What were you doing in 1978? I was being a young punk and venturing around on my wee scooter or having fun with empty milk bottles. You can look back on things with a certain rose-tinted perspective as the good old days and the same affection is true for whisky.
As time passes the benchmark of reality subsides and you’re left with an inclination that everything was better 20, 30 years or even longer ago. Except this is not always true when you consider fundamentals like working conditions, wages, education and prospects. Sure there are consistent factors like the railways are and will always be rubbish. The road network is barely passable and you’ll always be taxed to the hilt unless you’re American. At least vinyl is back, but sadly you’re more than likely to work until you die for this and future generations.
Just like life, whisky is all about balance and appreciating what you have. Once you start the slippery slope of negativity the shutters come down and it’s hard to break out of the cycle. If every whisky tasted like a Jura, Auchentoshan or Jack Daniels then I wouldn’t be hanging around here and more than likely nor would you. The toxic cloud of negativity is rarely seen in whisky but when sighted it is often wrongly diagnosed when someone is fairly critiquing a dram and giving their honest opinion. There’s a huge difference and unlike some social media channels we’ll never be swept up into a frenzy or lose track of the importance of that score at the bottom of each review. A figure that may determine whether you purchase a bottle or not.
You’d love to believe that every whisky from a bygone era was superior to what we have today. A large number were sublime indeed, but the remainder were variable and that’s a quality we’re missing in whisky today. Everything is about consistency. Whether its the yield of crop right from the initial stages we’ve already built in that commercial desire to maximise profit over flavour right from the sowing of the field. The trend continues throughout the process as everything is heavily scripted and controlled. The end result is a consistent whisky. Many out there appreciate the level of consistency but after a while personally, it all becomes pedestrian, rigid and well boring.
This is what makes the past so intoxicating for me and drives me onwards. That sense of risk opening a bottle which might have some value in today’s sell a granny society purely to experience the contents. The experience of tasting and smelling the past in liquid form. The act of breaking the seal and sharing with friends. Appreciating the old styles and methods of making a whisky. Such moments are what I enjoy about dabbling in the past. From experience, all whiskies from these bygone eras were not fantastic nor wonderful. There was some fairly insipid stuff bottled particularly from the end of the 1960’s and beyond. An era of investment that saw distilleries bulldozed and rebuilt in modern form or extended on a monstrous scale.
Whisky changed. Traditional floor maltings were closed, direct fired stills were on their last legs and condensers were widely seen as a great invention. These and other factors conspired to push us in a new direction. One led by larger companies that consolidated their interests in more distilleries. Propelled by marketing, brands and in recent times brand ambassadors, bloggers and influencers. Today we’ve reached that point where consistency is king. I’m tired and almost livid about everything being just so.
You try to do your bit and share whiskies. Interact with those just stepping into this wonderful medium and try to hold on tight whilst others are swept away by the positivity and ethos that it’s never been better. Sometimes you throw a lifebuoy or cling onto a virtual friend who is becoming sucked in. Oblivious that Scotch has been around for a long time and it’s more rewarding to look back and engage in those Indiana Jones escapades to find a bottle.
Convalmore is a whisky that I always find to be rewarding. I feel a conflict here as the more I discuss the whiskies I enjoy the less chance there is of me finding such bottles again. A good friend suggested that I am an influencer nowadays. I disagreed as the terminology is distasteful. Influencers are the bloggers in the respect that they exhibit the same behaviours and have little regard for their actions. Their minds are totally focused upon the next thing whatever that is but apparently, it’ll be bigger and better than the whisky they tried in that swanky hotel, which was the best thing they’ve tried ever! You hopefully get my point. I agree MALT can influence and maybe even drive a behaviour but our manifesto is all about transparency and honesty. I don’t personally set out to boost sales of the Auchentoshan Three Wood or create a buzz. I just want a candid opinion amidst all the nonsense.
Back to Convalmore and this release as part of the legendary Rare Malts series. We’ve had a few of these on MALT and we’ll continue to do as the opportunities present themselves. I do have a couple of bottles from the range but this particular sample and photographs come from the ever wonderful Noortje. The distillery still stands today and is used for warehousing by William Grant & Sons. In a way it’s a sad state of affairs as the whisky from Convalmore is a notch about anything that Balvenie or Glenfiddich has produced. However, without their presence, the weathered stone structures would have been left to decay and fade into the history books.
The town of Dufftown is a distilling hotbed and surrounded by notable names and also Glendullan. Convalmore was caught up in the 1960’s expansion when its stills were doubled in number and a new mash house built. Those same economic forces returned in the 1980’s when the distillery was closed by DCL only for William Grant & Sons to step in and save the site in 1985. Many who have tasted the whisky from Convalmore do feel a real attachment to its legacy as a classic Speyside dram. So much so when I and a few friends walked through the site a couple of years ago a souvenir was taken along with a dram of Convalmore to toast its former glory.
This Rare Malts release is 24 years old and was originally distilled in 1978 before being bottled at a robust strength of 59.4% in April 2003. Nowadays on the secondary market, you’re looking at £400-£500 for a bottle.
Convalmore 1978 Rare Malts – review
Colour: weathered hay
On the nose: very fruit focused with the added twist of limescale and orange zest. There is a noticeable mineral quality then staples such as almonds, vanilla essence, mashed bananas and lemon sponge. Cinamon buns with a spice assortment and blood orange. Very waxy as well! A really interesting and layered presentation.
In the mouth: enjoyable texture with more waxiness and flourishes of tobacco and beeswax. A decadent honey, lemon peel, ripe pears and vanilla. Pleasant, enjoyable but not as fantastic as the nose. Returning, a buttery oiliness, barley sweets and menthol wrapped up in a layer of smoky delight.
Another winner from Convalmore and showcases what this distillery can offer. Yes, it is not the best by a long stretch partially because of the vatting and large outturn. If you’ve had a great single cask from this distillery, you’ll know what I mean.
Certainly, if MALT can influence then we’ll use it as a power for good. Rather than lining our pockets, egos and growing beards. As much as we’d like to say buy Convalmore it is expensive stuff so why not try the lesser Speyside distilleries such as Glenlossie and Glen Elgin?