Tag Archive: Silent Distillery


Glenury Royal: 1970 – 40 Year Old (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40 Year: 59.4% ABV)

Visual: Moderately darkened gold, with very slow puckering coming from the spirit.

Nose: Cooked apple pie. Honey. Golden Grahams. Almonds. Cinnamon apples. Vanilla toffee. Cherry pocked biscuits. Wisp of smoke. Clotted cream. Water makes spicier. Peppery. Thai seven spice jars. Crushed hard boiled sweets or the aroma of old style sweet shops. More clotted cream.

Body: Treacle and honey. Becomes warming if held but never burning. Fudge. Clotted cream. Thick. Scones with raisins. Cherries. Water adds apples. Cinnamon. Lots of vanilla fudge. Crumpets. Fatty butter.

Finish: Dry oak. Tannins and tea bags. Malt chocolate. Chives. Very drying. Water adds a rum touch. Makes spicy. Plums and red wine. Fatty butter. More chives. Almonds.

Conclusion: Ok, pretty much the most important thing early on with this was that I was really nervous about adding water. Despite in coming in at nearly 60% abv it somehow doesn’t burn at all. I guess 40 years in the oak can do that. Most of my, admittedly very limited, experience with 40 year old whisky found them to be generally very light. You really had to take your time and dig in to get the complexity from them – which is why I generally prefer to max out my whisky at 30 years. I prefer the extra umph.

This, well this is smooth, but very full flavoured and thick mouthfeel which both grabs my attention and makes me wonder if it is already at the sweet spot without adding water.

It is solidly sweet, rocking lots of honey and even some treacle mid body. Give it some time to air and it brings out a lovely, thick clotted cream character which I adore. The aroma has light, sweetly spiced apple notes, and the finish is very dry, though packed with a bit too much oak and tannins. Generally though, especially main body, this is big, rewarding and sweet with lots of subtler side notes to examine as well.

Ok, let’s take a risk. Water play time!

Water makes it a lot spicier, with more peppery notes and some Thai seven spice character – though the release from the high abv also lets more subtle sweetness come through mid body. It also makes for a much better finish – the simple dry tannins and oak now gain complex spirit and red wine notes along with spice. It is a genuine improvement, but also adds a fatty butter character which isn’t as complementary as the previous clean sweet body. Despite that both neat and with water are very good.

A very impressive whisky. Complex, deep, weighty for a 40 year old and smooth for a 60% abv one. Ok, this is a rare case where a 40 year old whisky earns it’s place beyond its slightly younger cousins. I adore this.

Background: So, how I came to pay attention to this one was noticing it was nearly 60% abv at 40 years old. With the angels share I would have though this was damn near impossible, but after contacting my better informed whisky friends it turned out it is true. Was distilled at a very high abv and probably had many other evil magic tricks to keep it this way. So, while looking I noticed that The Whisky Exchange sold it by the measure. Not just a chance to try a dead distillery that I have never tried before, but a 40 year old one. So yes I treated myself. Think that is my silly expensive whisky money gone for a long time now! Anyway the distillery was closed 1985 and has since been sold for housing development so I don’t think we are seeing this one coming back. Went with the ever awesome Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues for background music when drinking.

Convalmore: 1984: Special Release 2017 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 32 Years: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale apple juice to gold colour. A few initial streaks come from the spirit followed by very slow puckering.

Nose: Vanilla. Soft praline. Apples. Soft white grape juice touch. Water adds a sulphur and burnt matches style. More water gives orange zest and pear drops. Madeira. Cinnamon spiced apples.

Body: Initially numbing. Oak. Grassy. Dry. Peppery. More water adds Madeira and watered down spiced rum. Spiced red grapes. Cinnamon apples. Gunpowder tea. Caramel. Cinder toffee. Very mild molasses touch.

Finish: Charring. Roasted chestnuts. Water adds sugared almonds, nut bars and a salty touch. More water makes spicier. Dry red wine. Chocolate cake. Gunpowder tea. Cinder toffee. Creamy.

Conclusion: This is very smooth, and in general a robust one, with a lot heavier nut character that I expected from a Speyside whisky. It is also an example that, even in an over 30 years old whisky, water still does the job!

While water is needed later on, the aroma always had what it takes. Smooth as silk, showing green fruit mixed with vanilla sweetness. It was pretty much exactly what I would expect of the region and the age, if not more than that.

Thus I was surprised when I took a sip and found out how dry and, while not harsh, kind of numbing the main body was. The flavour was very nutty with lots of oak influence making it woody, with little else in play. It felt like such a let down from the nose.

Similarly the finish was nutty, slightly rough, and unexpectedly slightly salty. The state of the body and finish felt like an utter let down for something this old, expensive and with a decent nose.

So, anyway, I added water and…

It was better, still simple and nutty, but now a bit spicier. However the backing seemed to become more harsh – the additional green fruit notes made it better but it was hard to appreciate it against the harsher notes.

So, heck, I may have only 3cl of these, but you only live once. So I added more water, risking flooding it, aaaand.

This is now soooo goooood. No, seriously. Like it is such a change, and such a jump in quality I found it hard to believe it. Wine like and spiced rum notes come out along with spiced fruit, toffee and many spirits. More green fruit. A creamier feel. It doesn’t feel like the same whisky at all.

It has still got a few of those salty, heavier charring and gunpowder tea notes at the back, along with a fair set of tannins, but now they seem balanced as there is so much more available to contrast that. Now it is rich, with lots of dessert like notes, Speyside fresh fruitiness, smooth with lots to examine and so easy to drink despite the harsh underline.

This needs water so much, but get it right and it is great. Still just a touch over harsh, but only minorly so, and apart from that it is great.

Just avoid it neat.

Background: Convalmore is another dead distillery, and therefore one of the few distilleries in Scotland I had yet to try. It seems to be a long lived one, closing finally in 1985, with, oddly, no official bottlings at the time – all the stock went into blends. This is one of the few official bottling that have come out since and one that there was no way I could afford a full bottle of. So, I recently had the chance to treat myself and took advantage of the fact that The Whisky Exchange was selling 3cl samples. It makes it very expensive per cl, but hey, it is pretty much the only way I was going to get to try something from the distillery. A quick google says this won Jim Murray’s best single scotch whisky 28-34 years. For what that is worth. Went with Prodigy: No Tourists for background music. May not seem like a match for this whisky but, screw it, I only just found out it existed and wanted more Prodigy. That is the whole reason.

Brora: Silent Stills: 18 Year (Scotland Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 52.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Very slow puckering forms into thin streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed rocks. Mild smoke and soot. Planed red wood. Lime hints. Barley. Water adds more rocks and grit. Soft apricot. More water keeps roughly the same.

Body: Light front. Lemon and vanilla. Subtle smoke. Slight salted rocks. Alcohol warms over time. Lemon cakes and lemon curd. Brown sugar. Honey. Water adds more honey. Apricot. More noticeable alcohol. Thick American pancakes. More water. Buttered crumpets. Raisins and plums.

Finish: Honey. Crushed rocks. Soot. Lime touch. Maple syrup touch. Brown sugar. Lemon cakes. Vanilla. Water adds American pancakes and malt chocolate. More water – crumpets. Raisins. Red wine.

Conclusion: Very different first impression on this to anything I expected. Gentle, definitely not showing the cask strength level alcohol, but with crushed rocks and smoke. The aroma especially seemed full of those wood and rock notes that made me a tad worried this would be a rough tasting experience. However first sip was very smooth, with light sweet notes and that rocky character a backing solid character as it should be.

Now I know Brora is generally peated, so was expecting a heavier influence from that than what I found here. Instead I get just a smoke wisp, present but gentle wafting though the sweeter main character of lemon cakes and vanilla. It very much shows the sweet Highland home here with honey and brown sugar weight to the spirit. It is well aged though, even neat the 50% abv is smoother than it has any right to be, only becoming noticeable if held on the tongue for a while. In fact it is so well balanced in alcohol weight that I was hesitant to add water to it for a while lest I ruin it.

I was then unsure again just after adding the water. The aroma became even grittier, and the body had a bit more alcohol evident. However with that it did open up to bring brighter fruit notes and an American style pancake feel. So, after a moment of examination I decided, maybe it had just started its journey of change? Maybe a touch more water was needed?

More water did settle the alcohol down again, and have a thick, bready, crumpet and thick pancake kind of feel, all backed by that understated smoke. Here I can wholeheartedly say that it is very good. Highland weight and sweetness, subtle smoke, slight citrus notes and so incredibly smooth for the abv. That is some aged cask strength spirit used well. No fancy unusual barrel ageing used here – it just lets the spirit itself show itself at the best with the oak adding everything it needs.

In fact, here in its final moments I find more sherry barrel like ageing notes coming out – dark fruit and red wine adding yet another layer to this. It really made wish I had a bit more of this so I could explore where it was going – hints of much more dark fruit to come. Unfortunately I cannot afford more, even if I could find it.

So, on that, is it worth the high very cost? Probably not. Probably nothing is worth the cost that super rare whisky like Brora goes for now. However it is very good indeed. Wonderful in fact. If this went for the kind of cost a premium 18 year old whisky would go for from a living distillery, even the high end of that, I would recommend it without hesitation. One of the best Highland whiskies I have had – so smooth, so complex and the smoke wisp just adds that extra touch.

Downsides? The aroma really does not show it at its best. Everything else is so very good. Just, ya know, damn, that steep cost.

Background: Two thousand tasting notes! WOO! I made it with my liver vaguely intact! I had been keeping this one back for a while, knowing that full bottles of Brora – a distillery that has been dead since 1983 – go for insane amounts of money – part rarity, part the 30 year plus age any new releases are now. So, when I found a miniature at The Whisky Exchange at 18 years, and so vaguely within my price range, I grabbed it and held on for the right moment. This seemed just right for a big two thousand celebration. Previously called Clynelish, the distillery was renamed to Brora when the newly referred to Clynelish distillery came online in 1968. As far as I am aware it is a lightly peated whisky. It is worth noting there is talk of reopening Brora – I don’t know how much of the original stills are still intact so have no idea if the new spirit will be similar, or just cashing in on the name. This mini is bottle 33 of 294, and was distilled n 1983 and bottled in 2001 so I consider it very lucky that it was still around to be grabbed. Wanted some beautiful music to go with the big 2K tasting note so went with the Ulver: Shadow Of The Sun album. Still a haunting masterpiece.

Pittyvaich 1989 25 Year

Pittyvaich 1989: 25 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 49.9% ABV)

Visual: Middling intensity grain colour.

Viscosity: A few middling streaks, mainly slow puckering.

Nose: Cereal grain. Alcohol. Vanilla.

Body: Cream, Pineapple chunks and tropical tinned fruit. Alcohol. Honey to dry mead. Water smooths, lightly waxy touch. Light creamy raspberry and fudge.

Finish: White chocolate chunks. Alcohol. Cheerios. Light wood shavings. Tropical tinned fruit. Water brings more tropical fruit, smoother character and a light oily sheen.

Conclusion: I find it odd, people say that first impressions are so important – yet cask strength whisky, highly prized and in demand cask strength whisky – will rarely be at its best when first encountered, before water has been added.

So, yeah, without water this is a bit closed and alcohol filled. Though, despite the alcohol being evident this still feels pretty smooth – especially for one that is nearly 50% abv. I guess I good bit of age can do that – but despite the smoothness there is an alcohol presence that makes it hard to get into. Then again, nearly 50% abv, I can’t say that was unexpected.

Even with the water, the aroma doesn’t say much – a fairly simple and predominantly grain filled kind of thing. So this is two for two on lack of good first impressions.

So, with all that in mind let’s check out the main body onwards with a bit of influence from the miracle worker that is water. Ok, here it becomes very smooth, creamy, slightly but only slightly waxy. All this with just a touch of water. So, for the mouthfeel it is a spot on mix between smoothness and yet still nicely viscous in texture. A lot of aged whisky can become too light, even before water, this still has enough weight to avoid that trap.

Flavour wise the base spirit seems quite neutral as I am getting less from that and more from a master-class on American bourbon oak ageing. Lots of tinned tropical fruit, white chocolate, dried pineapple chunks. All very smooth, fresh and easy drinking – Very enjoyable, however it does show that the base whisky seems to be giving more of a feel than a flavour here.

If I drank this blind, I think it would do well – it is a very tasty, smooth, general drinking whisky. With water it is far unlike its initial strength and almost too easy to sip large amounts of. As an example of the distillery though, especially as an expensive dead distillery, it doesn’t stand out much. The impressive characteristics seem to come from the oak for flavour, and age for smoothness. Now those are very good characteristics – smooth, fresh but grounded by a solid cereal character. Which are available in much cheaper whisky. Which is the problem. Go for those cheaper bourbon show whiskies.

Though I will say, aside from that I am very much enjoying this – the texture is where the whisky shines – smooth enough, creamy enough and just waxy enough. It may not have unusual flavour, but it has the feel.

So, not on the must try list of dead distilleries – but on its merits alone it is pretty good, just not silly money good.

Background: Treating myself time again – This is a from a distillery closed in 1993, which considering it only opened in 1974 is one short lived distillery. Grabbed from The Whisky Exchange – this was the bottle I grabbed when I got all those miniatures I did notes on a short while back. Thought about saving for a special occasion, but I still have one special bottle saved for when I hit 300 whisky notes, so decided to treat myself now. The distillery was mainly used for blends so there were never very many single malt bottlings of it around – this one was distilled in 1989 and bottled 2014 at cask strength. It is one of 5922 bottles (number 827 to be exact).

Signatory Vintage Glen Albyn 1978

Signatory Vintage: Glen Albyn: 1978 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 24 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Hazy with water.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Heather. Vanilla. Very smooth. Light smoke and coal dust. White chunks in tropical fruit tins. Pencil shavings. Water makes more dusty.

Body: Smooth. Oak. Vanilla. Light alcohol if left on tongue. Peppery. Water releases light glacier cherry and tropical fruit. White chocolate and light honey with an alcohol back. More water adds lime and toffee.

Finish: oak. Coal dust breathed in. Peppery. White chocolate. Light sulphur. Orange zest. Water adds tropical fruit tines and soft alcohol tingle. Slightly oily and honey notes.

Conclusion: Hmm, first impressions on this were exceedingly average, if anything can be such a thing. It was the very basic set of highland notes such as heather, obvious vanilla and such like. Very well delivered admittedly, smooth as can be, but since it is 24 years old that should go without saying. I was disappointed – it was slightly peppery and oaken – not bad notes but there was nothing stand out to recommend it for.

Water helps. Though I get the feeling the base spirit is quite neutral as what is brought out is a fine exhibition of the effects of bourbon barrel ageing. There is vanilla, white chocolate, tropical fruits – all very clean and smoothly delivered – with glacier cherries as sweet high notes. The base whisky just seems to add a light oily character to it for grip.

With water it does goes down a tropical fruit treat – however – best I can tell most of that is the clean delivery of the barrel ageing, and at the high cost for a dead distillery I cannot recommend it for that. It just delivers little unique to itself. However, that said, I am very much enjoying the show of the oak for what it is.

A very clean, smooth, whisky that lets the oak run wild. Glad I got to try it, but not worth dead distillery costs.

Background: I’ve been saving this one for a special occasion. Closed since 1983, the bottlings tend to only go up in price, so I grabbed one when I could, I kept it in the cupboard for whenever I wanted something unusual. Anyway, drunk while listening to various of the Warren Ellis compiled Superburst mixtapes, which don’t seem to be online any more, and taking time to kick back and just chill. This is cask 697 and bottle 354 of 365.

Connoisseurs Choice: Littlemill 1991 (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 19 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Slightly banana hued gold.

Viscosity: Medium quite thick streaks.

Nose: Planed wood. Banana skin and vanilla. Toffee. Slight alcohol air. Lime. Grain fields. Cream. Dry roasted peanuts.

Body: Wood. Chestnut honey. Light custard slice influence. Nutmeg. Chestnuts. With water becomes more nutty and even more water brings out malt loaf.

Finish: Honey. Perfume that has been breathed in. Light oak. Roasted nuts. Milk chocolate. Light alcohol burn. The nuts really last. More water adds raisins.

Conclusion: So, another closed distilleries spirit hunted down and sampled. This one is a very light whisky, as is oft expected from the lowlands. What isn’t as expected is the flavour being predominantly dedicated to exploration of rounded nuttiness. It seems like a smooth lowland take on the Strathisla spirits. In fact the nuttiness last impressively on the finish. For such a light whisky it manages to hold the flavour for an age after you have finished sipping.

It is a whisky that works better on larger mouthfuls than smaller, and enjoys just a drop or two of water to get it set right. Taken like that the sweetness and nuttiness seem to have much more room to grow.

Not the most complex whisky, but it does have a few notes of chocolate and lime to round it out. Overall very easy to drink, and while straightforward in style it is very much a whisky that knows what impression it wants to give and delivers it well. In its ideal few drops of water state the flavour just floats through the air of your mouth perfectly.

A dead distillery that will be missed on the basis of this whisky.

Background: Bottled 2010 and aged in refill bourbon casks.  Littlemill is a closed distillery. I had seen this at the Rummer Hotel a while back and kept meaning to give it a try as it’s a new distillery on me. It was a friend’s birthday recently and we decided to enjoy some whisky there; it seemed a perfect time to give it a try. Connoisseurs choice has always been a hit with me for bringing good priced bottles of rare and closed distilleries to the market which gives me a chance to try a lot of distilleries that would otherwise pass me by.

Gordon and Macphail Connoisseurs Choice: Glen Keith 1993 (Speyside Scottish Single Malt Whisky: Closed Distillery: 16 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light banana mixed with grain.

Viscosity: Medium speed but comes down in a sheet more than in streaks.

Nose: Banana, dust and lime. Potpourri, vanilla. Water brings out thistles and hawthorn. Sugared almonds.

Body: Light lime and golden syrup. Sweet and fresh. Water adds toffee front, but more noticeable the floral and lime grows quickly. oak and burnt pastry with light peanuts.

Finish: Light grain and syrup air. Apricot. Water makes more wood evident, and strangely make the alcohol more evident in the air. Light malt drink and spice.

Conclusion: A very light whisky with a sour touch.  Initially seemed odd in that the alcohol  on the finish seemed to increase with water, which was somewhat counter intuitive.  After a bit of research into distillery it became clearer.  Glen Keith was one of the few Scottish triple distilled whiskys, which I would guess provided that distinctive feel and the oddity of the end.

As you can guess from that digression this was my introduction to this distillery and it didn’t really put itself on my must have list. The middle is sharp and the end malty, but it doesn’t get you excited.

The flavours are hidden by the sharp and lemon influence and that doesn’t let it roam.

Ah well.

Thanks To Dylan Ransom for his assistance with this tasting note

Gordon and Macphail: Rosebank 1991 Connoisseurs Choice (Lowland Single Malt Scottish Whisky: Closed Distillery: Bottled 2009 (18yrs?): 43% ABV)

Visual: Light but striking pale yellow like shimmering morning dew.

Viscosity: Torpid slow thick trails.

Nose: Grassy, slight mintyness. Aniseed. Quite light.

Body: The flavours shift like quicksilver over the tongue. Pot pourri when breathed over your tastebuds. Light lime and floral character. Water makes it sit lighter and somewhat thin. Sweetness and grain comes through.

Finish: Toasted buns (hot cross buns?). Charcoal, grain. Slight alcohol punch. liquorice again? Sourness and honeycomb.

Conclusion: A bit too light and thin for my tastes. Quite simple for its age and water thins further without removing the few ill tasting elements.

It’s my first encounter with Rosebank and in has not impressed so far. It seems to wish to hide away and yet leaves a dissatisfying snails trail of ill flavour.

Not one I can recommend.

Gordon and Macphail: Caperdonich 1994 Connoisseurs Choice (Speyside Single Malt Scottish Whisky: Closed Distillery: Bottled 2009 (15yrs?): 46% ABV)

Visual: Thin coloured pail grain. Very light and colourless.

Viscosity: Fast forming thin and quick streaks.

Nose: Quite a heavy musky experience with planed wood and fine dust balancing it out. Vanilla and cream, the flavours are light but the effect is punchier than you would expect.

Body: Vanilla pods comes through strong. Slight sourness. Sweet – mixed jam and whipped cream. Doughnuts. Water adds more citrus and some toffee syrup.

Finish: Dancing sharp and bitter. Rock dust and oak wood. Sweet. Very mixed in the flavours simmering underneath. Icing sugar and burnt wood. A dry end. It does not change much with water.

Conclusion: A very mixed whisky. What seems at first to be a standard sweet floral whisky gets unexpected elements rippling through its finish to make you question what you have just experienced.

It does not rate at the high end of the spectrum but the solid main character and the oddities that come through holds the attention throughout the length of the dram.

The main vanilla notes are very pleasing and well done and I can’t complain, in part it suffers due to the high quality set by the CC range that it does not quite live up to.

But as I say, I cannot complain.

North Port Brechin Connoisseurs Choice 1982 (Scottish Whisky: Highland Single Malt (Closed Distillery): Bottled 2008 (26yo): 43% ABV)

Visual: Light Gold

Viscosity: Fast forming, many and thick.

Nose: Dry honeycomb and smoke. Wood shavings, light salt. Victorian house feel mixed with a fresh walk through the woods.

Body: Sweet, toffee and smoke. Sherried fruit – raspberries. Light sugar and icing. More toffee comes out with the water. Very appealing, just a hint of salt.

Finish: Vanilla, burnt wood. Slight harsh edge but quite light. Perfumed feel and brown sugar

Conclusion: This is a brilliant complex whisky. Fantastic toffee notes and a salt edge. Great both neat and with just a few drops of water. The water doesn’t change the character much apart from bringing out a little more obvious toffee elements.

All in all a fantastic dessert style whisky. I very much approve, and lament the closure of its home distillery.

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