Unique glass of history – Imperial 1979 (Gordon + Macphail Private Collection)

These days, older whiskies tend to be an exceedingly expensive rarity. This particular whisky featured by Gordon & Macphail at the London Whisky Show was no exception. Retailing at a ‘mere’ GBP 3,000, there were only 61 bottles produced from the cask. Clearly one of those once in a lifetime-type experiences.

Imperial 42 year (1979/16 Dec 2021) Refill American Hogshead Cask 5619 49.2% (G&MP Private Collection)

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Quite Agricole or vegetal and organic at first, then shifted into a tropical fruit basket, it became sweeter and sweeter as it opened… changing character into shortbread, a drizzle of honey
  • Palate – Initially a bit balanced, fruity but fun, hay then nutty, moving all over…
  • Finish – Very dry, peppery with something else

It is indeed incredibly unique – one does not get this kind of curious combination. It comes across as a bit… well… old… almost moldy at first but then it kept evolving in the glass. Becoming more and more interesting. the longer I spent with it…. 

What do the folks at Gordon & MacPhail have to say? Their official tasting notes are:

  • Nose – Sweet honeycomb notes combine with vanilla custard and a subtle hint of beeswax polish. Cocoa powder develops alongside pecans and soft-baked apple.
  • Taste – Ripe red apples intertwine with clove-studded tangerine. Malted biscuit flavours come to the fore accompanied by chocolate-covered hazelnuts and faint Seville orange zest.
  • Finish – A full and long finish with black pepper and light herbal tones.

Whilst I had only a short sniff and swish, however, my scribbles and their notes seem to ‘jibe.’

What more do they have to say about the Imperial distillery?

Founded in 1897 by Thomas MacKenzie, the opening of the rather grandly named ‘Imperial’ distillery coincided with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, no doubt an influencing factor in its naming! Sadly the distillery closed just one year after opening, with a 20 year gap in production.

It kicked back into life again in 1919… this time for only six years. Stop-start production happened throughout the 20th century until it was purchased in 1989 by Allied Distillers who reopened the distillery in 1991. It was mothballed again in 1998 and demolished in 2013.

On the site now sits the impressive, and brand-spanking new Dalmunach distillery, which was opened in 2015.

Now that is indeed a checkered piece of whisky history!

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