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Whisky Reviews

Three Old School Scotch: Glenlivet 20 Year Old Baretto Import (45.7% ABV), Glenlivet 1972 Vintage Malt Whisky Co. 29 Year Old (43%), Ardbeg 1973 36 Year Old Douglas Laing Old & Rare Platinum (44.7%)



I caught up with an old friend who is also into whisky, and brought him some samples from The Malt Affair, a whisky fest he missed out on. We did a flight of some crazy old stuff: a Baretto Import late 60s 20yo bottling that places the distillate around 1948(!), a 1972 Glenlivet 29yo sherry cask by Vintage Malt Whisky Co. and the highlight, a 1973 Ardbeg 36yo bottled by Douglas Laing. Let's just launch into the notes. Don't have any photos of my own as they were in sample bottles, plus I forgot to take photos at the fest of bottles I took samples away from, so we'll have to rely on Whiskybase photos.

We also did a couple more modern single casks, including a virgin oak Benrinnes IB and a Miltonduff bottled by the legendary Kingsbury for Shinanoya. Reviews for those coming up.

Glenlivet 20yo Baretto Import (45.7% ABV)

Nose: Cotton, unripe pears, ethanol initially that needs a lot of time to let up, starfruit, honeydew, champagne. Brown sugar, thyme and gherkins start appearing with more air.

Palate: Incredibly viscous for the proof but with zero burn. Underripe watermelon, mandarin oranges, avocado, and then takes a green herbal turn with camphor, parsley and cucumber.

Finish: Gauze, watermelon rind, anise, apple skins, a pop of mango chutney after I add water. It fades quickly with only a lingering wisp of the anise and gauze, mostly.

It is a bit more dry and herbal than would be a daily sipper. The flavours prove an unusual combination I've never seen reflected in any modern whisky, but the definition of the flavours is not really that amazing unfortunately. It was definitely not wanting for water and air with how long we sat on this dram, but the mango chutney still did not linger as long as I'd have liked. What would have blown my mind was if there was chrysanthemum or honeysuckle like I found in SV's 1974 Balvenie. On a balance I'd rate it 88.

Glenlivet 1972 Vintage Malt Whisky Co. 29yo (43%)

Nose: Wow! Chocolate coated oranges, salted toffee, espresso crema, a bit of underlying earthy sweet-savouriness like black garlic paste.

Palate: Perfect alcohol integration and even more viscous than the 1948. Modern Glenlivet 18 OB has nothing on this for texture and integration. Candied oranges, treacle, creme brulee, hazelnut cream, but underlaid with dark roasty herbs and roots like burnt rosemary, liquorice, Fernet Branca.

Finish: Long. Nutmeg, cloves, sage brown butter, monkfruit, walnut, balsamic but more of the sweet than the acidic side of it.

Somehow the mental image I had of this between the sweet-savoury orange and meat combination made me think of duck a l'orange. Even at 43%, whisky so rich I thought it'd give me gout. I especially adored the way it went down my throat with the dark roasty bitterness to offset the syrup and caramel. This is a 92. I felt like the treacle notes were a bit too overpowering on the accord. Though at least it tapered off, I wished the sweet-savoury notes took on more prominence right from the start.

Ardbeg 1973 36yo DL Old & Rare Platinum (44.7%)

Nose: Fresh oysters, fermented blueberries, fresh dates, smoked grapefruits, light camembert funk. A clean saline smoke devoid of porky phenols. Utterly crystalline definition and balance.

Palate: Viscous with perfect integration, maritime with exquisite depth and, again, clarity. Large and super fresh Hyogo oysters, flounder (had it in sashimi recently), dried whitebait, but offset by this unctuous mead.

Finish: Long but lower ABV shows here. Fancy Kampot white pepper (floral undertones, sharp earthy heat, slightly sweet aftertaste), pink peppercorns, elderflower syrup, white peaches, almond frangipane, all laced with clean-burning ash wood.

I'm someone who can appreciate Islay but doesn't viscerally love it enough to seek it out, so I entered this with an open mind. This is without doubt the best Islay - indeed, peated whisky - I ever had. The Silver Seal 1983 28yo Caol Ila is a quite distant second (never reviewed it but would score around 89).

I have to rate this a 95. To put it in perspective, this Ardbeg was scored 93 on Whiskybase, 95 by Serge and 95 by Ruben.

I love the willingness to partake in honeyed fruitiness as a counterpoint to fresh seafood and maritime notes. It is unfortunate that cask strength comes in at 44.7%. I think the integration and balance is good enough that I wonder what it would taste like at 48%. At this age, the smoke and peat has drawn back, letting those peaches, mead and fermented blueberries shine through. This cask had an outturn of only 78 bottles so I'm all the more grateful to have acquired a dram of this.

We had a half-finished bottle of Ardbeg 10 to compare it to. The 10yo is more vanilla cream forward, with flavours of herbed sausage (especially fennel, rosemary and bay leaves) in contrast.