I’ve taken to using my Birthday as an excuse to purchase myself a very nice bottle of whisk(e)y, possibly at a cost in excess of what I really should be spending. I suppose ability to afford said whisky bottle should play into the equation, but such is the plight of a Stage 4-ish whisky fanatic. This year, I purchased my May birthday dram in December 2010…and waited. It’s a Glenglassaugh 31 Year, distilled in 1978 and bottled for The Whisky Exchange for their 10th Anniversary of doing online sales. It’s bottled at 44.6%, and carries an interesting old-style label.
I had decided that I really wanted to try one of the special TWE Anniversary bottlings, but which one? There was a Linkwood that got 91 points on whiskyfun that looked really interesting. They also had an Amrut bottling, which was even priced well under $100. Then I read the whiskyfun review of this Glenglassaugh. Specifically, this quote caught my eye:
Nose: starts aromatic and generous, with big notes of ‘old style club Speysider’ if you see what I mean.
No, I don’t see what you mean! I’m a mere 3 years into my whisky discovery process, with no ‘old style club’ experience. That settled it…with my increasing interest in sherried whiskies, a 90 point rating from Serge, and a solid history of quality releases from The Whisky Exchange, this sounded like a great whisky AND an opportunity to get a feel for a ‘traditional’ single malt flavor.
Glenglassaugh 1978 / 31 Year / TWE 10th Anniversary (44.6%, £108.33 ex. VAT)Nose: Definite sherry notes here, of the red fruits variety – mostly dried fruits, but some fresh red berries still poking through despite the age. This is combined with alcohol and wood influences that form what Tim F at The Whisky Exchange would call “old church pews” (OCP). It’s overall a great combination, but my feeling is that the OCP serves as a bit of a veil over the fruitiness. A few drops of water really opens it up. Palate: Still fruity, but also quite spicy and oaky, like an old bourbon. The initial attack is pretty bold, seemingly bigger than expected based on the 44.6% ABV. Quite lively for its age. Starts drying the tongue immediately as it heads for the throat. With water, it’s fruitier and sweeter, reminding me of Dalmore 21 Year. Finish: Oh, so very dry on the tongue. Fortunately, the dried fruit and berries linger in the back of the nostrils, providing something of a balancing act and distracting from what many might consider too much dryness. As a fan of old, woody bourbons, I’m not turned off by the feeling on the tongue.
Comments: Ok, that nose is really good. With literally a couple of drops of water (not too much, though), it’s great! I could sit with a dram of this and take it in for an entire evening. I’d put the nosing enjoyment level up close to my favorite Laphroaig 30…very special. The palate and finish suit me well, but it is a bit on the dry side. 92 points for the nose and 88 points in the mouth. So at the risk of looking like a Serge copycat, I’m going with 90 points overall on my personal scale. A- (90 Points).
So there we have it, a glimpse into the past at an “old style” Speysider. This certainly was a different Speyside experience than I’m used to. However, the individual components can be found in other modern whiskies. That “old church pew” on the nose reminds me of the “library with leather-bound books” flavor/scent that I’ve experienced with some Dalmores. Some of the sensations on the palate and finish can be found in 15-20+ year wheated bourbons. If this is really the kind of profile you used to find in younger Macallans “back in the day” then those really were the good old days of sherried whiskies.Cheers, Jeff