas Dhu whiskies from the 1970s somewhat underwhelming and this one is very much in keeping with that. Overall it is very nice and quite good, but just a bit uninspiring.

    Right place, right time

    Making a posh Bovril.

    (Image courtesy of whiskybase.com)

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    Macallan 25 Years Old, Casa de Vinos, Bottled c.2000 (Malt Whisky Wholesalers)

    Score

    92

    Macallan 25 Years Old, Casa de Vinos, Bottled c.2000 (Malt Whisky Wholesalers)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Pure, classical, old-school Sherried Macallan, that is to say: bags of stewed dark fruits. Sultanas, dates, prunes, figs, kumquats and plum chutney, all rolled up in pipe tobacco, hessian, earthen-floored wine cellars and a litre of strawberry wine. In time it opens up with many deep and beautiful complexities. Toasted almonds, marzipan, walnut extract, pomegranate molasses, dark chocolate and pure miso. Some hints of game meat and old Pinot Noir as well. Perfect old-school Sherry. With water it gets more mushroom-like, more chocolatey (chocolate sauce) and much more savoury and herbal. Cough syrup and herbal bitters.

    Palate

    Huge, dense, rum-flecked Sherry. Big notes of Demerara full of caramelised brown sugar, date purée, cola cubes, raspberry cordial, beef stock, black olive bread, ancient dry Madeira and pure umami seasonings. Dig a little deeper and there’s rosemary, moist pipe tobacco, green walnut liqueur, pine resin and powerfully bitter herbal extracts. With water there’s hints of aged kriek (cherry) beer, mushroom powder, black coffee, maraschino cherry and Marmite. Gets increasingly salty and savoury.

    Finish

    Long, fat, earthy, resinous, herbal and sooty, with lingering notes of cocktail bitters, umami and some dark spiced fruits.

    Conclusion

    Oh yeah, Macallan, I remember that...

    Right place, right time

    Taking pride of place in your next ‘closed’ distillery tasting.

    (Image courtesy of whiskyauctioneer.com)

    Scapa 26 Years Old, Dun Bheagan, 2004 (William Maxwell & Co)

    Score

    84

    Scapa 26 Years Old, Dun Bheagan, 2004 (William Maxwell & Co)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    An almost ethereal freshness strikes first. Freshly laundered linen, fabrics, canvas, pebbles, chalk, sea air and big grassy notes, such as chopped parsley and lemon peel in mineral water. An unexpected but certainly not unwelcome profile. Over time it develops more towards citrus peels, white flowers, mineral oils and some lightly toasted cereals. We’re really close to the raw ingredients once water is added: all on plain cereals, white flowers, rapeseed oil and a hint of pastis. Extremely light and delicate, I’d say.

    Palate

    What’s most pleasing is the absence of any overtly rummy characteristics. I’m usually no fan of rum finishes in whisky. Thankfully there’s plenty of symmetry with the nose, with more fresh fabrics, raw cereals, buttery brown toast, yeasty autolytic notes and pithy citrus peels. Also crushed aspirin, chalk and more gravelly mineral notes. Some zesty Loire Sauvignon, perhaps. Also still rather grassy and green. Feels quite a bit younger than 26. With water there’s a tiny nibble of white pepper, but overall it remains very pure, chiselled and quite plain, in a good way. Citrus, flowers, cereals, pebbles, chalk and the tiniest dab of ointment. A funny old Scapa.

    Finish

    Medium in length, and on lemon barley water, gooseberry and sourdough.

    Conclusion

    I was trepidatious about this whole rum barrel thing, but I needn’t have worried. Probably among the lightest coastal styles of Scottish malt you can find. A curious wee Scapa that, while not exactly earth-shattering, is worth trying, should it cross your path.

    Right place, right time

    Tip-toeing back to bed between the other tents at 2am. A sudden attack of the giggles overtakes you.

    (Image courtesy of scotchwhiskyauctions.com)

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