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Old & Rare

Rare Batch 74

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Bell’s Royal Reserve 20 Years Old, Glenforres 10 Years Old 'All Malt’, Macgregor’s 20 Years Old

Angus MacRaid has put together another line-up of old blends, although this batch proves to be hit and miss. 

First up is an old example of the much-loved Bell’s Royal Reserve 20-year-old a bottling which was continuously available from the 1950s all the way through to the 1990s. MacRaild deems it to be a perfect example of the series from the 1960s, displaying pithy, waxy complexity. 

Things take a nosedive in terms of quality with the next dram: a 10-year-old Glenforres blended malt bottled in the 1960s. The main component malt in this was Edradour and, as MacRaild finds to often be the case with old whiskies from the Highland distillery, there’s a distinct soapiness that generally spoils proceedings. Little wonder it’s still so cheap at auctions. 

Thankfully, things skyrocket for the final dram, a Macgregor’s 20-year-old blend bottled around 1960 – a ‘stunning’ concentration of waxiness and earthy peat, which MacRaild says is a ‘thrilling’ example of a quality mid-century blend.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bell’s Royal Reserve 20 Years Old, Bottled 1960s

    Score

    78

    Bell’s Royal Reserve 20 Years Old, Bottled 1960s
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Cedar wood, unlit cigars and gentle waxiness. It’s always the suggestion of easiness and balance that impresses most with these old Bell’s 20-year-olds. Pine cones, dried parsley, white pepper and a light, dry earthiness. The freshness after multiple decades in bottle is also surprising. So far there’s an impressive lack of any negative old bottle effect characteristics. Continues with hints of white mushroom, lighter fluid and hessian. Really excellent. 

    Palate

    A rather dusty waxiness. Dry cereals, clay, putty, minerals and soot. Very much towards earthiness, canvas, cereals and bitter herbal extracts. And as always, it’s the malt components that dominate. There’s also a wonderfully light oiliness to the texture – like rapeseed oil. It gives the whole mouthfeel an impression of spryness and lightness. Some sweetness now akin to corn syrup and sweetened children’s medicine. 

    Finish

    Rather long, herbal, oily, medicinal and with this lovely mulchy earthy quality. Still there are glimmers of cigars and herbal ointment.

    Conclusion

    If you’re looking for a great, old school blended whisky, I still feel these old Bell’s 20-year-olds are among the most dependable examples you’ll find. Especially these old white label bottles from before the early ’70s.

    Right place, right time

    Watching David Lean films on a rainy weekend afternoon. 

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    Glenforres ‘All Malt’ 10 Years Old, Bottled 1960s

    Score

    63

    Glenforres ‘All Malt’ 10 Years Old, Bottled 1960s
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Given that the main component of this is Edradour, it’s not surprising that there is a foreboding whiff of detergent and liquid soap. Midget gem sweets, sour cereals and car air fresheners. Nothing here bodes particularly well. Deep breath…

    Palate

    Soap bomb, sadly. Although, this is not particularly surprising given that these bottlings don’t have the greatest of reputations. It’s not totally unsalvageable though – there’s a kind of concrete-faced austerity with a further scoosh of air freshener, hand soap and some hot plastic. Also some rotten cardboard. Pretty bad overall really. 

    Finish

    Brief, soapy, perfumed and lightly carbolic. 

    Conclusion

    To think, Edradour in this era was more expensive to blenders per gallon than Ardbeg. Perhaps there was some kind of industrial soap shortage in the 1960s? Instructive, if not quite enjoyable. Contemporary Edradour is in another galaxy of quality compared to this stuff if you ask me. 

    Right place, right time

    Getting rid of guests who have outstayed their welcome. 

    Macgregor’s 20 Years Old, Bottled 1960s

    Score

    90

    Macgregor’s 20 Years Old, Bottled 1960s
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Outstandingly dense with an immediate pile up of wax, cedar wood, old tool boxes, oily rags, hessian, paraffin and camphor. Pure old school, distillate-forward whisky with immense concentration and power considering the strength. You sense the lopsided weight of the malt in here. There’s a rough and ready mineral side as well that incorporates muddy gravel, soot and flint smoke. Over time it gets increasingly herbal and medicinal as well, full of embrocations, mothballs and cough medicine. 

    Palate

    Wonderfully deep, resinous and earthy peat. Full of fatty oils, Elastoplasts, herbal toothpaste, mint tea, cough syrup, old herbal liqueurs, metal polish, oily sheep wool, camphor and eucalyptus oils. Terrific depth, texture and concentration of flavour. The peat quality gives the impression – as is so often the case with very old, peaty whiskies – that it has broken down and sub-divided into all these wee tertiary complexities. Superb.

    Finish

    Long, mentholated, peaty, herbal, oily, waxy, greasy and mineral. 

    Conclusion

    I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a surprise, but it’s another totally brilliant old blend. You can feel there’s been some pretty serious and rather peat-heavy malts involved at some point. 

    Right place, right time

    Sipping from a decadently massive brandy snifter with JJ Cale on vinyl. 

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