Monday, October 30, 2017

Old and Rare Night With Angus MacRaild

The full line-up!
Our annual Old and Rare night is always one of the highlights of the Manchester Whisky Club year, and this time we had a record attendance of members old and new, plus some guests, as Edinburgh-based whisky expert Angus MacRaild took us through some bottles from his own personal stash.

G&M Edradour 10yo from 1982
In fact, it was the biggest turnout at a Whisky Club meeting ever, and the top room at the Britons Protection was packed as Angus got the evening underway with the first of six drams.

And it was an Edradour, distilled in 1972 and bottled by Gordon and MacPhail a decade later at 40%, as part of its long-running Connoisseur's Choice range. As Angus explained, Edradour has had a bit of a mixed reputation over the years, but some of the older bottlings are worth exploring.

Bruichladdich 15yo from 1990
He recommended this particular one as an example of an old-style Scotch whisky, of the sort that might have been commonplace in your local newsagent once upon a time. This was nice although at the same time, a bit cardboardy. But it certainly got the evening off to a solid start.

Next we went to Islay and Bruichladdich, a club favourite in general, but on this occasion we were trying a dram from long before its recent resurgence. It was a 15yo, distilled in the mid-70s and bottled around 1990.

This was really very pleasant indeed. Beautiful and light, with a soft fruitiness about it. "Starchy!" as someone suggested. Bruichladdich don't make them quite like this anymore.

G&M Scapa 8yo from early 1980s
We were back to Gordon and MacPhail for the third dram, and this time the whisky was from Orkney's Scapa distillery, in the form of an 8yo bottled in the early 1980s.

At 57% this packed quite a punch at first, but that soon gave way to something sweet and sherried, "like candyfloss inside" as someone commented. It was a spicy one too, quite unusual with lots of character. It also changed quite a bit with a few drops of water. Arguably a bit more interesting than some of the more modern expressions to have emerged from Scapa.

Pure Malt Gold 106, mid 1980s
After a half-time break and a refill of our pint glasses at the Britons bar, we tried the fourth whisky of the night and the third and last of the G&M bottlings. This was a Pure Malt Gold 106, bottled in the mid-1980s.

A 10yo expression, the actual distillery or distilleries involved remain something of a mystery. Although the sherred, Speyside-style put plenty of drinkers in mind of a slightly more subtle version of Christmas favourite Glenfarclas 105. It's 60.5%, which Angus suggested gave it a "big, hot and healthy" character. People really liked this one.

SMWS North Port 16yo from 1996
Angus brought the evening to a close with two old bottlings from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. And the first was a real rarity for the club, our first ever taste of North Port - and indeed, even the club's most experienced whisky fans had never had anything from this distillery before. Situated in Brechin, north of Dundee close to the Angus coast, it was mothballed in 1983 and later demolished, and these days you can't easily get a bottle for much below £350, witih almost no new bottlings these days.

This particular expression was a 16yo, bottled in 1996 at 57.3%. And it got the thumbs up, with comments including "nicely spicy" and "waxy character". There was a lot going on on the nose, too, although this divided opinion a little more.

SMWS Longrow 14yo 2004
We finished off with a more recent SMWS bottling of a Longrow from the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, dating from 2004.

It was a 14yo at 57.8%, and was a peaty one, but "not in an Islay way, more in a smouldering beach smoke way". That subtle smokiness gave it a take on peaty whisky which was a new one for some of us, and very welcome it was too!

And this last whisky came pretty close in the dram of the night voting, but it was just edged out by number four, the Macphail's Pure Malt Gold 106. Given that particular whisky's sherry character, and the number of sherry monsters inhabiting the club, perhaps the outcome was no surprise really!

Thanks must go to Angus for travelling down from Edinburgh for the tasting and bringing not only six great bottles from his collection, but also giving us the benefit of his great whisky knowledge. And also thanks to faces old and new who made this maybe our most memorable tasting yet.

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