Google Dalwhinnie, Benrinnes and Glenlivet

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

July 25, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Dalwhinnie, Benrinnes and Glenlivet
Three distilleries in focus today, some generally more characterful than others, although all have produced some remarkable distillate over the years. Thankfully we will ‘go backwards in time’ with each of them to varying degrees today.


Dalwhinnie 8 yo (40%, OB, UK, early 1980s)

Dalwhinnie 8 yo (40%, OB, UK, early 1980s)
A somewhat forgotten about iteration of Dalwhinnie from before the days of the 15yo and the Classic Malts. Colour: gold. Nose: rather nice but feels a tad biscuity and tea-ish, which to me is a sort of low abv/caramel/old bottle vibe. Now behind that there’s also some pleasing notes of shoe polish, a little peat, some putty and a little malt extract sweetness. Mouth: definitely a bit flat at this strength and you can really feel this rather sickly caramel spectre rising up swiftly. Still more sweet digestive biscuits, sooty notes, metal polish and a vaguely rooty and earthy but still pretty light peat. Some cooking oils and roast root vegetables in honey. Finish: short, buttery, biscuity and slightly fatty - indeed Dalwhinnie did used to be a slightly ‘fuller’ distillate. Comments: This is one of quite a few older official bottlings from this era which are fun and ‘instructive’ to taste but they by no means set the world alight.
SGP: 452 - 74 points.



Dalwhinnie 16 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, 1980s)

Dalwhinnie 16 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, 1980s)
Sestante, remember them? Colour: gold. Nose: waxes and many kinds of polishes: shoe, furniture, metal etc. Linseed oil, putty, canvass and some gentle notes of old herbal liqueurs. Very find and very much ‘old school’. With a little time it evolves nicely towards honeys and tinned fruits while still remaining charmingly unsexy. Mouth: very good, lots of olive old, menthol tobacco, waxes, putty, lime pith, orange marmalade and generally beautiful old school flavours. Some herbs and medicines arrive in time. It just misses a few notches of richness that a higher ABV would have delivered. Now, it’s still dangerously quaffable with all this liberally scattered honey and wax everywhere. Finish: medium, biscuity, sweet, waxy, heathery, honeyed and with some nice herbal tea notes. Comments: A fine drop that feels rather old fashioned in both bottling style and flavour. A few degrees more and it would probably have reached 90 quite easily. Feels decidedly like good, old school, ‘honest’ malt whisky - certainly more ‘honest’ than rebottling old Macallans into lamp shade decanters. But that’s another story.
SGP: 662 - 85 points.



Dalwhinnie 20 yo 1962/1982 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Connoisseur’s Choice’)

Dalwhinnie 20 yo 1962/1982 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)
One of the great travesties of whisky in my humble view is that G&M didn’t bottle this series at a higher strength. Thanks again to Mark from Cheaper By The Dram for this sample. Colour: pale gold. Nose: really up a gear from the Sestante in terms of waxiness, metal polish, soot and general fatty oiliness. Stunningly mineral, greasy, mechanical and at the same time full of honey, pollens, vapour rubs and camphor. There’s also these wonderfully fresh notes of wildflowers, tinned peaches and some dried apricot. Mouth: indeed, the strength kind of hurts it here, superbly medical, biscuity, rich, bready, oily and herbaceous but also a few wee hints of cardboard enter into the fray and flatten things a little. Still some glimmers of cereal, putty and lemon infused olive oil. Finish: medium, waxy, pretty herbal, rather honeyed and with a nice lemon rind note and plenty of soft teaish qualities. Comments: Such a frustrating whisky in some respects. The nose was totally beautiful, whereas on the palate you immediately you feel it has been harpooned by the bottling ABV, and probably not a little caramel as well. Still, fascinating to think there was ever a time where it was considered acceptable to treat a 1962 20yo Dalwhinnie in such a way. Now, having said all that, it’s still a highly delicious old highland dram - you just can’t help but imagine what it would have been like above 46% for example.
SPG: 562 - 87 points.



Benrinnes 23 yo 1995/2019 (51.1%, Cadenhead ‘Small Batch’, 3 hogsheads, 708 bottles)

Benrinnes 23 yo 1995/2019 (51.1%, Cadenhead ‘Small Batch’, 3 hogsheads, 708 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: honeys, herbs and breads! Direct, rather pure and extremely characterful. There’s also a pretty emphatic ‘malted barley’ quality sitting rather weightily underneath everything. Not super complex, but definitely rather super (Angus, get a grip!) With water: there’s a more defined spiciness now with rye bread, cinnamon and white pepper. Some waxed baking parchment and cooked cereals. Mouth: a notch lighter than the nose might have suggested but still pretty great with lots of freshly baked croissant and white bread, honey glaze, dried apricots, herbal teas and things like white flowers and a hint of lychee. With water: more of this freshly baked and glazed patisserie vibe. Some furniture polish, malt extract and a little vanilla custard. Finish: good length, a little fresher and greener with more natural barley sweetness and a rather juicy aftertaste - whatever that means! Comments: It’s to be wondered why Benrinnes isn’t more of a ‘thing’. It’s very often terrific distillate. A little more complexity would have propelled this one past 90; maybe time in bottle will achieve that in this instance.
SGP: 561 - 88 points.



Benrinnes 1974/1988 (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #36.5)

Benrinnes 1974/1988 (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #36.5)
1974 was supposedly the first year of Benrinnes’s dalliance with partial triple distillation, which remained until 2007. Colour: gold. Nose: very immediate and appealing notes of apricot jam, flower honey, figs in syrup, soft waxes and things like green tea, lemon peel and sandalwood. One of these rather old school, emphatic distillates that feels kind of ‘highlands’ in character. With water: big impression now of hardwood resins, furniture wax, linseed oil, hessian and oily sheep wool. All the good stuff basically. Mouth: superb arrival, all on olive and mineral oils, putty, lime curd, more waxes, shoe leather, tea tree oil and other funny ‘tertiary stuff’. Rather earthy, oily, waxy, a nice herbal bitterness and excellent weight in the mouth. With water: pine sappy, mineral, extremely fatty and with a palpably gooey waxiness now. Still these wee subtler notes of heather flower, honeycomb, pollens and a light sootiness. Rather a lot of cough medicine now too. Finish: long, satisfying peppery, oily, still this wee bitter herbal quality and a rather rooty earthiness. Comments: Terrific old school malt that showcases the wonderful ‘fatness’ that Benrinnes can often display when ‘on form’. I wonder how much of this character can be ascribed to the distillation technique versus the worm tubs? Although, I suspect there were quite a few other ‘things’ going on back in 1974 that contributed to this final character. Either way, this was a real treat!
SGP: 562 - 91 points.



Benrinnes 21 yo 1974/1995 (55%, Signatory Vintage for USA)

Benrinnes 21 yo 1974/1995 (55%, Signatory Vintage for USA)
Love love love this series of labels by Signatory. Although, I find it curious that they put notably less info on their US market releases than the UK ones. Interestingly, this one was distilled in the same month as the SMWS, so quite likely a sibling cask. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very different to the SMWS! This is much grassier, greasier and rather more austere. Lots more clay, anthracite, earth, dried leaf mulch, kilned pottery, very lightly medical notes of aspirin and petrichor (damp forest) notes. Quite a departure from the SMWS, but still pretty excellent. With water: these medicinal and spicy aspects are accentuated now. More medicines, ginger wine, camphor, hessian and still a little grassy olive oil. Mouth: ok, back towards the SMWS one now, more fruit jams, exotic fruit teas, waxes, pollens and things like old leather, black pepper and even some vegetal hints including horseradish. Indeed, the whole is rather punchy, peppery and warm. Big, hefty and a pretty textural whisky. With water: rather classical development now with more menthol tobacco, eucalyptus resin, herbal toothpaste, mouthwash, cough mixtures, mineral oil, vapour rubs and more hessian and wax. Finish: long and hugely mentholy and medicinal. Bitter herbs, more green ginger wine, bandages, cocktail bitters and some sharper green herbs like parsley. Comments: Similarities and differences. This one is great, but it’s a tad more monolithic and powerful than the SMWS. Now, in all honesty, I had kind of expected the Signatory to triumph.
SGP: 472 - 90 points. 



Glenlivet 8 yo (70 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, early 1970s)

Glenlivet 8 yo (70 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, early 1970s)
Colour: light amber. Nose: a super soft, easy and extremely ‘G&M’ style of old school sherry. Bags of leather, truffle, game meat, mushrooms, tobaccos and rancio. Also quite a few layers of tropical fruits, coconut and umami seasonings. Given blind I might just as well have said 21 years old. Mouth: just gorgeous, leathery, bright, fruity, walnutty, earthy, densely rancio-heavy sherry. Some mint leaf, sultanas, fig syrup, a little cocoa, strawberry wine, walnut oil, putty, camphor, herbal resins… It’s got the full kit! Finish: medium and pretty concentrated on chocolate, earth, roasted chestnuts, figs and herbs. Comments: Hard not to be bowled over by this humble wee beauty. One of those old bottlings where you just can’t help but wonder about the veracity of the age statement. The strength also doesn’t feel too low here, the fatness of the distillate and heft of the sherry add more than enough stamina to carry the lower abv.
SGP: 661 - 91 points.



Glenlivet 12 yo 2007/2019 (66.3%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, cask #900171, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 309 bottles)

Glenlivet 12 yo 2007/2019 (66.3%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, cask #900171, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 309 bottles)
The ABVs on this parcel of casks are always pretty scary, but quality generally seems to be high. Colour: orangey amber. Nose: hot yes, but within that there’s quite a lot of spiced orange liqueur, marmalade, hardwood resins, putty and a little Turkish delight. Although I do also feel a wee bit of bite from the oak. One of these rather effective but assertive modern sherry casks. Goes on with some pencil shavings, green pepper and boiled lime sweets. In time it also becomes a little more floral and showing some red fruits. Lots to enjoy within this admittedly very modern style. With water: understandably lighter and revealing a little more in the way of marzipan, treacle and spices like ginger and cinnamon. Mouth: ooft. I’m tempted to write ‘notes of my own dissolved tooth enamel’ but I wouldn’t do such a thing. Quite a bit of wood shaving, black tea, pink peppercorns and hints of pot pourri and black coffee. With water: more of these notes of resins, black tea and hardwoods. Fir wood, sandalwood - lots of wood! Also spiced orange marmalade, cloves, nutmeg, orange cordial and some fruit chutneys. Finish: rather long and little more towards dark fruits in syrup, cured meats and black office coffee. Comments: Quite a bit going on here and a fair bit of interesting evolution, but the wood is teetering on the brink of being too much for my taste. Not sure it wouldn’t have been better bottled at a lower ABV? Water is certainly obligatory here. Funny how the SGP is the same as the G&M 8yo but they remain worlds apart.
SGP: 661 - 84 points.



Glenlivet 22 yo 1973/1995 (56%, Signatory Vintage for USA, sherry)

Glenlivet 22 yo 1973/1995 (56%, Signatory Vintage for USA, sherry)
Love, love, love these old ‘inkpot’ dumpies. Colour: amber. Nose: quite a world of difference again, really all on leather, chocolate, roasted nuts, camphor, pollens, dried strawberries and cured meats. Also a fair bit of coffee, tobacco and some fig jam and dates. Deep, dark and very ‘old school sherry’. With water: much more peppery and spicy, some ginger, dried chilli, biltong, roast chestnuts and hessian. Mouth: bitter dark chocolate melted down with strawberry jam, more old leather, pipe tobacco, beef stock, black pepper and a few glugs of strong herbal teas. Rather rooty, slightly medical and very earthy. With water: still quite a bit of hot pepper, smoked chilli, smoked herbs, more leather, camphor, a glimmer of cereal and some sort of spiced treacle cake. Finish: long, leather, chocolatey, peppery, gamey and very earthy and quite dry. A rather mineral side emerges. Comments: Quality is very high, as expected, but some parts remain a tad too ‘rough and ready’ to get over the 90 hurdle in my view.
SGP: 562 - 88 points.



Glenlivet 35 yo 1966/2002 (68.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #2.43, sherry)

Glenlivet 35 yo 1966/2002 (68.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #2.43, sherry)
What was that I was saying only a couple of notes ago about scary ABVs? Colour: amber. Nose: well, this actually rum. Deep and highly earthy old demerara rum. However, to that you could also add some waxed canvas, sultanas, carbon paper, sooty coal scuttles and in time many dried wildflowers, crystallised exotic fruits and wee hints of some kind of herbal infused wax. Gets also pretty salty and leathery with more than a little rancio. Quite amazingly approachable really. With water: pretty huge now! Big, medical-accented, dark, gingery old rum but also showing these notes of salty liquorice, hessian and herbal bitters. Mouth: ok, yes, ouch. But… but… also the most beautiful of wood spices, incense, pot pourri, cinnamon, turmeric, waxed canvass, pressed wildflowers, five spice, spiced honey cake, madeira fruit loaf, some kind of ancient calvados and fir liqueur. Also these wee natural tarry and concentrated cough medicine notes. Mothballs? Complex, concentrated and superb! With water: ooft! Someone has lobbed an H2O grenade and now there’s roots, flowers, earth, leather, tar, medicines, herbs and rancio everywhere. Massive, monolithic but hugely complex and enjoyable. Keeps developing and evolving with further single drops of water. Many dried citrus peel notes and crystallised exotic fruits still. Finish: extremely long, drying, leathery, very salty and showing some pin-sharp, perfectly bitter herbs, cedar wood, fir wood and natural tar. Some animalistic gamey notes and bitter espresso too. Comments: I have to admit, when I opened this bottle I was not nearly as impressed. It’s been open almost a year now (I think) and the development with a bit of air really has worked wonders. One of those whiskies that doesn’t make sense but, despite everything, emerges victorious. What I love the most is how endlessly entertaining and evolving it is.
SGP: 663 - 92 points.



Meaningless bonus



Glenlivet 1958/1968 (cask sample)

Glenlivet 1958/1968 (cask sample)
I know, what use writing notes for a 1 of 1 old cask sample? Well, I totally adore these old ‘artefact’ things so please indulge me, just for the record… Colour: straw. Nose: chiselled minerals, petrol, waxes, chalk, pebbles, white flowers, flints and some hints of plain, raw cereals such as oatcakes and freshly malted barley. The crossroads where ‘natural’ meets ‘old school’. With water: doubles down on this medical edge, notes of bandages, clay, embrocations, white pepper, gauze. More pure barley notes and some mineral oil. Mouth: wonderfully pure, medicinal and showing an almost crystalline waxiness. Minerals, petrol, starched fabric, lime, barley water. Totally brilliant, whisky for lovers of aged dry white wines. With water: terrifically fat, waxy, mineral and medical - almost greasy in texture now. Olive oil, grass, chalky medicines and lemon tea. Finish: long, punchy, medical, waxy, mineral and oily with some wee herbal notes. Comments: At times you could almost think old Giaccone Clynelish. I love to try such old cask samples because they give you a totally unvarnished glimpse into general distillery / malt whisky character of that era. Who knows what became of this whisky but more than likely it vanished into a blend, but it’s consistent in style with many of the great old OB un-sherried Glenlivets. So these characteristics we classify as ‘old style’, I would argue, were not the result of ‘cask cherry picking’ of the time, but were rather just the style that era produced. Now, of course a single sample doesn’t prove a thesis - for that we need to sit down over a pint or six. Anyway, totally brilliant, extremely ‘pure’ old style malt whisky.
SGP: 463 - 93 points.










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