Oh, man. What a spectacular surprise. This Rare Malts Glen Albyn was tasted as part of a spectacular range of expressions from closed distilleries and, I can’t lie, it wasn’t even remotely on my radar as one of the ones to look out for. It ended up being one of my favorites of the night.
Glen Albyn has become as scarce as sober uncles at backwoods barbecues these days. This is largely due to the fact that the distillery never really enjoyed much in the way of prestige and, in fact, there have only ever been a couple of official bottlings released. When you then consider the distillery was made redundant in 1983 as part of Diageo’s clean-up and downsizing, well…it’s not to hard to see why we’ve only had our hands on a few releases.
And if I’m being honest? This is the only one that has wowed me.
54.8% abv. Distilled in 1975, bottled in 2002. 6,000 bottles.
Sincere thanks to my mate Brett Tanaka for the opportunity to taste this. The range of bottles he’s been opening for what we’ll call ‘The Brett Sessions’ are simply beyond comprehension. And I am beyond humbled to be able to partake. I’ll be reviewing dozens of them in the coming weeks/months.
Nose: Smoke and char. Awww, hell yeah. This is right in my wheelhouse. Tangy fruit. Some great lime notes. Ammonia. Mocha. Savoury BBQ notes. Jolly Ranchers. More chocolate. Coal smoke. Some sort of insect repellent. A hint of Old Spice (yup…that Old Spice). Hardwood glue. Burnt plastic. Indian rubber ball. Mineral notes. Grilled tomato. Almost a grilled cheese (or cheese toastie) sort of funk. Brilliantly integrated, despite the disparate list of aromas.
Palate: Kerosene and burning leaves. Pepper. Bitter chocolate. Really fuel-ish, in such a profoundly cool way. An absolutely ancient style of malt. Melon rind. grapefruit and tangerine.
Finish: Kinda drying, actually. And bitters out a but in the end (grapefruit-like). All pleasant. And very long.
Thoughts: Splendid. Keen. Neato. Love it.
Glen Albyn 1981 Cask #50 (Signatory)
Review from a sample provided by a good mate of mine, Andrew Ferguson of Kensington Wine Market, a long time back.
Ok…let’s do another Glen Albyn. This time one that was distilled just two years prior to the distillery’s 1983 closure and bottled in 2010, making this a 29 year old single malt.
This Glen Albyn managed to hold onto a rather respectable 57.5% abv even after nearly three decades in wood. How we do adore the strong older whiskies. If you really want to suss out a malt’s make-up, the best way to do so is to have the whisky in a healthy state with a high alcohol content. Alcohol, after all, is the medium for capturing the flavours and aromas we’re so keen to get our hands (and taste buds) on.
The outturn from this particular hogshead was 262 bottles. Again…not bad for a dram of this age. And while this one isn’t an immediate charmer, it still has enough going on to make it interesting.
Nose: Fresh-cracked black pepper. Dry hay and cereal notes. Herbal with some green tea. Grass (not freshly mown, but that which is cut and has had a day or two of moisture and sun). Slight coastal wet rock and fishiness (odd). I expected a lot more fruit here. There’s a little, but more a melange than any actual concentration of individual fruit notes.
Palate: Pepper. Farmy and barn-ish. Here’s the farminess hinted at in the hay on the nose. Fiery as hell. Peach tea (is this all the fruit we’re gonna get here?). Barley is singing loud and clear. Decent. Nothing special.
Thoughts: Always a treat to go back through the ages a bit, but a fine example of how those old and collectable malts are not always collectable for the right reasons.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
Glen Albyn 1976 (Gordon & MacPhail)
Let’s go back to the ‘closed distillery’ theme for this one. Here’s another former DCL (Diageo) distillery that fell victim to the financial crunch of the early ’80s and shuttered in 1983. This time we’re looking at a Highland distillery (Inverness, in fact) that was known more for its contributions to Mackinlay’s blended whisky than for it’s own name: Glen Albyn.
Fortunately for those of us who like delving into history a little bit, there are still a few surviving casks from some of these closed distilleries. These barrels lie primarily in the hands of independent bottling firms (and possibly blenders). And while they may not always be an accurate representation of the distillery’s true profile, that’s more than ok by me. Tasting drams like these is like sinking deep into a bit of Scottish history and whisky lore. And let’s face it…there’s always something almost inexplicably hair-tingling about sipping a drink that was made before you were even born.
This 36 y.o. from Glen Albyn was decanted from a few refill sherry butts. And none too active of butts, at that. The sherry influence is incredibly soft.
Finally…I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to harp on it here…I will never understand the rationale of bottling any malt this old at anything less than cask strength. Amazing what the motivation of the mighty dollar (or pound) can do. The folks at Gordon & MacPhail, while some of the nicest people around, are particularly guilty of this, and the sad fact of the matter is that they have warehouses teeming with brilliant old barrels. Hopefully we see a few more of them served up au natural in the future.
Nose: Cinnamon. Milk and white chocolates. Ju-jubes. Fruit cocktail in sugar syrup. Lemon muffin. A little bit of tartness. Light clean florals. Some dental cement and a touch of polish. Banana cream pie. Something here that reminds of a very old rum.
Palate: Again…that fruit cocktail, syrupy soft sweetness. Chocolate again. Oranges and orange zest. White cake dessert notes with smoke and wine. Almond and other toasted nuts. A little over-oaked, to be honest.
Thoughts: 36 years old, and should have been pulled sooner. Having said that…as I mentioned above, these must have been quite dead sherry butts, as I’d almost guess this came from ex-bourbon barrels, as opposed to sherry. If you can pull small sips across the tongue and try to wrap your head around the heavy oak…this is close to a winner.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt