Old & Rare 2020: Final Call

Getting to the very end of my Old & Rare hoard, this should be a high-calibre tasting. What a lovely way to burn.


North Port 1974 30yo Private Bottling Bourbon Cask abv unknown

What do I know of Coleburn? Having previously tried only two expressions, virtually nothing, except that it can be good [WLP92 & WLP90]. WF‘s general distillery profile reads: ‘Bitter Pepper Grassy Oil Lemon Tea Apples Sweets Rum‘.

  • N: Not many bubbles appear after the ‘shake test’, so perhaps the abv is around the mid 40s? It smells like a straight-ahead bourbon cask-matured whisky with few signs of 30 cask-ageing years.
  • T: Savoury-sour grassy > lemon-y = bourbon-y arrival, stretching out towards a savoury barley-dry > peppery > chalkiness with a slight dampness. Very tasty [4th/5th?] refill-matured malt.
  • F: Remains spirit-driven with well stewed black tea and forgiving vanilla dry cask influences to the last.
  • C: Doesn’t do a great deal but it’s a whisky one could chug bottles of. I get the [WF] rum likeness too, [for me] coming from all that grassiness.

Scores 87 points


Let’s have another, thereby doubling the number of North Port’s I’ve ever tried.

North Port 1964/1979 15yo Cadenhead Dumpy bottle 80 proof/45.7% [750ml] WB90.83[14] WF93 & 93[nn] WM93[3] tOMoH9/10[nn]

  • N: This bottling is rather legendary, so the £25/1cl price tag was expected and initial sniffs confirm this purchasing decision was a favourable one. This small sample is prone to oxidization so needs regular re-covering to revive the aromas. With all those years in glass, this has gone down the tincture-y herbal vinegary [in a good way] spirits convergence route. As an old boy, it’s not far away from a bold old blend, but the colours and layers which develop and move and swirl are extraordinary. Soon, a musty museum sweetness pervades the nostrils. Enough already!
  • T: This is a whisky style that I find almost impossible, and perhaps even futile, in describing at length [oh how I’ve changed!]. The strength is formidable, the whisky fully intact [given the passing years], and the form is sustained throughout – even growing into the finish. It even takes water, becoming significantly more oily in the process. Without doubt, bourbon-matured, earthy, fusty then waxy.
  • F: More [bitter] herbal action, and a freshness. There’s no talk here of spirit or cask. It’s beautifully poised and consolidated juice without even a suggestion of being muddled.
  • C: Another whisky you could equally ponder over all night, or simply chug – if you had the means. Without getting too carried away, this is great whisky.

Scores 92 points


Coleburn 1983/2010 26yo [CWC] Exclusive Malts cask #1463 [209 bts] 48.6% WB86.10[31] WF91 WM85[1]

  • N: Another robust one with a complex squidgy spongy density that the 26yo Coleburn couldn’t provide. From fruit sugars to seaside salts, paints, inks and oils, this one sings beautifully for a 26yo. Who doesn’t adore aged malts that have become sweaty-sweet and with those subtle old dusty layers that conjure memories of yesteryear?
  • T: A bitter-sweet sweaty lemony old Speysider, the style of which I never [have enough of to] tire of. Thinner than I’d hoped, but the carry is true, containing all manner of descriptors and chemical reactions that few whiskies are ever allowed to develop.
  • F: This one won’t be stopping short. Like the last North Port, the finish is fully sustained and reflects all that has gone before. 
  • C: It’s hard to imagine any whisky fan not at least appreciating this whisky or its immutable style.

Easily scores 91 points


St Magdalene 1970/1995 23yo Ob. Rare Malt Selection 58.43% WB93[46]

tOMoH[9/10] gives us some insight: ‘Possibly the first St Magdalene made available to the general public, bottled before the Rare Malts even existed (released in 1995, this would was obviously bottled the year before, at the latest)’. Of the small number of St Magdalene’s I’ve had, they’ve mostly all been great. Let’s see about this one.

  • N: Sweet peppery vinegary ginger to start, more bourbon-y honeyed and dunnage-y later with a gamut of fusty dried fruity layers. The abv certainly jumps out and no one need worry that their bottle[s] won’t stay intact [with proper storage] for further decades to come.
  • T: Strong yet congenial, this one has the mouthfeel and [Rare Malts] oily coating I’d hoped the Coleburn might have provided. With more lemony action, this whisky is more fusty and chalky~sandy than the North Port’s or Coleburn. Water doesn’t really touch it, and regrettably, I don’t have this malt in quantity to experiment.
  • F: Dusty/dry earthy on the tongue, the power sustaining the barley-driven oily fruitiness.
  • C: Perhaps the strong alcohol promotes and inhibits in equal measure? Either way, a cracking presentation. Let’s give it the same score as the last. After all, all three whiskies were similar in profile and calibre.

Scores 91 points


Where next? Somewhere completely different, that’s where.

Trois Rivieres 1953 Ob. Vieux Rhum de Plantation de la Martinique 45%

“,… truly legendary spirit,… the finest drinks known to mankind” TWE

  • N: Rum and whisky-like, and the convergence of other spirits also. We move from a hint of OBE towards herbal tobacco notes, caramel, coppery kettle-like fruits, boozy dense syrup-ed fruits, bergamot-laced cream, sugar barley/rice paper,.. but it’s also some bright wood [finishing?] that has a firm say over the character profile.
  • T: Somewhat watery with noticeable yet not too overwhelming OBE. Broad and a touch sharp turning to caramel coffee and then, eventually, more towards grassy teas with a bitter herbal thread. 
  • F: Aromatic peppercorns, oak and a coppery caramel whisky-ish finish. At the death, an incredible dry-as-a-bone waxy grassy sugar-cane conclusion that rolls and rolls.
  • C: Perhaps not the best on the palate [every bottle will differ], but the nose and outstanding finish certainly live up to this one’s hype and reputation.

Scores 90 points


It’s hard to stop when the going’s good. Let’s have one more.

Imperial 1976/1989 12yo SMWS 65.1 66.2% [750ml] WB91[2]

  • N: A very alluring nose that talks of a focused and rich abv-driven aged distillate that offers up herbal citrus chilli > honey towards dunnage coffee caramel, fusty rum n raisin fudge, Grandma’s pantry, old flaking [white] emulsion & oil paints,….. Despite how alluring the nose may be, you can tell there’s a formidable experience to come for the palate. After all, this is an SMWS bottling at 66.2%.
  • T: Oh wow, it’s just fine neat. Perhaps it was tamed as a sample in its small capsule? Of course, there is a formidable power to this, but boy does it perform at this strength. In fact, it appears better/less intense, neat. Then, more dunnage-y/straw > coffee caramel, dry malty blackberries, black tea,….
  • F: If you’ve any palate left un-stripped, there’s a lingering hum and want for another round, and another.
  • C: Yet more gratitude for all the independent bottlers for continually bringing us these marvels to our attention. Incomparable to the Trois Riverieres, but same scores for all the different reasons.

Scores 91 points


What a session! Let’s leave it there.





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