Time to make a dent in these samples I procured at the Old & Rare Show 2020. My hoard includes whiskies and ryes from as far back as 1885 to single malt whisky bottled last year and everything in between.
Here we go! Five at a time me thinks. First up, one from the whisky.auction stand.
Renowned for its high single malt content [currently 45%], J&W Hardie’s ‘The Antiquary’ was registered in 1888. In 1911, the brand was sold to J&G Stewart who themselves were owned by DCL. In 1948, DCL acquired J&W Hardie who at the time was the licensee of Benromach distillery. So this bottle could well have plenty of mid-century Benromach inside. J&W Hardie and its brand were bought by Tomatin in the 1990s.
- N: Classic smell of old blend, a generalised non-specific observation, but one I think I might be mentioning a fair bit. Particulars that surfaced was a grapey oily fruity pong.
- T: Very pleasant sugary sweet and fizzy.
- F: A fairly sustained sugary to > sour finish.
- C: Simple yet pleasing, no dramatics.
Scores 79 points
Another from the whisky.auction stand.
Grand Old Parr [1950s spring cap] Ob. Real Antique and Rare Old 40% [75cl] [WB]84
I’ve a soft spot for Grand Old Parr after spending some quality one on one time with a bottle when I lived in a beach hut in Mexico in 2014.
- N: Perhaps it’s my un-coded blind-spots [WLP] that prevent me from smelling anything at all. Perhaps it is also the bottle. Eventually, I start to pick up slightly toasted nutty almond pastries. The Foz picks up tinned apricots.
- T: Similar to the sweet Antiquary with slightly less fizz.
- F: Becomes more caramel-y.
- C: This just about scrapes into the 80s score bracket but there should be better examples. Even some contemporary 12yos are worth a punt if you find yourself in South America on a budget, especially if you can find an earlier version collecting dust in a corner shop.
Scores 80 points
To exhibitor’s table #1, Skinner!
Malcolm Fraser 12yo [1940s] Ob. 80 proof
- N: Dusty wax capacitors and hints of metallic sour cream – so another old OBE’d blend – but this one comes across as a blend with a high malt content and/or maybe even some decently aged grain that easily exceeds the statement.
- T: With a leathery arrival, this is a wonderfully relaxed Scotch with good weight and volume and a sustained malty chew.
- F: There’s more chewy action on toasted sweet barley with a fruity touch. Hints of coffee and peat with caramel at the tail.
- C: Very enjoyable O&R blended whisky.
Scores 86 points
Another from the whisky.auction stand. Reports about this blend are favourable.
Gloag’s Perth Whisky [1950’s] Ob. Rare Old Liqueur 83 proof 26 2/3 fl oz WB88.75
When I think Perth, early coding makes me think of Australia. Perth in Scotland is where the Gloag’s family resided, four generations of blenders who brought us Famous Grouse. Further reading: SW
- N: Somewhat ‘classic’ in style, we’ve plenty of descriptor info from this fresh sherry-matured > OBE’d blend, bordering a single malt profile with a toffee-d salty sherried pong.
- T: A potent start which then softens a touch. Try holding it on your tongue though. I particularly like its modestly astringent peppery fiery character.
- F: Fusty sherry and brown paper finish – like you’re chewing on a brown paper envelope. An ideal breakfast dram perhaps for when you’re going through your mail?
- C: Likely a freshly-opened uber-intact old bottle, this gentle giant isn’t for the shy and retiring.
Scores 86 points
It becomes apparent that we’ve not mentioned the ‘c’ word just yet – cask! Let’s hope I haven’t encouraged the ‘commentators curse’.
Berry Bros. & Co. Very Old Liqueur Scotch Whisky [Circa 1900] no other info
Hugh Rudd joined Berry Bros. in 1920. This [pre-Rudd Berry Bros.] Scotch was acquired by the Thompson Brothers from a house clearance sale in Cornwall. A long drive for them.
- N: A soft-plain astringency speaks of a contemporary Linkwood-esque style. With just a wisp of smoke, descriptors include cooking oils, olive oil, rapeseed oil [with suggestions of deep-fried popadoms] and > linseed oil, but our collective focus favoured a painter’s studio. A tad fragile on the nose, it decays somewhat in the glass.
- T: The arrival is a light delight with the most delicate sweetness that is close to an oat milk-sweetness. The painter’s studio reference remains strong, and in particular, the artist’s palette.
- F: A sustained barley/grain-faithful finish comes with a further suggestion of peat and more of that milky [Oatly Original] oat milk-sweet finish.
- C: Plenty to talk over. Would I have guessed circa 1900? Nowhere near.
Scores 86 points
It’s unusual to have tasted three very different 86 point-scoring whiskies in a row. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t expecting more but gratefully blessed not to be receiving less. And, there’s more to come, plenty more.