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Old & Rare

Rare Batch 73

by
King's Ransom 'Round the World', Highland Queen 'Grand 15', MacPhail's 2000 2L decanter

This latest rare whisky tasting sees Angus MacRaild return to the world of blends with a pair of very old and lesser-seen brands alongside a blended malt produced for the millennium by Gordon & MacPhail. 

Kicking things off is a bottling of Highland Queen 15 Year Old, produced in the early 1960s by Macdonald & Muir. MacRaild finds it to be an example of the broader brush stroke characteristics of malt whisky from the era as, after all these years, it’s the malt components that sing loudest. 

Similarly, an old bottling of King’s Ransom Round the World shows extremely well, MacRaild says. This is due in no small part, he believes, to the higher than usual bottling strength of 47% abv – something which complements the blend’s flavour with texture and body. 

To round things off is a blended malt produced by Gordon & MacPhail to mark the millennium. In many ways, as MacRaild says, this is something of a silly release, coming as it does in a two-litre ceramic flagon and containing malts that amount to a total of 2,000 years of age. Knowing the kinds of whiskies G&M had in abundance in the late 1990s, it’s not hard to imagine the old glories that went into this bottling. MacRaild finds it a ‘delicious’ paean to old-school Sherry casks.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Highland Queen ‘Grand 15’ 15 Years Old, Bottled 1960s

    Score

    85

    Highland Queen ‘Grand 15’ 15 Years Old, Bottled 1960s
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    A wonderful initial aroma of citronella candles, scented wax, pollen and some slightly salty aged mead. A pure expression of old-style whisky, with the malt component speaking loudest after all these years as is so common in these old deluxe blends. There’s a light grain component speaking as well, with wee touches of crisp cider apple and plain cereals, but it’s nicely integrated and elegant. 

    Palate

    Citrus piths, white pepper, hessian and a more elevated grain presence on the palate, with hints of old leather, tea tree oils and oily sheep wool. Sunflower oil, sooty notes and more toasty cereals. Some buttery aspects lend body and texture. Pretty excellent. 

    Finish

    Surprisingly long and mentholated, these waxy qualities resurge and there’s hints of wood spice and a touch of old bottle-effect cardboard.

    Conclusion

    This is fascinating because it’s the malt component that shines through after all these years, delivering a vivid olfactory picture of the broad character of Scotch malt whisky at the time. The finish loses a few points but it’s still an excellent and enjoyable old-school dram – and for the price you can find them at auction still a total bargain. 

    Right place, right time

    Manning a barbecue in full tweeds.

    (Image courtesy whiskyauctioneer.com)

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    King’s Ransom 'Round the World’, Bottled 1940s

    Score

    88

    King’s Ransom 'Round the World’, Bottled 1940s
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Concentrated and spicy to begin. Warming winter spices, cinnamon swirls, pecan pie, cloves and mulled cider. It opens quite slowly, adding new layers and aromas every minute or so. Develops towards syrupy herbal cough medicine, vapour rub and herbal notes of jasmine tea and mint leaf. A complex and potent old blend that’s no doubt been well assisted by the higher bottling strength.

    Palate

    Superb arrival. Dense, spicy, waxy and warming with lots of medical and sooty qualities. Also some fruits which is surprising – blood orange and crystallised citrus fruits. There’s also old books, leather, mushroom powder and green pepper. That lovely mulchy, petrichor quality you often find in old malts is present here.

    Finish

    Good length, all on putty, medicines, dried herbs, olive oil and some rather resinous and saline notes of old Madeira.

    Conclusion

    Superb old blended whisky that feels extremely well integrated and very fresh, even after so many years in bottle. The kind of bottle that is perfect for introducing people to the more historic profiles of Scotch whisky. Not to mention the fact it’s also dangerously pleasurable to quaff at the same time.

    Right place, right time

    I’m going out now, I might be some time…

    MacPhail’s 2000 2L Ceramic Decanter

    Score

    88

    MacPhail’s 2000 2L Ceramic Decanter
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Given the kinds of ancient malts Gordon & MacPhail used to plaster about the shops in the late 1990s you can only imagine the juice it put in this mad decanter to get the combined age up to 2,000 years. It certainly shows on the nose: aged tobacco, dark fruit cordial, damp earthen cellars, rancio, walnut wine, camphor, sultanas stewed in old Cognac, mineral oils… just superb. A thrilling and sumptuous demonstration of old-school Sherry casks.

    Palate

    The flavours match the anticipation kindled by the aromas perfectly – all that’s missing is more oomph of alcohol to carry them home. This is where 40% abv really feels like a flaw in such a whisky. Even a few extra degrees of alcohol would have helped add the necessary punch. Having said that this is still beautiful and full of leafy tobacco, strawberry cordial, herbal syrup, mint essence, lemon cough drops and walnut oils. Old-style Sherry and old-school malt whisky entwined in harmony. 

    Finish

    Short but still full of dark fruits, light medical embrocations, earthiness, black tea and rancio.

    Conclusion

    This at higher strength would probably have been around 92+ points. As it is I can’t help but feel it’s suffered from the bottling strength – possibly from being bottled in a silly stone flagon as well. But hey, it was the 1990s and everyone was giddily optimistic. Now it’s still a gorgeous wee dram so let’s not split too many hairs. 

    Right place, right time

    Toasting the bells at Hogmanay to see in the year 3000. 

    (Image courtesy scotchwhiskyauctions.com)

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