Our verdict on the Glasgow Rare & Old Show has been delivered, but what you may not comprehend is the social interaction of the event itself. It offered an opportunity to catch up with old friends for a slightly excessive entry fee or to finally meet online acquaintances. Yes, a trip to the Pot Still would have been cheaper.
Step forth the San Francisco Whisky Club, an enterprising bunch with a real passion for what we shall term the classics. Not just the finer things in life but the whiskies that some out there are hunting down for their investment portfolios, except this small bunch of renegades are actually opening and enjoying the contents. Good on them I say.
Bottles have come and gone in my household and been enjoyed by many. There are examples looking back that represent financial suicide – yes I should have kept them tightly sealed and rubbed my hands with glee as their values grew sharply, assisted by the latest investor report from Rare Whiskies ABC. It’s rewarding to open, share and engage with the whisky beyond a mere tangible financial benefit. I’m no millionaire and won’t be unless Malt suddenly catches the eye of a multi-media corporation with a taste for whisky, so let’s enjoy what we have whilst we can.
Whisky clubs in general are a good way to discover new whiskies and pool resources. Even for the start-up London whisky outfit I’ve been helping recently, it’s amazed me to see 1st hand the interest and passion for all things whisky. It’s also humbling to be able to impart some knowledge to eager onlookers even whilst I’m still exploring the magnificent terrain that is Scotch.
All good things come to an end and after the representatives from the San Francisco whisky club finished with an overpriced masterclass at the Rare & Old show, we departed for a nearby pub for the 2nd half of the Scotland versus England rugby match. It would have been fantastic to stay beyond the game itself but Fife called and the long trek back home. Still, even during these fleeting hours, there was confirmation and validation of the SF club’s passion for whisky and thirst for more including The Tormore. As part of this meet-up a few mystery whiskies were exchanged and I’m now setting out upon this trio. It’s been a while since I engaged in mystery drams format. Actually many years ago now, it’s how Mark and I crossed paths initially as there were few decent online resources for honesty around whisky and sadly that’s still true in 2018.
I showed Mark the greater good of Scotch
Now, several years after those initial skirmishes we’re here at Malt. Odd, it really is readers and how the years have passed by and yet many of the concerns around whisky remain true. My Glasgow passing encounter revives the mystery whisky format and what I’ve always enjoyed is that it removes any inhibitions and lets the whisky take centre stage.
The tasting notes and score below were all appointed and constructed prior to the big reveal. Of course, for you dear reader there is no surprise. You understand that this is one of the greater St Magdalene – or Linlithgow if you prefer – distillery releases that can fetch a 4 figure price nowadays. Pure filthy whiskyporn to the masses with a gorgeous picture tempting you inside. Except here we’re actually going to sit down and enjoy it, hopefully. You can read more about this closed distillery in my fond review of the Cadenhead’s 32 year old review that even to this day remains an excellent whisky. The distillery itself still stands as you can see although today it serves a different purpose.
This single cask contained 346.2 litres of whisky when it came to bottling at a mighty 68.8% strength. This was reduced to the more digestible bottling strength of 62.7%, which is still remarkably high but shows the value in bottling at a higher level than the 63.5% or whatever is the common industry standard today. According to the excellent resource that is Whiskybase the outturn was 396 bottles. Around 200 of these bottles were distributed to existing and ex-employees of the engineering department at Waterloo Street, Glasgow. A 100 or so of the remaining units were used for functions within Diageo and just 30 were sold via Royal Lochnagar distillery. The key aspect is that the whisky comes with its box and accompanying letter as apparently there are forgeries in the marketplace, but people don’t want to talk about that nowadays do they?
It’s humbling to receive such a generous sample from a formidable release. Lets check out the results shall we?
St Magdalene 1978 Waterloo Street Engineering – review
Colour: cherry wood.
On the nose: layered is the initial impression, initially there’s what I’d deem is the sherry wood influence with raisins, honeycomb, dried orange, cinnamon, walnuts, roasted coffee beans and a touch of earthiness hinting at hidden delights. Crème caramel follows but time in the glass loosens up this stout fella somewhat and unlocks more of that earthy vibe and fruits with blackberries.
In the mouth: in a word elegant. You know this is something classy although it’s not huge on the layers, but the flavours it offers are epic and prolonged. Initially you envisage this is going to be a hard-hitting cask, but its subtle and the vanilla, oranges and dark chocolate meander together nicely. Juicy raisins leisurely drift by with cinnamon bark, cola cubes and a lingering toffee finish. Returning, there’s a nice raspberry sharpness that comes bursting through briefly and elevates everything underpinned by an autumnal vegetative quality.
A memorable blind tasting and my thanks to the guys for this generous sample. Once the whisky was revealed afterwards I recalled seeing this bottle in the flesh, but it’s always been sealed and purely for investment purposes. Plaudits for opening and experiencing its contents. Yes, arguably its more cask than St Magdalene but what a cask and a rollercoaster of an old-style whisky with plenty panache and bravado. Thinking back I do prefer the aforementioned Cadenhead’s release, as it felt more natural but its a photo finish.
Lead image kindly provided by Just Whisky Auctions.