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Old & Rare

Rare Batch 69

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Ardmore 1990, 19 years old, Glendullan 1978 from Cadenhead and Millburn 1970 from Douglas Laing

A suitable subtitle for this week’s rare whisky tasting might well be obscurity. Angus MacRaild has selected a trio of drams from distilleries you don’t hear too much about in enthusiast circles, either now or in past decades. 

First up is an Ardmore distilled in 1990 and bottled after 19 years for Direct Wines’ First Cask series by Signatory. Always a fan of Ardmore, MacRaild finds this to be a pretty textbook example of the make and, at 46%, it works a treat as a lightly peated Highland alternative. 

From one end of the strength scale to the other, the second dram is a 1978 Glendullan bottled by Cadenhead, also at 19 years old, but at a whopping 64.6% abv. However, as MacRaild notes, it’s actually surprisingly approachable and, with a little water, makes for an elegantly understated and gently Sherried tipple. 

Rounding things off is a scarce example from MacRaild’s favourite of the lost Inverness distilleries: Millburn. This bottling was part of the Old & Rare series from Douglas Laing, distilled in 1970 and bottled at 34 years old in 2004. MacRaild finds it an almost Clynelishian example of the old-style, ‘waxy’ Highlander.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ardmore 1990, 19 years old, Cask #30114 (First Cask)

    Score

    88

    Ardmore 1990, 19 years old, Cask #30114 (First Cask)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    The gentlest smokiness. Fragrant, leafy, slightly mineral and nudging in the direction of the farmyard. Very typical Ardmore, in other words. Continues with mixed cereals, some light tropical notes and things like baled hay, sunflower oil and a delicate, green peatiness. Characterful and very lovely stuff.

    Palate

    The peat is a little fuller and more direct on arrival. Sooty and earthy tones, green banana, fresh parsley, chalk, limestone, mineral oils, camphor and wee hints of hessian and lamp oils. Quite a distinct style that stands very much apart from most other Highlanders. Hints of leaf mulch and tobacco towards the end.

    Finish

    Good length, rather warming, smoky and full of wood embers, green pepper, bitter orange peel and light spices.

    Conclusion

    I find Ardmore a very charming make, always idiosyncratic yet understated. I suppose in many ways it isn’t an easily categorisable whisky, which is maybe why it’s still rather underrated. Selfishly, I hope it stays that way.

    Right place, right time

    Jousting on tractors.

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    Glendullan 19 Years Old, 1978, Sherrywood (Cadenhead)

    Score

    87

    Glendullan 19 Years Old, 1978, Sherrywood (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    64.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Hot oak shavings and furniture polish! But there’s fruits too, once the initial alcohol spritz has dissipated. Dried apricot, plum jam, red apples, cinnamon dusted on brown toast and sweetened porridge with sultanas. Surprisingly approachable, considering the strength. With water there’s pear cordial, lemon barley water and some very light herbal teas. Hints of plum eau-de-vie, more brown bread and some plain, toasty cereals.

    Palate

    On one hand it’s fiercely hot and spiritous; on the other, there’s golden syrupy sweetness, gloopy fruit purées and the warmth of cupboard spices. All told, though, this wee monster needs water... indeed, it is much improved with a little dilution. There’s a leafy side now and a hint of salinity that brings to mind the earthy must of a classic Sherry bodega. Some prune juice, black tea, damp tobacco leaf and a wee hint of Marmite.

    Finish

    Quite long and resinous, with a nervously salty and spicy Sherry character. Chopped walnuts, hazelnuts and bitter chocolate in the aftertaste.

    Conclusion

    Water is pretty obligatory here, but a wee splash and you’ve got yourself a rather charming and elegant wee dram that wears its Sherried characteristics lightly and with style. More approachable than you’d assume, just looking at the strength.

    Right place, right time

    Hoovering an old mansion house in the nude with JJ Cale turned up to 11.

    Millburn 34 Years Old, 1970 (Douglas Laing)

    Score

    90

    Millburn 34 Years Old, 1970 (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    We’re comfortably in old-school Highlander territory here. Abundant and almost oozing waxiness, sandalwood, soft cereal notes, olive oil, canvas. Blind you could easily say Clynelish. Herbal teas, sunflower oil, pot-pourri, mineral oil and clay. Really excellent. With water things become a little more brittle and directly cereal. Buttered toast, more clay, Plasticine, hessian, soot and a little bit of rubbed lemon peel. Still very good.

    Palate

    We’re still in these old Clynelish territories, only this is a little more direct, meaty, spicy and less coastal. Still very waxy, oily, peppery and full of various mineral oils, graphite, old dried-out medicines, herbal ointments and a few fresh white stone fruits. With water there’s a wonderful simmering spiciness in the form of ground pepper, rye bread and a lick of horseradish. Some pollens and honeycomb as well.

    Finish

    Long, warming, waxy, more grassy olive oil, some bitter herbal extracts and more spicy pumpernickel bread. 

    Conclusion

    I always did prefer Millburn out of the three departed Inverness distilleries. This is another excellent example, and a great wee illustration of the old-school, wax-centric Highland style that many of these distilleries had. Worth trying if it should ever cross your path.

    Right place, right time

    Fortification after a bracing dip in Loch Ness.

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