One of the best things about a really good Whisky Fair is the opportunity to try something rare and special that you would ordinarily never be able to access or afford – a dream dram. For that reason alone, it is always worth stopping by the Gordon & Macphail section. This year, their offerings at the London Whisky Show were truly exceptional!
After whetting our whistle with the GlenAllachie 14 year & Bunnahabhain 11-year (Discovery range), Ardmore 21-year (Distillery Labels), and progressing into the “extra good stuff” with Old Pulteney 23 year & Tormore 29-year (Connoisseurs Choice), we shifted into rarified realms with a pair from their Private Collection.
This line was created to feature:
truly exceptional and unique range of greatly aged single malts from a mixture of celebrated, little-known and now closed distilleries across Scotland.
As Stephen Ranking, Director of Prestige puts it:
“When a whisky from our Private Collection leaves it’s spiritual home in Elgin, it’s like saying farewell to a family friend.”
So what about this lost Lowland?
Inverleven 33 year (1985/2018) Refill Bourbon Cask 562 57.4% (G&MP Private Collection) 130 bottles
- Colour – Burnished gold
- Nose – Dusty, a touch of solvent, then it slowly started to open with cream, fruity like warmed pineapple
- Palate – Pure magic! Fruity, then nutty, changing in the most delicious way, like having an indulgent dessert smothered with vanilla custard
- Finish – Initially thought it was light, then realized it was such a delight with a subtle nuanced sweetness that lingered
Don’t let the 1st whiff put you off! This is an absolutely lovely Lowland and such a treat to try! In a word – wow!
What do the folks at Gordon & MacPhail have to say?
The unique distillation process at this now-silent site produced an aromatic and fruity Lowland dram typified in our Gordon & MacPhail 1985 from Inverleven Distillery. This rare single malt provides a delectable medley of white pepper notes and subtle spicy undertones on the palate, with a long and lingering charred oak finish.
- Nose – Intense tropical fruit aromas to begin – cooked pineapple, honeydew melon, coconut cream, and little burst of sharp yet sweet lime. A sweet creaminess continues with notes of vanilla ice-cream, sugared red apples, apricot jam, and white chocolate. Hints of overripe cherry and almond marzipan develop into flowering gorse.
- Palate – Creamy and mouth-coating; warming white pepper notes transform into sweet flambéed banana, madagascan vanilla pod, and salted toffee. subtle spicy undertones remain as toasted malt comes to the fore; a drying cocoa and charred oak edge develops.
- Finish – A long and lingering charred oak finish with a subtle floral edge.
What more do they share?
A relatively young distillery, Inverleven Distillery was built in 1938, very close to the Lowland and Highland boundary line on the banks of the River Leven in the town of Dumbarton. Established by Hiram Walker and Sons, Inverleven was originally built as a sister site to the Dumbarton grain distillery. Featuring two copper pot stills, Inverleven was thought to be the first distillery to steam-heat both its wash and low wine stills, as opposed to the regular method of the time – direct fire. In 1956, an unusual Lomond Still, which has three perforated plates that can be cooled independently allowing for different styles of whisky to be produced, was added. The stills at Inverleven unfortunately fell silent in 1991 when the distillery closed before the site was demolished in 2002 but under Gordon & MacPhail’s watchful and nurturing eye, the distillery’s legacy lives on.
As for what this would set you back? Well… I knew it was well beyond my budget so didn’t check at the Whisky Show, however, when I later looked online, discovered it seems to now only be available via an auction for around GBP 1,000.
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