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

June 6, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
More closed distilleries 
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there’s more of these examples of silent distilleries knocking about my sample shelf. Or, ‘Ghosted’ distilleries as the Johnnie Walker Blue Label department at Diageo would probably like us to say. Let’s begin in the lowlands… 


Glen Flagler ‘All Malt’ NAS (70 proof, OB, 1970s)

Glen Flagler ‘All Malt’ NAS (70 proof, OB, 1970s) 
I am indebted to Mark from the excellent Cheaper By The Dram for this and another sample for today’s session. I’m sure you all know that Glen Flagler was a short lived malt produced by a pair of pot stills within the old Moffat grain distillery and owned by Inverhouse. This non age statement version is scarcer than its 5 and 8 year old siblings. Now, having said all that, I couldn’t tell you whether this is a ‘single’ malt, or what would at that time have been called a vatted malt - blended malt in today’s lingo. Colour: pale straw. Nose: straw, wool, ink, fabrics, pollen and an almost grappa-esque fruitiness with background notes of wine must and limoncello - or am I just starting to ‘think’ Italian? No wonder this used to sell well in Italy. I also find rather a lot of ripe peaches in syrup and crushed almonds. A very slight cardboard note too, but that may be OBE. Mouth: rather light, gently creamy and with these unusual lactic tones such as Greek yoghurt and milk bottle sweets. Some crumbled oatcakes, juniper and crushed nettles. Rather ginish in some ways, but that may well be the youthfulness of the spirit. Indeed, it feels very young but the spirit is light, playful and not without charisma. Finish: short, citrusy, some barley sugar sweetness and wee grassy touches. Comments: I’ve had a few of these bottlings over the years and there seems to be not one ounce of consistency between them. Some are dreadful, while others can really be a joyous surprise. How much of that is Glen Flagler itself, how much is time in bottle and how much is whether they’re ‘self’ whiskies or ‘vatted’ will, I suspect, forever remain a mystery. This one was a bit light, but good fun. 
SGP: 531 - 78 points. 



Glen Flagler 23 yo 1972/1996 (51.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #228442, 255 bottles)

Glen Flagler 23 yo 1972/1996 (51.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #228442, 255 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: sweetly grassy, honeyed, lots of pollens, honeycomb and some green fruits preserved in syrup. Then comes some shoe polish, new leather and dried beeswax. You do indeed get the impression it was a rather workmanlike and industrial style of spirit. Some camphor, putty and cough syrup. With water: eucalyptus, camphor, putty, strong jasmine tea some rather pushy herbal notes. Mouth: various crystallised fruits and garden fruit preserves. Lots of prickly citrus notes, jams, faint medical embrocations, a rather syrupy mouthfeel and a slow but steady evolution away towards more waxy and polished notes. With water: really evolves quite strikingly towards fresh, bitter herbs, dried dark fruits, toasted seed mix and some rather grassy olive oil. Still wee threads of honey in there too though. Finish: medium and rather pithy, herbal, lemon rind, olive oil, dried tarragon and a little mustard powder. Comments: It’s an impressive and rather ‘separate’ style of malt, one that doesn’t quite fit into any easy category. Texture and concentration are very impressive and the overall style is pleasingly punchy and industrial, yet balanced by some nice fruits. Not just a historical artefact for collections and museum displays. 
SGP: 551 - 88 points. 



Littlemill 27 yo 1992/2020 (52.3%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 260 bottles)

Littlemill 27 yo 1992/2020 (52.3%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 260 bottles)
Colour: light gold. Nose: grass, olive oil and ripe garden fruits. Pitch perfect and very enchanting. Indeed, it really seems to double down on this extremely elegant and slick olive oil profile. Blind you could also be forgiven for saying an early 90s Bushmills or Cooley. These vintages of Littlemill often speak with an Irish accent I find. Some further hints of nettles, aloe vera and New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Great stuff! With water: now we are really getting towards a pretty punchy and vivid grassiness. Nettles, vine leaves, salad dressing, wine must, putty and white stone fruits. Mouth: superb arrival on punchy white pepper, cut grass, chopped green herbs, lime zest, lemon barley water, vapour rubs, chalk and lemongrass. The fruits are in there but they are restrained, nicely bitter and with a sharpness and clarity that once again would suggest some kind of nicely acidic sauvignon blanc. A scattering of crisp cereals too. With water: wonderfully thick and oily now, big juicy fruits, cereals, cooking oils, bitter herbs, expensive tonic water, juniper, mirabelle eau de vie, tarragon - really becomes quite complex. Finish: good length, getting more herbal, waxed lemon peel, perfectly bitter. Comments: Yet another terrific Littlemill from these latter day vintages. Really has something akin to these Irish malts of the same era. There’s a knife-edge balance between grassiness, bitterness and fruitiness going on here which is wonderfully compelling. 
SGP: 651 - 91 points. 



Imperial 30 yo 1990/2020 (43.5%, Thompson Brothers, refill barrel, 134 bottles)

Imperial 30 yo 1990/2020 (43.5%, Thompson Brothers, refill barrel, 134 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: this rather specific kind of lactic, honeyed and waxy profile which I’m increasingly finding with 90s Imperials. Behind that fabrics, baking parchment, damp grains, plain toast and a single molten white marshmallow. In time it opens and becomes fresher and a little more breezy and playful which is nice. Although it remains on the lighter side. Mouth: excellent arrival, feels bigger than 45.5%. Rather peppery, waxy and nicely oily in texture. Lots of canvass, hessian, camphor, putty and gorse flower. Also some slightly dry limoncello, pumpkin seed oil and a few slightly taut wood spices. Feels like this one was captured just before the cask really bit down. Finish: medium and getting a little weaker, more towards bitter herbal tones, sandalwood and cornflakes. Comments: Perhaps bottled one or two years too late, but it remains a beautiful wee drop that gives the feeling of old school highland whisky. 
SGP: 551 - 87 points. 



Glenugie 30 yo 1977/2007 (46.3%, Signatory ‘Cask Strength Collection’, cask #5507, hogshead, 243 bottles)

Glenugie 30 yo 1977/2007 (46.3%, Signatory Vintage ‘Cask Strength Collection’, cask #5507, hogshead, 243 bottles)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: an immediate waft of raw barley, then all these rather thick and pulpy mashed fruits which are rather indigenous to Glenugie in my experience. Lots of overripe banana, green apple, pear and kiwi. Then lemon posit, runny honey, liquorice allsorts, guava, melon and conference pear. I love this very focused fruitiness on overripe garden and green fruits. The whole thing feels very fleshy, pulpy and nicely textural. Mouth: some rather dry fruit cordials, nicely syrupy and oily in texture. Cornflour, rapeseed oil, turmeric, lemon zest, verbena, barley sugars and things like bouillon stock, mashed vegetables and freshly made porridge with a miser’s teaspoon of honey through it. Cleaves very close to the raw ingredients and feels at times surprisingly austere for a Glenugie. Finish: good length, getting very green, herbal, lightly waxy, bitter lemon and some notes of soda bread and putty. Comments: In some ways, given the general luminosity of most Glenugies from these vintages, you could argue that this is something of a disappointment. However, being realistic, this is still an extremely pleasurable dram with some wonderfully opulent moments. It’s just a notch too austere, and at times oddly plain, to climb too high in my wee book. 
SGP: 561 - 88 points. 



Glen Albyn 10 yo (43.4%, OB, D&C Import Italy, 1960s)

Glen Albyn 10 yo (43.4%, OB, D&C Import Italy, 1960s)
These batches could be pretty variable in my experience. Colour: pale gold. Nose: nicely ‘old highlands’ at first with these big whiffs of waxes, metal polish, old toolboxes, sheep wool and mineral oil. Some putty, dusty malt bins and hessian cloth. Although, there’s also a slight grittiness of concrete and a rather medical, crushed aspirin quality. Very typical of these Inverness malts I would say, the ‘Schneck’ accent is thick here! Mouth: a little more whacky and ‘Schnecky’. Lots of wool, aspirin, medicines, petrol mixed with milk (!?!?), iodine drops, bitter orange peel, camphor, putty, limestone, concrete, clay, smoked tea and some pretty brittle, dry waxiness. Also perhaps some graphite oil and damp grains - salted porridge maybe? Finish: good length and staying on this rather direct and slightly sharp medicinal profile. Quite a big aftertaste of mineral oils, herbs, medical balms and a little sootiness. Comments: It’s a rather brutal and very ‘Inverness’ style in some ways, although I think the bottling strength for this one helps add balance. A style of whisky which hasn’t existed in Scotland for about 50 years I’d say. Austere and slightly thuggish, yet also full of charisma and not a little charm. 
SGP: 363 - 84 points.



While we are in Inverness… 



Glen Mhor 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, miniature, 1970s)

Glen Mhor 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, miniature, 1970s)
This is one of these lovely wee flat minis that G&M were issuing ubiquitously in the 70s. This one should be from around mid-1970s I think. Colour: orangey amber. Nose: a deep, greasy and leathery sherry. Lots of dried figs, damp sods of earth, dark fruit chutneys, mushroom powder, cocoa, leaf mulch and camphor. Powerful, dense and emphatically thick stuff, with a wonderfully lean, sinewy and direct sherry influence. Goes on with things like mutton, venison, stovies, bouillon, Maggi, soot and dark grains. Some kind of thick, almost tarry stout beer from a whisky barrel. Becomes increasingly mentholated and medicinal over time with many eloquent wee herbal touches. With water: all these rather plummy dark fruits emerge now. Prunes in Armagnac, date syrup, pomegranate molasses and a few watermelon bonbons. Mouth: Pow! Superbly concentrated and syrupy sherry. Miso, soy sauce, balsamic glaze, herbal ointments, your Granny’s long forgotten herbal cough syrup, dark chocolate with chilli, fir liqueur, walnut wine, natural tar and vividly salty rancio. With water: herby chicken stuffing, bay leaf, tarragon, punchy green Chartreuse, lime curd, more rancio, bacon jam, black bean curd, smoked chocolate. Madness! Finish: brilliantly long, deeply earthy, animalistic and almost fatty with all these wonderfully thick and sinewy meaty notes. Pork scratchings, antiseptic, more rancio, saline and herby broths and gloopy camphor. Comments: Excuse me, but what the fuck was that? I’ve tried the 100 proof 8yo full size bottles but none have ever been up to that kind of scratch. No offence, but this is extremely un-Glen Mhor. Where is the concrete? Where is the gluey porridge? Where is the deep sense of existential dread? We’ve been conned it would seem! 
SGP: 572 - 93 points. 



Glenury Royal 23 yo 1971/1995 (61.3%, OB ‘Rare Malts’, sherry)

Glenury Royal 23 yo 1971/1995 (61.3%, OB ‘Rare Malts’, sherry)
Another of the more famous Rare Malts expressions, and pretty much the only one from active sherry. It’s been a long time since I tried this so I’m very happy to revisit it. Colour: amber. Nose: It’s funny how even with the obviously rich cloak of sherry, this is still extremely ‘Rare Malts’ in style. Which is to say: power, austerity, directness and concentration. Leathery, leafy, mulchy, earthy and showing lots of bitter marmalade, pin resin, tobacco and sweet herbal liqueurs. Orange oils, dark chocolate and an impression of pot pourri. With water: softer, leafier and more towards cocoa, sultanas, fruit loaf and dried mint leaves. Mouth: hot and prickling with paprika, natural tar, hot leather, kirsch and lots of wee mentholated and eucalyptus notes. Slightly gamey and rather peppery. With water: works terrifically with water. Much easier and more open and generous. Minty, blood orange cordial, dark fruits soaked in brandy and more of these nice leathery and gamey touches. Things like Bovril, camphor and prune eau de vie. Finish: long, orangey - more marmalade - mentholated, some nicely tannic black tea, sooty and getting rather more towards herbal infusions and vegetal broths. Comments: Totally excellent, although I think this may be an example of a bottling which we can look upon with a degree of revisionism and say that, while terrific, isn’t perhaps the total masterpiece some proclaimed it to be ‘back in the day’. Whenever that was. I love it, but I think it’s a tad brutal and domineering at times. 
SGP: 662 - 91 points. 



Let’s go north for our final two. Now, does Brora still count as a closed distillery? It is scheduled to re-open later this year, although I’m not sure whether Covid will have an impact on that or not? I would argue that the old bottlings, especially those of original pre-Brora Clynelish, definitely do still count as ‘silent stills’ given that they really are liquid artefacts of a different era, production process, people and ingredients. Just as some are rather cynical about the re-commissioning of Brora and say it won’t match up to its former glory. Personally, I disagree with that assessment. I agree that it probably won’t make distillate as luminous as the 1972s or 1965s, but that does not mean it cannot make something remarkable, different and excellent. And from what we’ve heard so far about Diageo’s plans for it - a kind of ‘working museum’ - things seem to be going in a direction that is both exciting and encouraging. Anyway, beyond all that, it is nothing but good news for a part of Scotland where that kind of meaningful employment is of immense importance to smaller communities. My excitement about the breathing of new life into the old Clynelish distillery remains undimmed. I hope for in this instance - and wish Diageo in their endeavours - all the very best. Anyway, as ever, please send all your disagreements, questions, essays, comments and theories directly to Mr S Valentin of Turckheim. Thank you!



Brora 34 yo 1970/2004 (56.9%, Douglas Laing ‘Platinum Selection’, 157 bottles)

Brora 34 yo 1970/2004 (56.9%, Douglas Laing ‘Platinum Selection’, 157 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: a perfect triumvirate of olive oil, tar and seawater. Beyond that there’s this rather wonderful unfolding waxiness - citronella candles - sandalwood, putty and a sort of mint flavoured cough medicine. Gorse, beach pebbles, driftwood, acrylic paints and an increasingly prominent honeyed quality, like some kind of very old, salty mead. These 1970s are really quite distinct and separate from the 1972s I think. With water: more specifically towards brine and olive oil now, also preserved lemons, canvass, mustard powder and salted almonds. Greater subtlety, complexity and depth with reduction. Also more herbal but dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage. Some impressions of moorland with things like heather flowers, gorse, bog cotton and an ethereal peaty quality. Mouth: remarkably elegant and gentle arrival, the power of the alcohol is there but wonderfully restrained by the age. And everything is stilling in perfect harmony with the wood which is pitch perfect here. Again this sense of honey, wax, smoke, seawater, petrol and lightly tarry notes. A few more farmyard attributes on the palate and also a sharper acidity and a more punchy herbal presence. With water: gains a superbly vivid fattiness. Honey, creosote, natural tar liqueur, smoked olive oil, tapenades, lemon wax, salted pistachio nuts and some rather thick mineral oil. Harmoniously complex and elegant now with many soft, fragrant, rather herbal smoky qualities. Herbal teas, roots, crushed seashells, medical embrocations and plaster. Finish: long, resinous smokiness, mead, tar, matcha, a rather petrolic minerality and a fantastically syrupy, mustardy peatiness. Comments: For me, I think of these 1970 bottlings as being more like a peated version of old Clynelish, whereas I feel the 1972s are more singular and express a more individualistic style which stands truly apart. This one was totally brilliant. Deeply complex and with a compellingly retrained power. I’d also add that it remains stunningly fresh for the age.
SGP: 466 - 93 points. 



Clynelish 12 yo (56.9%, OB for Edward & Edward, rotation 1969)

Clynelish 12 yo (56.9%, OB for Edward & Edward, rotation 1969)
No prevarication required. Colour: white wine. Nose: the purest expression of this style. Which is to say hyper clean and powerful notes of wet chalk, linens, dry waxes, soot, fabrics, petrol and punchy, taut minerals. Struck flints, white flowers, toolboxes, drops of iodine, other background medical tinctures and crushed aspirin. Feels very ‘white’ if you see what I mean? Quite simply, this is a whisky extra ordinary power, control, depth and character. With water: more coastal, more salty, more pushily medical and even more on pure petrol and dried furniture wax. Mouth: it just oozes charisma straight away! Waxy petroleum, steel wool, herbal cough medicines, dried herbs, some spoonfuls of pure seawater, more chalky and aspirin notes, hessian sack cloth, lamp oil and things like miso and umami broth. One of these whiskies that takes total control and leaves you little choice but to follow. With water: totally stellar! Immensely wide, fatty, profoundly deep and heart-stompingly complex. The thickness of the texture is profound and you find yourself having to chew your way through it. Like a handful of gloop from the inside of the low wines and feints receiver! Some touches of caraway, paraffin, roast root vegetables, raw grist and herbal mouthwash! Finish: endless, more lemony, more medical, slightly sootier and more cereal. Like rinsing your mouth with wax dissolved in kerosene! Some salted butter, freshly chopped herbs now and anthracite embers. Leaves you glowing! Comments: I tried to keep it short and to the point. I promise. Anyway, a masterpiece, as well you know by now (although, contrary to some other pals, I think the 1971 rotation is the equal of this one.) 
SGP: 473 - 95 points. 



Big hugs to Edward, KC and Mark! 










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