Lets start our festive malt porn festival with some remnants of the notorious ‘Birthday sessions’ in Alsace last month. Today we’ll do three different malts all distilled in 1960 and bottled at under twenty five years of age, so plenty old school production characters to enjoy and plenty time in glass to mellow, should be fun. First up…
Linkwood 1960-1985. Gordon & McPhail for Sestante. 40%. 75cl.
Colour: Bright Straw
Nose: Wax, old shoe polish and beautifully delicate metallic notes that signify a bit of OBE. Resin, orange peel, a little grassiness and some lovely mineral qualities. This reminds be of the old Aberlour dumpy 8yo bottlings from the early seventies, only a little more fragile and intricate perhaps. Notes of pear liqueur, blossom, honeysuckle and darjeeling tea. The nose is quite antique and fragile but the aromas are really poised and beautiful. Grows a little more flinty and austere with time.
Palate: Big waxy and grassy combo in the mouth, not disappointing at 40% at all. Green fruits, minerals, hessian, camphor and some really soft spices. No trace of tiredness and it lives up surprisingly well to the nose. Great waxy and flinty qualities, this dram carries a really enthralling austerity about it. Quite consistent with the nose with all its resinous flavors, also notes of green peppercorns, cocoa, biscotti and freshly baked bread.
Finish: Good length but not too long. All on bitter orange marmalade, wax, a little menthol and minerals.
Comments: This was bottled in 1985, the year I was born. So 1985 is a good year for Champagne, self-important Scottish whisky bloggers, Alsacian wines and bottled whiskies. It was a bad year for distilled whiskies and miners. I think when my 30th comes around in 2015 I’ll celebrate by opening whiskies that were bottled in my year of birth rather than distilled. This is a beautiful and very drinkable old Linkwood.
Highland Park 1960. 18yo. OB. 43%. 75cl.
Colour: Dark Amber
Nose: Bloody Hell! This is so beautiful. Peat, gorgeous, delicate, phenolic, lush peat with utterly perfect sherry integrated all around it. This reminds me of a slightly delicate, very old style Ardbeg. Rooty, earthy, thick, unctuous, raisiny, medicinal… Ok I’m not going to go through the aromas, its just brilliant.
Palate: Now on the palate there is less obvious peat and more gloriously clean and vibrant sherry. Beautifully dry and mineraly with notes of figs, plum jam, oily, rooty phenols, cloves, dunnage warehouses and incredibly fresh coastal notes as well. Greengages, kumquats, lychees, peppercorns, old dessert wines, seville oranges. My god this is amazing. Ok enough of this.
Comments: I knew this would be good, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this. The nose is stunning and what’s even more incredible is that the palate lives up to it. I was thinking of saving this and comparing it to the current OB 18yo, I’m kind of glad I didn’t, I think it would have been very unfair on the current bottling.
Glenlivet 1960-1981. 21yo. OB for Nadi Fiori. 54.6%. 75cl.
Nose: We’re in serious sherry territory here. Loads of sweet, immensely clean, classical sherry characters. Bags of stewed fruits, glazed nuts, dundee cake, old brandies, delicate spices, all kinds of flints and minerals, green fruits and, after time, some wonderfully old school waxiness. The nose is really soft and immense, you wouldn’t believe it was above 54%, it feels like 46 in the nostrils. With water: Wow! Water really magnifies all the mineral, hessian and waxy qualities, it becomes drying, chocolatey and even slightly honied with notes of heather, beeswax and hints of flowers.
Palate: Wonderfully rich, oily, vinous, jammy, waxy and fruit laden. Old candied fruits, dried fruits, figs, apricots, all kinds of orange notes, dark chocolate. Although the sherry is big and full you can still tell this is an old school whisky, the characters of the distillate are still evident and the balance is near perfect. Beautiful notes of old liqueurs, both fruit and herb varieties, little vegetal aspects and some really oily notes of camphor and paraffin. With water: we’re in fruit city and Mr Orange is the mayor! Luscious fruits, mineral and waxy notes all over the shop, glorious. Background notes of bread, nutmeg, vanilla, mocha and flints.
Finish: Massive and full of all the same stuff I said above.
Comments: I had the great privilege to meet Nadi Fiori (the man behind Intertrade and High Spirits) this year on Islay, he is nothing short of a living legend, one of the old school Italian bottlers who was dealing with stuff like this in a time when many of us were still drinking Bells and coke, or in my case, weren’t even born. A time when the old school Italians like Nadi and Samaroli corresponded with the Scottish distillery via post. Hats off to him for selecting such incredible bottlings that, in these days of modern mass production, are fast becoming time capsules. What a great dram this is.
Enormous thanks is due again to Serge Valentin, I wouldn’t have been able to taste these great drams if it wasn’t for his generosity.
Ok I’m still thirsty, that Glenlivet has put me in the mood for something more, although I’m skeptical as to what could possibly stand up to the immensity of the Glenlivet and HP…
Glenlivet 39yo 1968-2008. Duncan Taylor ‘Lonach’. 41.4%. 70cl.
Lets try this random sample I had in my stash as a ‘wind down’ dram. Lets not judge it too intensely.
Colour: White wine
Nose: Malty, porridgy, a little grainy but also very pleasantly fruity, lots of white and stone fruits, flowers, tea, herbs, at first it’s a bit of a shock to the system after such immense old glories but given a little time it becomes really attractive and delicate. Charming integration of honey, fruits, cereals and subtle aged qualities. Still impressively fresh for such an age and low strength. I always love naturally low strength whiskies, something about the natural oxidisation process in the cask brings out some really wonderful fruit characters.
Palate: A little weakish at first but then explodes with loads of beautiful green fruits, gentle spices, menthol and cold tea. Some gentle minerality, more green maltiness, some grassiness, cloves, Edinburgh rock, eucalyptus, Earl Grey tea, just delicious, perilously drinkable old malt.
Finish: Surprisingly long and rich, full of green fruits with menthol and slight metallic notes.
Comments: What a big surprise and how amazing that it stood its ground next to the other heavy hitters. This is a perfect example of an old malt for drinking and enjoying, hats off to Duncan Taylor for selecting and bottling at such a sensible price. Great stuff, it’s not the most complex old dram but it makes up for it with great concentration of flavour and a complete lack of overtly woody interference or astringency. Just like when a great musician chooses the notes not to play as much as the ones they do play, the same principle goes with a good cask.
Tomorrow we’ll get even more ridiculous.