The more we explore the remarkable range of whiskies out there, the more we push into sometimes quite rare territory. Even expensive territory. And yet even highly acclaimed and coveted drams can sometimes lose their lustre. Old + rare + pricy doesn’t always = mind blowingly brilliant!
And every once in a while it is good to have that reminder.
After the truly dangerously drinkable and most enjoyable Bowmore 12 year distilled in the 1970s, we were primed to be transported to celestial levels with “The Prestonfield” vintage 1972 aka Bowmore 16 year.
Yet what did we find…..?
Bowmore 16 year “The Prestonfield” Vintage 1972 (28 Feb 1972-1988), Sherry Wood, CS No 1036 – 1039, Bottle no 9861, 43%
- Nose – Phenoylic, like walking into an old Scottish hotel with the scents of an old rug, worn leather chair and the fire burning (promising but unidimensional)
- Palate – Sooth – like sacred ash mixed with camphor, a weird peculiar ‘queerness’ like carbolic soap
- Finish – Limited with an almost tallow or lard-like quality
So here is the thing. The nose was promising once past the carbolic acid, an initial sip was sooty yet bland, then had a strongly ‘off’ quality. I’ll admit. I made a face. Both times I sipped. Even a bit on the 3rd when I was braced for it and ready for something decidedly different. Something like the tallow from animal fat used to make candles, that had gone slightly rancid. The most complimentary description I could think of was raw bitter chokecherries.
I had to admit it didn’t work for me and tried to understand why Prestonfield whiskies are so highly rated if this was an example. What about that strange, frankly to me quite awful tasting quality, that makes it be deemed ‘good’? Just because its rare? Costs a lot? Sorry. Doesn’t cut it for me.
Speculation turned to whether this bottle could have gone off – yet there was no rust on the cap and the miniature was opened just before we tasted. So…?
Who knows. Perhaps something had indeed gone wrong between when initially bottled and our opening… after all, nearly 30 years had passed. Or perhaps there was some small drop of something else that got into the bottle when originally filled that turned it queer over the years. Or even still, it could be that much more discerning palates than mine found something remarkable in what to me was unusual to the extent of being not enjoyable.
Do I regret trying it? Absolutely not! Would I be tempted to try again? Perhaps… just to see if something happened to this particular miniature that was not representative of the original whisky. But not enough to put a lot of effort into tracking it down.
This 5 ml bottle was purchased by Krishna Nakula for £35. On Whisky-OnlineAuctions.com, the last available miniature’s bid closed at £45 in February 2015.
What do we know about Prestonfield whiskies? Here’s what La Maison du Whisky shares:
The Prestonfield range of whiskies is without doubt one of the most well-known among connoisseurs, and yet few people are aware of its origins. Created in the 1980s by the Symington brothers, the famous label with the drawing of the Prestonfield Hotel is now available exclusively through La Maison du Whisky. The whiskies selected for this range have always been some of the best but, from 2000, the decision was made to bottle them all at cask strength from a single cask. Almost exclusively single malts, these whiskies are extremely sought after, and often appear at the major auctions.
What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?
- Glen Grant 60 year (Oct 1950 – Nov 2010), CS No 2750, 2760 40%
- Bowmore 12 year (1970s – 80s) 40%
- Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7% (Adelphi)
- Caol Ila 36 year (1980-2016) 52.3% (Cadenheads)
- Laphroaig 19 year (Oct 1996-Feb 2016) Cask No 10720 53.9% (Old Particular)
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For some reason, your tasting notes have made me rather curious about this dram as I often tend to enjoy “weird” forms of peatiness such as first aid kits or cold cigarette ash.^^ Especially in a Bowmore, whose whiskies I usually find really elegant and well-balanced, such an “off” taste sounds at least, erm, interesting… 😉
Fully appreciate the diversity of individual palate preferences. This wasn’t for me… it also came after such a brilliant beautiful Bowmore 12 (also from the 1970s), so was an incredibly hard act to follow!
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