If I could give you a piece of advice as a whisky drinker other than drinking more Tormore. It would be to explore Miltonduff. Throughout 2017 I have been very impressed with various vintages from this rather shy Speyside distillery that goes back to 1824 and then some.
Saturday night fever is what I’ll refer to it as. Around our table the hustle and bustle of the Dornoch Whisky Festival was thronging as the day drew to a close. The Wolfburn festival bottling may have escaped my clutches and a subsequent review at Malt, but the banter was flowing and exploring a dram of St Magdalene is never a bad situation to find yourself in.
Then our thorough dissection of the Linlithgow and the current trends of whisky was shattered by the arrival of – let’s say a slightly merry Malt writer – jenga champion and Dutch cheese expert Noortje.
I was somewhat alarmed to read a rather intoxicated summary of this brief encounter during her Dornoch Whisky Festival write-up. It’s rather good so I suggest you check it out although the writer has in certain parts created a wonderful work of fiction. However, back in the real world, it seemed the only sense I could stem from my colleague after a heady day of whisky was just a specific candidate. Despite a miraculous Gordon & MacPhail tasting, a single release stole the show and it wasn’t on the original line-up. Instead a sneak preview of a forthcoming bottling that – as you read this now – will be available for sale. In spite of the multitude of Dutch words, some chat about cameras with Bluetooth and her finest jenga bottom block removal move, the focus was on this mysterious bottle. What was it? What details could she recall from the presentation? What characteristics did it deliver? The answers were short and sweet. It was a Miltonduff. It was very good. It was very tasty. Oh, I’m not feeling too great now.
Seed planted the mystery deepened. Soon enough a store confirmed the pending arrival of the aforementioned Miltonduff and speaking with someone else – less fuzzy with details from the tasting – underlined the quality of this whisky. Target acquired it was time to hunt down this bottle.
Nowadays many pending releases are highly sought after. There are lotteries and stampedes for each and every limited bottling. Except that those chasing these are often transfixed upon the pursuit of financial gain. Not every bottle turns to gold and on a regular basis I browse these auctions and shake my head. Not at the mere greed of some individuals, but their sheer stupidity. Take for instance as I currently write these we have a clutch of the Glen Marnoch 29 year old or its 26 year old Irish brethren at auction. The profit after costs and the time spent acquiring such releases must be minimal at best. Yet it seems countless folk out there seem intent on continuing this trend.
Distilleries have jumped on this bandwagon and are bottling any old cask – in some cases it seems – and dumping it onto the market either as a special release or the start of a new exciting series. I could say Highland Park but to be honest I’m rather tired of talking about this Orkney distillery and its metamorphosis of Narcissus. Edrington has chosen its path knowing that such a route would alienate much of its existing customer base who have supported the distillery for decades. Good luck to them on their voyage towards the nirvana of Instagram shallowness, littered with black bottles and the threat of young whiskies with little accompanying information.
When I purchase a bottle it is primarily about the whisky. Oh yes, I’m a sucker for a lovely label design with the greatest of 2017 being the 1995 Miltonduff Last Bunny release. Utter insanity but at the same time destined to become a cult classic and the liquid within – that forgotten piece of the jigsaw – is rather delicious. This brings us full circle to this particular Miltonduff again. I encourage you to chase those limited bottles and pay over inflated prices for releases such as the 1980 Bunnahabhain Canasta Finish. This leaves other avenues relatively unscathed where the good whiskies reside. There’s nothing more limited than a single cask. An instant polaroid of a distillery bottled at its zenith from a reliable independent bottler such as Gordon & MacPhail. Cask strength, natural colour and no chill filtration. It’s music to our ears at Malt and the thoroughbred experience.
This Miltonduff was distilled on 24th September 1997 before being bottled during September 2017. For 20 years it resided in a 1st fill sherry butt (#9179) and is bottled at 58.8% strength. This release will set you back around £95. Time to see if the haze around my Dutch friend was indeed reliable…
Gordon & MacPhail 1997 Miltonduff – review
Colour: molten caramel.
On the nose: toffee popcorn and a real oomph of vanilla from the wood itself. Ginger root and honey soon follow with a noticeable sweetness of fudge and mashed bananas. A lovely balance. Water reveals a waxy creamy characteristic, a subtle poached pear, pencil shavings and a final flourish with a floral note.
In the mouth: tobacco and all-spice marry, alongside cinder toffee and an oily texture. There’s vanilla once more, a well-toasted slice of brown bread and dried orange, but its the gentle spicing that impresses. Water brings more uniformity and structure. Red fruits mingle with traditional sherry flavours and cherries to create a rich and luxurious whisky.
My oh my, this isn’t a 1st fill sherry cask that you may have anticipated – it harks back to the 1960’s and 1970’s vessels. It’s more elegant and the flavours it has provided along with the spirit have created a memorable experience. Initially, I wasn’t blown away, yet the passage of time and a splash of water revealed its true delights.
My thanks to Abbey whisky for the sample and image.
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