Typically opened at different times during the last year and often drunk independently from each other, the bottles here are ordered for maximum reporting affect. Warning – conciseness level: low.
Catto Rare Old Scottish Highland Whisky [1970s] Ob. 75 proof [75cl] WB85.67
This bottle isn’t in great shape. The level is very low, the cork is saturated and there’s some kind of dry rot/scum around it and all under the significantly heavy lead seal. For £10 however, I deemed it worth the punt. The label states the abv and bottle size in three different formats. So, 26 2/3 fluid ounces=75cl=4/5th quart. As for the alcohol strength: 75 British proof=86 American proof=43 Gay Lussac. Lussac was the French chemist & physicist who [along with Alexander Von Humboldt], made the discovery that water is made up of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen! His studies of alcohol-water mixtures led to the creation of degrees Gay-Lussac, used in certain countries to measure strength of alcoholic drinks.
The back label also credits the distilleries involved in this blend to be: Knockando, [what looks like] Strathmill and Glen Spey.
- N: Initially nothing but a hazy boozy smell like an unfinished dram that has been left overnight. Really, nada. To the colour then: Darkish old gold with shades of orange-y browny-green.
- T: Oh dear – nothing terrible, simply err,.. nothing. Eventually there are faint signs of life with some semblance of a mouthfeel wrapped around mild caramel & marshmallow candy, some grassy/heathery oat biscuit notes, sugar icing, liquorice=aniseed and dry sprouted barleycorns picked off the maltings floor. That’s pretty much it. A little peppery on the turn.
- F: Nada but the remnants of light barley and the ghost of heathery peat.
- C: This one simply died inside, but with signs that this may have been a fine blend in its day. Too bad.
- N: Sweet n sour, cloudy & yeasty blonde beer>cider with a farmy sheep wool side, lime soda, slightly damp dark wood furniture, Panellus mushrooms [see pic below], mouldy raisins, sweetened linseed oil, something floral/green, earthy/buttery, yeasty porridge oats & popcorn, used cotton towels, wooden school floors, old music manuscripts, one well washed cockle=oyster, a dry dawn,… wah! Subtly unique malt-forward blend, candidly presented as the recipe required – so without any current/modern hyperactive funny business.
- T: Clean savoury-sweet & sour malty barley with a measured waxy citrus saltiness. Quite some [Clynelish-esque] chew on a mild cocoa powder maltiness with another fungal hint and a small yet unwavering cut of liquorice stick emerging latterly. A few days after opening, the palate reaffirms the savoury-sweet barley/sour-spirity milky<cream, now with a weeny extraction of perfumed shampoo/hairspray. The last few drams talk more of milky cocoa powder with no hairspray but a touch of something more metallic [very very mild]. Given even more time to open out [and a little water], this beholds a fine velvety/grassy/powdery mouthfeel.
- F: Turns towards soft grassy<buttery=powdery cocoa with hints of lime sponge, orange/ginger<chocolate icecream, peppered honeycomb, sugar icing and fine sprinklings of soot. Develops on tasty dry nutty oak [15yo Glen Scotia cask styley], towards a savoury>sour-clean, mild witch hazel/saline finish with occasional wafts of a [seaside] smoke house. Days later I pick out wild blackberries placed on a dry cream sponge, but this isn’t consistent. Finishes on sweet-savoury witch hazel with more sooty embers and sweet=savoury lemon pith.
- C: Place in the high-end hip flask category at the very least. Worth grabbing one now before the malt content,.. changes. Easily scores 87 with that impeccable form, more impeccable than Deanston’s highly decent 12yo which shares similarities.
Scores 87 points
Panellus stipticus, commonly known as the bitter oyster. This specimen appeared bi-annually for a number of years, just up the road from my house.
This bottle came & went but did anyone reveal it’s secret? Series ‘E’ highlights ‘lost’ casks from distilleries, not casks from lost distilleries. Apparently there are clues to the distilleries involved in this Trojan release on the label. The back label reads ’Exile – on a quest to unearth the uncommon. One competitor’s liquid in a competitor’s cask. No one quite knows how that happened but hidden in the dark wooden walls’. Is this our first clue? Maybe it’s only a reference to a cask, any cask – or perhaps Glenfarclas’s tasting room? Named ‘The Ship’s Room’, their tasting room famously has wood panelled walls, fitting with the Trojan theme. Unsure I’ve hit the mark at all I continue to investigate further. I’ve also read there are other clues on both front and back label.
A code on the front label reads GGF031 [another nudge for Glenfarclas then], whilst the code on the back reads GGR081 – Glen Grant perhaps? The spirit does have that white fluffy bloomer quality at its core [a character that Glen Grant often presents so adeptly], whilst the [Glenfarclas] sherry cask gets to work in creating deeper dusty umami complexities. So Watson, I put it to you that here we have Glen Grant’s spirit ‘hidden’ inside the wooden walls of a cask from Glenfarclas. Surely then, the next question is ‘How did a Glenfarclas cask make it’s way over to Glen Grant. Given they are neighbours, maybe this is no biggie. [Edit: Maybe it was an old teaspoon-ing cask?]
- N: Wowee. I’m instantly engaged & transported by the squidgy-sweet pungent malty umami, sweet fungal, oily sweet-herbal flaxseed & spelt sponge with a strawberry>>gooseberry jam centre and fusty/yeasty onion-y/swede<banana bread. It’s grape-y/malty sweet – think bourbon=Scotch with a drop of Cognac. The generous full strength presentation allows the aromas to shine and yet it’s never overpowering.
- A week later: Sugar barley sweet, creamy [liquidised sweetened roasted onion]-vegetal-oaky sugars with a dusty, sweet fungal umami halo, ha! Golden syrup notes keep flooding in over delicious woody rice-paper savoury<sweet nutty/fusty confectionary ice-creams [rum n raisin in particular]. Cherry too – yep. Dreamy stuff and I haven’t even tasted it yet.
- T: Incredibly soft & squidgy dry [neat], though a little water is recommended. There’s a joyous umami-esque, bitter/sweet bite straight off, leading swiftly to molasses/syrup and confectionary caramel-sweet roasted chestnuts<toasted malty peanut<nougat. And there are old [Triac] Cognac references, that Bakewell tart cherry note from the nose translating on the palate, a dead giveaway. So far sweet but now turning a little sour-bitter now as the wood kicks in. There’s plenty of travel in this old timer.
- F: Whatever the spirit/cask recipe/combination is, when you meet its kind you know instantly it’s a winner. Dusty, leathery=brown paper-y raisins endure after plenty of grades of cocoa powdered milk chocolate confectionary and a squidgy-soft floury-oaky bitter-sweetness. I get lots of fresh bourbon traits at the core which may well suggest a young cask/s was/were used to help rejuvenate this old timer. There’s a lengthy swan song that includes a grape-y=sappy<bourbon dryness alongside notes of green string candy, strawberry tutti-fruity and enduring sweet liquorice. The dusty old dried oak settles in at the death alongside mildly toasted malted barley grasses &>chalk with additional notes that include lardy cake and fish n chip paper. Lovely stuff though there’s no getting away from the rancid fungal oil note that coagulates latterly, albeit mingled with subtle dry fruity colour tones [tinctures/liqueurs etc], and a malty leathery coating.
- C: A yummy Trojan combo well discovered & presented, one I’d happily to drink and drink on a regular basis. Once I’d identified the sappy bourbon [finishing cask?] action however, the game was up a little. It must be tricky deciding & committing to a particular rejuvenation cask program for unique/one-off casks.
Scores 88 points, though at times it was easily higher
Part 2 HERE