Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Tasting Notes: 1977 Glen Albyn (Signatory Yellow Label, 21 Years, 43% ABV)

    Welcome again malt mates, to the interesting and odd side of the whisky compass.  I have been wandering through my old tasting books and this next set of tasting notes I happened across, comes from a very odd distillery.

     Glen Albyn was built in 1846, as a brewery/distillery in Inverness beside the Caledonian Canal.  Early on in its life it ran into much difficulty, and by 1855 it had been closed and the remaining buildings were being used to mill grains.  In 1884, the distillery was rebuilt on the site and was attached to the Highland railway system.  Silent again through 1917-19 for use as a US Navy mine factory, the distillery was reopened in 1920 under John Birnie (of Glen Mhor fame).  By 1972 it was acquired by Distillers Company Limited (ie: Diageo), and was hit hard by the 1980's slump in whisky sales, it was shuttered in 1983 along with many other fabled distilleries.  By 1988 the buildings had been demolished and turned into a supermarket, such a sad end to one of the distilleries who pioneered the use of the Saladin box malting method.  Very few bottles are found with the Glen Albyn name on them, typically only available from independent bottlers, the casks seem to have been so few and far between that it's a great rarity.

    There are very few entries in my notes for Glen Albyn, but some do stand out as being fantastic examples of this distillery.  This particular dram is by no means in the top 10 for Glen Albyn, but it's also no slouch either.  As a weirdo whisky, this dram is a harder one to nail down, but let's delve into the glass and see what we have...

Colour:  Pale gold, like a young white wine.  This is a Signatory bottling, so there's no colour added.

Body:  Medium to thin.  It clings readily to the glass, and small drips beget thin legs.  They run slowly back to the bowl, no chill filtration here either!

Nose:  The nose opens with big malty tones and some warm dusty bits.  Apples and cinnamon (like a baked apple), and more library dust.  Seems to taste very old, but there are some interesting things to come; this is where the regular notes diverge.  Beef fat and short pastry crust. Hints of tarragon vinegar and flat dust (its dust without being in your face, think old settled farmhouse dust that was stirred up.... this one I'm not too sure how to describe, stale dust maybe), and in the background hints of floral apples (like in an apple orchard during bloom season).  Water makes oily notes more apparent and amplifies the floral apple scents, in the bottom there are hints of charred oak.

Palate:  Super soft to start, almost like drinking water.  As it acclimatizes in your mouth, sweet floral notes appear, with hints of vanilla oak and more library dust.  A subtle spice balance arrives and counters the sweet notes with malt.  Water pulls apart the delicate balance though, making the dust come forward and become astringent.

Finish:  Oily and long, it stays with you for a while, but doesn't overwhelm your palate.  Warm vanilla oak and baking spices turn to a slightly drying note making your mouth water.  With water added, the finish shows a bit more herbal vanilla, and baking spices seem more pronounced like cardamom and mace with bits of cassia.

Empty Glass:  The wood takes full control, rubbed dry oak, and slightly punky wood are both at play here. More dusty herbal notes with dashes of vanilla, twinges of cassia and pepper are thrown in for good measure.

    Well, that was certainly an interesting trip down memory lane with a very interesting dram.  Water amplified the nose, but destroyed the body which leads me to believe its a very delicate dram in a subtle balance.  Very dusty, but a rewarding dram should you be able to find one!  Search around and try a Glen Albyn if you can; they are few and far between and offer a glimpse into a lost distillery of the past.  Next time on the blog, a trio of Islay malts, so until then keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass.