St Magdalene has brought us some marvellous whisky. The Lowlands distillery was closed in 1983 and is now highly sought after. Among the best releases are the 1964/65/66 releases by Cadenhead (dumpy bottle) and Gordon & MacPhail (brown label or old map label).
St Magdalene 18 yo 1964
(40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice
brown label 1983, 75 cl.)
Nose: unique. A wonderful combination of cherries, blueberries and raisins with milk chocolate and coffee. Quite some butter. A little metal. Dried flowers. Dusty wardrobes and old leather bound books. Ashes. Herbs. A distinct aroma of juicy apricots. Not the typical Lowlands shyness, I would say. This is intense and extremely interwoven. Mouth: not too powerful but full of flavour: velvety fruits – soft cherry and apricot again, but less noticeable than on the nose. Some vanilla and oak. Tobacco. Tea with lemon. Then growing drier, a little resinous and softly herbal (laurel and cloves). More earthy as well, with hay and liquorice root. Finish: not too long, on dry ashes with a salty edge and pine resin.
This St Magdalene 1964 is nothing like a modern Lowlands malt. In fact it’s unlike any modern malt.
The slight dryness of the finish prevents a higher score, but this is still a legendary dram.
Dalwhinnie is part of the Diageo Classic Malts but even then releases are very rare. I couldn’t find much information about this bottle, but it’s clear that Gordon & MacPhail have bottled several 1970 casks at the end of the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s.
Dalwhinnie 21 yo 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1991, 70 cl.)
Nose: a beautiful marriage of mainly two aromas. First, all sorts of beehive aromas (wax, honey, pollen) and then a soft marmalade side (yellow plums, some apple). All this coated with a layer of peat smoke that’s just great. Hints of turpentine. Some oak and grassy notes. Mouth: starts powerful and peppery. Less fruity than expected, although there is some pear. A bit of caramel. Then shows grassy notes and big hints of herbal tea, liquorice and mint. A bit heavy on the oak. Finish: fairly herbal and slightly bitter. Hints of peat again. Medium length.
This Dalwhinnie started on a very interesting and rewarding nose, but it couldn’t hold the constant level I was hoping for. Still very nice.
The Whisky Round Table still consists of 12 noble knights who discuss all things whisky on a monthly basis. This September issue was fired by my question:
Most beginners seem reluctant to buy independent bottlings, as distillery releases are said to have more credibility and a constant quality. What are your experiences with independent bottlers when it comes to quality, pricing, availability, creativity…? Also, please pick one of your favourite bottlers (or ranges) and tell us why you recommend them.
Bunnahabhain 41 yo 1967 (41,1%, Malts of Scotland 2010, bourbon hogshead #3315, 147 btl.)
Nose: again quite tropical, but the coconut / vanilla cream seems to be subdued. Unripe pineapple. White peaches. This profile is a little less warm, the fruits are fresher – greener, if you know what I mean. The oily notes are sharper, like linseed oil or varnished paintings. Cardamom? Even some walnut oil after a while. There seem to be faint coastal notes as well. Interesting variation, although I prefer the luscious warmth of the 1968. Mouth: quite oily again. A cut-off effect on the fruity notes, just like in the 1968. Goes on with peach and oaky notes, though never drying. Hints of oranges. Some nutmeg and a little mint. Water brings out a bit of vanilla. Finish: medium length, on cooked apple and normal woody notes.
Very good, but in my opinion, this one is slightly less expressive than the Bunnahabhain 1968 from Malts of Scotland. Same price as the others: about € 215.
This is one of the other old Bunnahabhain that were released in the past few weeks, a 41 years old Bunnahabhain 1968 bottled by Malts of Scotland. It was matured in an ex-bourbon cask this time.
Belgium is currently the only region where they are distributing it (contrary to a widely available Bunnahabhain 1967 bottled at the same time), but I’ve heard that part of the available stock will go to other countries in the future.
Bunnahabhain 41 yo 1968 (40%, Malts of Scotland 2010, bourbon hogshead #12291, 164 btl.)
Nose: very tropical right from the start. Ripe mango, banana, tangerine, juicy pears, plums… very warm. Lots of vanilla and coconut cream as well. Nice floral touches. Little oak but after a while, some spices come out (cinnamon, hints of nutmeg). Beeswax and honey. Still the whole is really dominated by the fruits (not a bad thing of course). Impressive how vividly fruity this is after 40+ years. Mouth: enough weight despite the low alcohol volume, a bit more oily now, the sweet fruitiness seems to be dimmed as soon as it appears. In the middle, the tropical side is struggling a bit to get past the oaky notes and spices. But it wins and returns to peach, mango, grapefruit and a little mint. Finish: medium length, with soft tannins.
Another great Bunnahabhain to recommend.
A different style than yesterday’s Whisky Agency bottling, but just as good. Same pricing: about € 215.
I thought I was lucky when I recently found a sample of the legendary Bunnahabhain Auld Acquaintance, but the last couple of weeks other Bunnahabhain from the same period have showed up.
This 43 years old Bunnahabhain 1967 was bottled by The Whisky Agency in a new series called Private Stock.
Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1967 (40,5%, The Whisky Agency Private Stock 2010, sherry hogshead,
Nose: the best sherry nose I’ve found in months. Wonderfully balanced, with red fruits, beeswax and whiffs of mocha. Lovely dried apricots and prunes but some tropical fruits as well (guava). Mint. Some cinnamon and a little ginger. Hints of tobacco and sandalwood. I’ve compared this to the Auld Acquaintance and I think this profile is even nicer. Mouth: some banana and almond milk. Papaya. Orange cake. Soon the wood kick in. It’s not overly oaky or but the tannins are certainly obvious. Resulting hints of dark tea. Overall the middle is fairly weak, a bit of extra strength could have lifted this. A little rummy. Finish: never really dry, but slowly fading on oak and soft pepper and mildly sherried orange notes.
A great old Bunnahabhain with a near-perfect nose. The palate is very good even though it can’t hide its respectable age. Around € 210. Recommended but difficult to find.
I can’t get enough of old Caperdonich. Not only do they show very high standards (exceptions are very very rare), they’re also quite accessible and reasonably priced. The distillery was mothballed in 2002 but the stock of old casks still seems pretty large among independent bottlers (especially 1970’s Caperdonich).
Caperdonich 36 yo 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 2004, refill sherry)
Nose: the usual fruit basket is slightly less expressive here, it’s more a sherried fruitiness with waves of dried peaches and raisins. Blood orange. Warm oak. More herbal notes than expected (hints of eucalyptus, pine wood, rosemary). Quite some mint as well. Subtle hints of ashes and bread crust in the back. Even some peat shining through. Greater complexity than most 1970’s Caperdonich but oakier and less exhuberant fruits. Mouth: again quite a lot of woody and herbal notes, with a subdued fruitiness as a result. Toffee and raisins. Milk chocolate. Spicy honey. Pine resin. Yellow grapes and candied notes. Finish: dry and oaky, medium length.
Bottled at the right moment, before getting too oaky. It’s clear that 1968/1969 Caperdonich is different from the highly praised 1972 versions. Both periods are great, the older stuff being less tropical and more influenced by the oak. Still available – around € 125.
The notorious Whisky festival organised by the Lindores Society is less than two months away. On October 22, 23 and 24, the Bero Hotel in Oostende is the place to be. Entrance is € 10 including a glass.
This festival is special because you won’t find distributors presenting new releases. Instead, expect to find collectors and specialized sellers (Massimo Righi, Diego Sandrin, Lothar Langer among others) with a whole range of rarities, antiquities and legendary bottles. Some of the Lindores members (Geert Bero and Luc Timmermans) will also present their impressive collections.
Another part of Lindores Whisky Fest are the tastings. There’s a 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Bowmore tasting, a Japanese dinner accompanied by 60’s and 70’s Karuizawa and an After-Breakfast with the 40yo Millennium Glenfarclas.
Let me know if you’ll be there as well, maybe we can meet.