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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

June 27, 2013


Insane tasting, Old Ballechin
vs. Old Clynelish. In blends...

I'm afraid most very old single malts around - say early XXth century and before - are big, fat, stinky fakes, so the only way of trying some very old malt, especially from long gone distilleries, is to taste the blends that used to contain them as main constituents. That's how we could have an idea of Malt Mill two or three years ago, and how we'll now have a go at Old Ballechin and (very) Old Clynelish... Feeling a bit like the grandson of the good old Professor George Sainsbury just now...

Old Ballechin
Old Ballechin Distillery today

Strath-Tay (OB, blend, Geo Loyd Alison, early 20th century)

Strath-Tay (OB, blend, Geo Loyd Alison, early 20th century) Five stars So the base malt for this ultra-rare old blend was the output of the original Ballechin Distillery in Strathtay (1810-1927). As you probably know, the name's now used by Edradour for their peaty version. Colour: dark gold. Nose: holy featherless crow! This is as complex as an old Montrachet, and the malt content is most probably very high, if not actually 100%. So what do we have? Say an assortment of various honeys for starters, including fir and such (sappy ones, honeydews), combined with various oils. Almond, argan, sunflower, olive... Your pick. It's this greasiness that's striking, this kind of elegant fatness, and what's even funnier is this touch of capsicum that arises. Frankly, this nose is magnificently elegant, and I swear I'm not influenced by the 'pedigree' of this rare whisky. It's quite sooty too, and even slightly smoky (brown coal, I'd say).

Mouth: bingo! First, it's not tired in any way. And second, it displays a superb combination of spicy herbs and sappy honeys again. It's probably a little less complex than on the nose, but that's utterly normal. Bitter oranges, cough syrup, arak, brine, fudge, marmalade, figs, touches of aniseed, chestnut honey, smoked sesame oil... Wowowow! Finish: this is the most surprising part, the finish is long and very 'focused', with absolutely no 'dispersal of flavours' as is often the case with whisky in my opinion (another difference with great wine). Stunning earthy and smoky aftertaste. Comments: very high malt content for sure. Further comments would be... supererogatory. And I won't even mention the fracas of time! SGP:464 - 93 points.

Ainslie's Royal Edinburgh (OB, blend, Ainslie, Baillie & Co, +/-1920)

Ainslie's Royal Edinburgh (OB, blend, Ainslie, Baillie & Co, +/-1920) Five stars The short-lived Ainslie, Baillie & Co mentioned on the label were founded in 1913 and liquidated in 1921, so it's quite easy to put a rough date on this marvellous bottling that's most probably and most luckily full of Old Clynelish. Remember Clynelish used to be the most expensive and the most sought after malt whisky at the time! Colour: full gold. Nose: yaah! Once again, the grain is undetectable, and this could well be single malt whisky. It's more nervous than the Strath-Tay, fresher and certainly more coastal (sea breeze), a little rougher and less polished too. It does echo today's Clynelish in a way, but that's more linseed oil than plain wax. There is some peat, some tinned fish (sardines?), some iron or silver (old cutlery) and maybe just hints of caramel. Goes on for a long time, with some notes of old garage (motor oil, petrol, old tools) and then some camphor, tiger balm and such. Totally amazing development.

Mouth: oh nooooh! Incredible power, saltiness, peatiness, smokiness, brininess, Inverness (diving to new lows, Serge). Seriously, this is brinier and more coastal than any modern Islay, including 'that one'. Crushed olives (tapenade), anchovies, then cough syrup, lemon liqueur, very old chenin (that's wine), hundreds of herbs, oysters, even sea urchins - serious! Leaves you speechless. Maybe better like that. Finish: like seawater. Enough said. Comments: please don't rush out and buy just any old Royal Edinburgh. Post-WWII versions were much, and I mean much less qualitative. Unless you love burnt beef and overcooked coffee, that is. I won't go to 95 points because I think I have detected a very tiny cardboardy side in the end of the end of the aftertaste. SGP:365 - 94 points.

(with deep thanks to Phil, Simon and Wayne)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Blends I've tasted so far







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