As we move into the festive season many people are, as always, on the lookout for something a little different to buy for the whisky drinkers they know and, whilst any fan of whisky should be happy with almost anything they receive, it is always nice to see people taking the extra time to find something that's maybe not always available on the supermarket shelves.
One excellent way to achieve this, without breaking the bank, is to keep an eye on the various online whisky auctions. These auctions do have many collectable items, at eye watering prices, but they also have many unusual, and older bottles, that won't hurt the wallet and will give said whisky drinker something truly out of the ordinary.
This is what leads me on to this review. Last year, around this time, I made my first purchases from an auction site. I managed to pick up this bottle of Glenleven and a bottle of Dimple, another older blend. The final bidding price for each was £12.50 and with postage I was able to get these two, now unseen bottles, for about £20 each. For me this is an awesome price to pay for something that can't be found anymore.
A question would always be if what you are buying is in anyway decent, and with a little online research you may be able to get some information, but I find that the adventure of opening up a bottle of an unknown, older whisky is reward in itself and, in fairness, most older bottles I've tried have different great qualities to them.
Moving onto this bottle of Glenleven, it is a 12 year old blended malt whisky, or pure malt, or vatted malt, or whatever way you choose to describe it. Essentially what this means is that it is a blend of various single malt whiskies and in this case it is specifically a blend of 6 different malt whiskies. While it is unknown exactly what malts are involved I have received information that two of the malts may be Glenkinchie and Glenlossie.
It was bottled back in and around the 1980s, at a slightly larger amount of 750mls and at a strength of 43% ABV. The last info, as seen in the picture, is that it came from John Haig & Co. Ltd.
I don't care what anyone else says, for me, a 1980s bottle of whisky, containing only single malts, at 750mls and at 43% ABV for £12.50 (plus postage) is a bargain.
Onto my notes:
Nose - Old, rich and indulgent. Starts off with old wood, dusty wood, wood sap and pine. Maybe a hint, just a hint, of wood smoke, probably from the casks. Stewed apples, stewed oranges and a nice spirit undertone. A little citrus and a little PX sherry with dark dried raisins. All in all this is velvety and very inviting. With a little water a lovely Jamaican ginger cake note arrives with more wood sap.
Palate - Old and smoky arrival. Again this is definitely wood smoke and not earthy peat. A little heat from the spirit and at this point it feels like a little water would help. With water we get the apples and oranges but this time they feel a lot fresher. Water also brings out a lot more of the dusty notes and with time we go back to the stewed, sherry notes.
Finish - Perfectly fine with a great mix of fruit juice.
Overall this is a fantastic experience. The flavours involved here are simply not that easy to find in today's bottles. The old dusty notes and wood notes, in my opinion, are indicative of the style of whisky being made back in the 1980s and also may give some insight into the way it may have been stored.
I've no doubt that back then, the whisky was produced differently, casks were a little older in their lifespan, storage conditions may have been a little rougher, damper and generally not as clinically clean as some modern day storage facilities and this, for me, has led to some completely different flavour profiles.
I've noticed this in this bottle, older Dimples and Old Parr whiskies.
It is these differences that make this a special experience. Yes we could all go out and keep buying standard bottles of blends and malts but every once in a while it should be an aim to find something different and, the bottom line is, we don't need to spend hundreds of pounds to achieve this.
Until next time,