Whenever we’re stepping into the MALT tardis it’s always worthwhile to establish the era. In this case its a distant destination in the form of 1964. The year in question was a gloriously bubbling and radiant 12 months of events, social change and love. The Forth Road Bridge opened much to Rose’s delight. The Beatles released Can’t Buy Me Love before arriving in America and Charlie and the Chocolate factory hit the shelves for the first time. And these examples are just for starters.
Somewhere along the end of Carsebridge Road, situated in Scotland’s central belt region, within the historical town of Alloa. An industrial effort was underway. The daily grind of routine and shiftwork was in progress within the old Carsebridge distillery that dated back to 1799 and originally began life as a malt distillery. Here, we’ll say wee Ronnie or maybe even big Jimmy himself, were wheeling casks to the filling station to be united with the spirit. Then rolled away for their maturation slumber. Little did they know that several casks would go the distance and way beyond their intended lifespan.
The fact that many lament and chase bottles from closed distilleries, or more specifically closed malt distilleries strikes me as odd. Principally because the grain equivalents are shunned and ignored. Yes, these produced on a mass scale but I’d argue 99.9% of the casks hit the blended market way before the single malts reached their 2nd decade. Yeah, the remainder of those grain casks would represent a sizeable number given the sheer scale of output. But over time their number would also dwindle. The stigma of grain has endured for many decades. I’m sure in 1964 no one would have dreamed of even drinking such a thing as a single grain. Never mind a single grain from a blue perfume bottle.
The rise of grain as a single entity has even now as really failed to enter the mainstream, despite the combined attempts of advertising and an overrated footballer. Grain to many remains an enigma, a poor substitute, inferior and somewhat lacklustre. These sentiments can be true at times. Grain can be limited and dominated by the vanilla influence of the cask. Bottled too young and there’s a hotness and teenage fury evident as the whisky reaches from one extreme to another without gaining balance or poise. Then you discover grains like the Dornoch Invergordon 43 year old or that glorious Douglas Laing 33 year old Carsebridge. Then you suddenly exhale and exclaim where have these been all my life?
Except they always have been right there for the majority of us. We’ve chosen to ignore grain. To follow the herd and dismiss without trying or exploring. Break free and do more of this, please. Seek out the older grains from established or bygone distilleries. Contrast, compare and explore. It’s great fun and worthwhile in the long run.
As for Carsebridge itself, the end came suddenly in 1983, long after wee Ronnie and big Jimmy had clocked off for good. Thereafter the majority of buildings came tumbling down in the pursuit of progress. Whilst some remain as former Diageo cooperage works that for its time was setting a new standard with the involvement of machinery. The site now awaits its next chapter. This rather mysterious bottling from Signatory several years ago was called Ronnie’s dram with the location of Glengask, Fort William. Bottled at 43% strength, details are thin on the ground but we have it on reliable grounds it is Carsebridge hence the introduction.
Signatory Ronnie’s Dram 1964 Carsebridge – review
Colour: glitter paper
On the nose: light and buttery almost spring-like, not forceful like many grains you come across today. More reserved and mysterious. A withered lemon faded furniture polish and white pepper. More subtle notes of vanilla and cream round off an inoffensive experience.
In the mouth: very wood orientated with a drying vanilla quality followed by a light caramel. More pepper and a sandpaper experience in reality. Very simple once again and inoffensive.
A leisurely summer grain whisky of considerable age. Scoring out the belief that age equals detail and complexity. This is very easy drinking and arguably a 3rd or 4th fill cask that’s only wiped the surface of the spirit. Still, it is always great to have another Carsebridge in any shape or form and for £10 a dram there’s no complaints, even though 1964 on paper deserves better.