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

October 6, 2022


St Magdalene, quatuor major

Long story short, G&M have a new St Magdalene (hurray) and we'll seize this opportunity to add one or three other St Magdas or Linlithgows that we have never formally tried before. Any excuses, really… And let's do this retro-vertically, as they would say at Space X… Say like 1970, 1974, 1979, 1982. With a nod to our friend Tomas, #1 St Magdalene (and 2cv) collector in the world.

St Magdalene, Linlithgow (Historic Environment Scotland)

St Magdalene 23 yo 1970 (58.43%, OB, Rare Malts, 1995)

St Magdalene 23 yo 1970 (58.43%, OB, Rare Malts, 70cl, 1995) Five stars
There used to be rumours that some early Rare Malts were single cask bottlings, but it's been officially confirmed to me that that's never been the case. We had tried sister-bottling 23/1970 at 58.1% earlier this year and thought it was fantastically introspective (WF 92). All Rare Malts St-Ms have been stunning anyway (yeah, despite the very s****y cork stoppers). Colour: gold. Nose: it's a bit like an old Mercedes-Benz diesel, it is a little slow to get to any proper speed, but it is then unstoppable. First just malt and scoria, then charcoal and bunches of long-forgotten vegetables, well at least parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes, then burnt cakes, autumn leaves, teas and olives, then acetic liquids, bacterial things and, well, cheeses. It is a funny development, but this what you would expect from these rather austere St Magdalenes. With water: a perfect walk, from meadows to the woods, then to the beach. Unexpected whiffs of peach liqueur popping out too. Brilliant. Mouth (neat): I may have written this before, but this is of Brora class. Leaves, tobaccos, teas, farmy elements, feelings of old leathers, waxes, then those funny vegetables again, Scottish moussaka (yeah right), salted tea, umami, candied lemon, pickled sweet onions perhaps… The thing is, these whiskies need a lot of your time, but they're really worth it. With water: the trademark leafiness is shining through, but fruits haven't said their last words, with peaches indeed, lemons, then drops of smoked tea, some fabulous farmy elements, old herbal liqueurs, pine resin, verbena, mint, wormwood, liquorice, and just tons of tinier elements, which is very St Magdalene. Perhaps the most complex whiskies ever made by Man, but then again, the attentive taster will have to invest rather a lot of time to get it all in its integrity. Finish: keeps improving! This seldom happens, whiskies that keep unfolding like this, even way after you've swallowed the last part of the last drop. Amazing. Comments: austere, tight and yet hugely complex, stunningly herbal and earthy, with citrus where and when you need citrus.

SGP:462 - 93 points.

We're way too high already (so to speak). But this is St Magdalene…

Linlithgow 27 yo 1974/2001 (50%, Silver Seal, First Bottling, 180 bottles)

Linlithgow 27 yo 1974/2001 (50%, Silver Seal, First Bottling, 180 bottles) Five stars
Silver Seal did a subsequent 1974 'First Bottling' (we've tried in it 2011 – WF 90) but this is the very first inception. Oh, yes, by the way, Linlithgow and St Magdalene are the same Distillery, but I don't think anyone reaching these silly pages would not be in the know. Oh and indeed, this is pre-Massimo Silver Seal. Colour: gold. Nose: these SSs have always been easier, with some bananas, also early grey, a gentler earthiness, some vanilla, the aforementioned peaches, and rather a lot of heather honey that would impart a few 'HP-like' notes. Minimal whiffs of ham and cigars in the back. With water: you would be forgiven for thinking this is 1970s Highland Park. Mouth (neat): this is more St Magdalene proper, with some soot, paraffin, pepper, tobacco, bitter chocolate and only in the background, peaches and bananas. Gets leafier over time, though. With water: there, the fruits are back, candied tangerines, quinces, bananas, peaches, spread with earl grey and orange blossom water. Finish: pretty long, fresher than the RMs, still more fruity than leafy. Comments: pretty much the easier side of the legendary Distillery. An adorable albeit less seminal, albeit fruitier St Magdalene that anyone should take with him/her into his/her grotto (how silly, S.!) I think the other 1974 SS was rather more austere. Anyways…

SGP:561 - 91 points.

St Magdalene 19 yo 1979/1998 (63.80%, OB, Rare Malts)

St Magdalene 19 yo 1979/1998 (63.80%, OB, Rare Malts) Five stars
Good, I believe I've downed rather a few bottles of this legend, but it seems that I never published any proper tasting notes, which is very silly as well, I agree. I would suppose you could find some note of mine on the old Malt Maniacs website, having said that, but I don't seem to be able to find any at this point.  But enough archaeology, let's write some official 'WF' note (after 20 years!)… Colour: gold. Nose: oh this camphor! Carbon! Brake pads! Artichokes! Eggplants! Paraffin! Garlic bread! Coal! Cigars! Pu-ehr! Liquorice wood! Autumn leaves! Patchouli! Bidis! Ski wax! Suet! Marrow! Citrons! Grapefruits! With water: narrows it down in the most beautiful manner, getting to the bottom of citrusness. Mouth (neat): I like it better than last time, and I may like it even better next time. The most stunning expression of citrus and earth. Enough said. With water: I think I have to apologize because I've just noticed that I was having this one at WF 92, indeed without any proper tasting note. Pearls before swine. Finish: the epitome of earthy and leafy malt whisky, for a very long time. You would get to the very end of GOT's even sillier sequel before your glass is done and empty. Comments: eternal whisky, one of the favourites of all Malt Maniacs since around... 1998. Well, since it came out. Illustrious malt whisky, flabbergasting St Magdalene, and one of the best malt whiskies ever bottled. What's more, looks like it keeps improving in its bottle. Sublime, probably 95-material in two or three years' time, then probably more. See you around 2030.

SGP:462 - 94 points.

Aaaaaaaand the new one!...

St Magdalene 39 yo 1982/2021 (54.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, The Recollection, refill American oak hogshead, cask #2094, 165 bottles, 2022)

St Magdalene 39 yo 1982/2021 (54.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, The Recollection, refill American oak hogshead, cask #2094, 165 bottles, 2022) Five stars
Love it that G&M would release a St Magdalene in 2022 and love it even more that they wouldn't have waited for just a few more months, so that it would be 40 instead of 39. In short, there's more love in here than in Donny Hathaway's song 'Love, Love, Love'.  Oh and I'm well aware of the fact that it's extremely difficult to come after the RMs. Sorry about that, G&M. Colour: gold. Nose: hey hey! Very much in the style of the 1974 by Silver Seal, but it has also got these trademark leafy, herbal, rooty, earthy and sooty tones that are adding complexity to an otherwise rather fruity profile, although all those fruits would rather be baked or stewed. All in all, I'm rather reminded of a very, and I mean very high-class Wulong tea. With water: love these whiffs of old teas, old books, old car interiors, and old cigars. And the beeswax, old sacristy, old library, etc.. Mouth (neat): wait, a massive citrusy punch, with candied lemons, yuzu and grapefruits, then resins, propolis and 'sucking a cigar'. Some funny hints of rye whisky, which is not as odd as it sounds. No more old sacristy. With water: and there, herbal teas mingled together, lavender, thyme, chamomile, bay leaves, chartreuse, Bénédictine, Mandarine Napoléon… Finish: same… … … No obvious oak getting in the way… … … And citron liqueur in the aftertaste. Perfect. Comments: indeed, pretty perfect. Is there more? Couldn't anyone very smart convert the 'Linlithgow' flats back into a Distillery?
SGP:561 - 92 points.

(Thanks and hugs, Jeffrey!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all St Magdalene we've tasted so far







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