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Old & Rare

Rare Batch 76

by
Glenlossie 25, Jura 13, Laphroaig 15

A mixed bag of malts forms this week’s rare whisky tasting, with Angus MacRaild selecting a trio of obscure curiosities that broadly sit within the traditional definitions of three of Scotland’s classic whisky regions. 

First up is a 1978 Glenlossie, bottled in 2003 at 25 years of age by Duncan Taylor. There’s much that MacRaild finds to commend about this dram, even if it does feel a little inconsistent and ‘patchy’ at times. A solid example of how Speyside whisky was supposed to taste 20 or so years ago. 

Following on from that is a rather idiosyncratic and charismatic young Jura. Distilled in 1983 and bottled at 13 years old by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), this is a funky, austere, coastal and strange wee Island dram – one that might not tick all the boxes technically, but is never short of entertaining. 

Finally for this session is a 1985 Laphroaig, bottled at 15 years of age by Douglas Laing for the independent bottler’s Old Malt Cask range in 2000. While MacRaild finds this one sitting comfortably in the ‘southern Islay’ category, it still displays some charmingly subtle and lighter qualities.

These mark it out as an interim example of Laphroaig from a period when the distillery character was transitioning away from over fruitiness and more towards peat smoke and seashore characteristics.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Glenlossie 25 Years Old, 1978, Cask #4802 (Duncan Taylor)

    Score

    83

    Glenlossie 25 Years Old, 1978, Cask #4802 (Duncan Taylor)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.0%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    A rather nice mix of soft, buttery cereals and easy, ripe green fruits. Lots of apples, kiwi, gooseberry, pears and star fruit. Also touches of green banana and pomegranate. Some heather honey, melon and lemon rind. The kind of super-easy, enticing, mature Speysider that no whisky aficionado would kick out of a tumbler. Water gives a slightly sharper, almost acrylic edge. Some light, freshly chopped herb notes and a lick of cardboard.

    Palate

    A tad more aggressive on arrival in the mouth. Grassy, a little varnishy, notes of olive oil, hot cross buns, shortbread and slightly damp barley. Really feels like how malt whisky tasted in the 1990s – if you get what I mean? Rather a lot of milky tea notes as well. Some putty, cloves and digestive biscuits. Again, this is a profoundly inoffensive, easy and enjoyable old malt. It’s perhaps just not totally thrilling either. Water brings sunflower oil, cereals, plain toast and more tea notes. A tad grassy and more assertive as well.

    Finish

    Good length, lots of cereals, cooking oils, pollen, toast, buttermilk and more soft garden fruits.

    Conclusion

    A dram of two halves. On one side it’s a little flat and flabby in places; on the other, it has some very retro and pleasingly nostalgic aspects which make you feel like you’re sipping an expensive bottle of whisky back in the rosy innocence of 1998. (I know, I was only 13, but I was ‘reading’ a lot about whisky…)

    Right place, right time

    Demonstrating ‘late 20th-century single malt’ flavour profile to the replicator computer onboard Enterprise D.

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    Jura 13 Years Old, 1983, 31.5 ‘Island Hopping’ (SMWS)

    Score

    84

    Jura 13 Years Old, 1983, 31.5 ‘Island Hopping’ (SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    A curious and very ‘Jura-esque’ jumble of ginger biscuits, gorse flowers, chalk, beach pebbles and a rather grumbly and austere minerality. Hints of daisies, lychee, sandalwood, petrol and starched linen. Funny and nicely funky. With water it gets a little more floral and herbaceous. Verbena, lemon thyme, wormwood, marjoram and seaweed crackers.

    Palate

    Extremely oily and grassy. Lots of sugary wort, hot grist, kiln air, mustard powder, flint smoke and lemon cough drops. Punchy, sweet, peppery and slightly minty. Water loosens things up a bit with notes of lemon tea, bergamot, hessian, lamp oil and yellow plums.

    Finish

    Medium and rather fresh, grassy, oily and herbal. Olive oil with a touch of brine running through it.

    Conclusion

    A pleasingly strange wee Jura. One that cleaves closely to the distillery’s undefinable sense of strangeness while also retaining a clear coastal aspect.

    Right place, right time

    Mardi Gras on Jura.

    Laphroaig 15 Years Old, 1985, Old Malt Cask (Douglas Laing)

    Score

    86

    Laphroaig 15 Years Old, 1985, Old Malt Cask (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.0%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A pure and soft smokiness. Bonfire smoke, crab sticks, beach pebbles, mineral salts and hot steel wool. More of these suggestions of fresh shellfish, iodine drops, seawater and preserved lemons in brine. A rather direct and straightforward Laphroaig that leans towards modernity as opposed to older, fruitier styles. Water brings out sea greens, gorse, lime juice, disinfectant and slightly farmy qualities.

    Palate

    Very briny and full of sea salt and malt vinegar. Squid ink, seaweed, rock salt and newspaper ash. A slightly lemony and herbal peat flavour emerges over time. There’s a tiny glimmer of malty sweetness trying to escape. Direct and bold flavours overall, but the feeling that emerges is that this is a lighter Laphroaig. Water brings more of these notes of metal polish, soot, dusty malt bins, Mercurochrome and white pepper.

    Finish

    Long, ashy, lemony, smoky and with some mineral notes of clay, pebbles and seawater.

    Conclusion

    A perfectly serviceable, medium-bodied old Laphroaig. The mid-1980s weren’t Scotch whisky’s finest era, but it seems there are still a few worthy examples kicking about. I like the overall sense of softness.

    Right place, right time

    Tending your allotment in a storm.

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