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MIDLETON VERY RARE 2020 TASTING NOTES

Kirsty’s Notes

Nose:  A crunch sugared note is the first I notice, think sugared martini glasses and Hubba Bubba strawberry gum, it’s mouth-wateringly sweet, made sweeter still by notes of orange sherbet and fresh satsumas, tinned peaches and dried apricots and fresh cantaloupe melons.  There are effervescent notes being carried to the fore with lots of lime zest.  The fruitiness of the nose just swirls round and round, the fruits ducking and diving taking centre stage before being rudely pushed aside.  Given a little while longer, there is a waxiness, akin to crayons held in the pudgy, warm, chocolate coated hands of a small child, waxy, yet still sweet.  Given yet more time still those crayons become more grown up, it’s less crayon wax and now definitively beeswax being rubbed into an antique pine dresser.  As this still continues to open up in the glass the orange notes return but softer this time, more orange water and orange barley sugars.  There is a delicious fudge like quality to it, artisan fudge drizzled in white chocolate, creamy and sweet. There’s a rich vanilla note, think Farley’s rusks dipped into warm milk, comforting and inviting, the familiarity of childhood scents drawing you in, demanding you take a sip. 

Palate: There is an initial rush of sweetness that the nose suggested, the orange note breaks away from the more gentle, soft, orange barley sugars becomes more concentrated and astringent, comparable more to a chewable vitamin C tablet or drinking the dregs of a Berocca tablet.  It’s tangy and sour.  There is drying bitterness rushing on the to the tongue and instantly taking away any hint of the tangy, zesty orange.  The interplay between the oak and the spirit has imparted a heavy touch of wood spice, both dusty and brittle, evoking memories of Autumn forest walks with fallen oak trees littering the forest floor like sleeping giants.  There is a savoury note on the palate in complete contrast to the fruity gentleness of the nose.  Think Cajun spice rub, heavy on the mace, rubbed into well aged steaks cooked on a hot griddle pan over a fire of charred, dry, old oak branches.  Occasionally, through the abundance of rich, dark wood spices, and prickly cracked black and green peppercorn heat there are fleeting hints of sun ripened orchards, with ripening apples and fruit laden pear trees. The scent of honeysuckle and pollen heavy in the air, with fluffy bumblebees buzzing lazily around the flowering fruit trees.  This gives this rather rich, bitter dram a much-welcomed lift.

Finish:  Long, very, very long indeed.  Initially starting out very dry, with all of the damp oak notes, and heat from mace, cracked black and green peppercorns and savoury steak rub which featured so prominently on the palate, however as these notes start to slowly recede the orchard fruits, quietly and subtly appear bringing an much needed influx of sweetness before fading out leaving a creamy yet spicy mouthfeel to the very end.

Conclusion:  This is a very interesting whisky indeed.  One that you just cannot figure out.  The nose is so very different to the palate, a complete opposite if you will.  This demands you spend time on it, almost as though it were a small child shouting continually to its parents to watch it.  One of the great qualities about whisky, for me, is just how different they can be, not just to one another, but also from person to person.  Notes that I may love, you may hate, or vice versa.  Some whiskies are gentle, soft, a crowd pleaser, others come along and are decisive, like Marmite, you may love it or you may hate it but you are never going to describe it as merely ok.

This, I feel, is going to be one of those expression.  This will divide opinion, split households, split families and have you fighting to the death….too far?  Ok, it may not be quite that decisive, but this is definitely the dram that gets you talking.  If you love this, then you will love it entirely.  If it is not for you, then it does not matter how much someone may extol the virtues of the cask interplay, or of how much this expression show cases the excellent cask used, it will quite simply not be for you.  There will also be those who can appreciate the difference, the complexity and enjoy the surprise of a palate and nose, that are just so different.  That is where I sit. 

I absolutely adored the nose, I could nose this for hours, it is everything I think of, when I think pot still whisky.  There is a gentle sweetness, the orchard fruits abound, the peaches and honeysuckle are mouth wateringly inviting.  There are creamy fudge notes, white chocolate and that delicious waxiness.  I could not wait to dive into this.  The I hit the palate, and I was so surprised, where oh where were those fruits I was so looking forward to, where had the waxiness gone?  Left in its wake was oak.  Lots of rich, dark, damp, brooding oak.  Without a doubt this highlights outstanding casks, but for me there was just a little too much cask influence, a touch too much spice.  The fruits from the nose do make themselves known, however it is very fleeting, it no less pleasant, and does raise the dram a little, but not quite enough for my personal taste.  Then we move on to the finish and it is so very long, its spicy yet toned down a little.  The heat becomes more akin to a sweet chilli jam and the wood spice is muted somewhat.  The orchard fruits come back and are juicy and sweet, its cheek coating velveteen in its softness as it tails off.  Quite simply the finish is delicious.

So, there you have it, a real dram of two halves.  There are elements I really enjoyed and ones that are not as much to my palate.  It is a grown up, complex, complete Chameleon of a whiskey and that makes it interesting.

Love it or hate it, its really will have you talking.  It is one you will want to give to all your friends to try to see what they think and to start the debate.  For those reasons alone it really is one you will want to try.  Find out whether or not it is the dram for you, or one you are not so sure on.  There are some really spectacular casks married together, and Brian Nation has left a curio of a whiskey as his parting gift. 

Give it a go, you will find something along the journey that you really love, and it will be a whiskey that you remember for quite some time.

Available from select retailers priced at approx. €180

ROSEBANK 30 YO CHAPTER 1 TASTING NOTES

It’s not every day you have a 30yo from a closed, (although now reinvented) distillery, and certainly not one as well known as Rosebank.   So without further ado, lets dive right in.

Kirsty’s Notes

Nose:  A sweet, gentle nose, fresh ripe peaches, with soft lemon there is no sharpness with it, think hard boiled travel sweets, or more specifically the powdered sugar on them.  There is a slightly sharper note of fresh gooseberries.  Left a while longer there are hints of grilled pineapple, sticky, sweet, with sprigs of fresh mint leaves which really add a touch of freshness.   Given time to breathe and on the second nosing this becomes sweeter, inviting with a dessert note akin to just baked apple pie still warm from the oven with thick homemade shortcrust pastry,  with crisp apples grown in a back garden and picked fresh that day and topped off with lashings of thick custard with a generous dusting of nutmeg.   Right at the very background there is a more earthy note, hessian sacks or potatoes still covered in damp soil.  It takes time to develop and you have to look for it, but for me, it is unmistakable and really adds depth and balance.

Palate: On first sip, it’s all very gentle the apple pie from the palate becomes soft red apples which mingle with dessert pears.  There is a richer, deeper note and at this time the oak marches to the fore.  It’s not overpowering, but comforting, like a walk through the woods in autumn, the leaves starting to turn red, crunching underfoot, acorns starting to drop to the floor, the wind fresh and bracing.  Rich, freshy roasted coffee beans make this feel very decedent, very grown up, almost dry, but just then the peaches from the palate come through, although they feel more akin to apricots now, not fresh, but tinned with syrup and with them the pineapple, intense and sweet.  Given a little longer in the glass there is an almost musty note, like browsing an antique bookstore or boxes of antique lace.  It balances the fruit and oak notes perfectly.  Returning to the glass there are lashings of thick clotted cream the vanilla comforting and sweet.

Finish:  Gentle, soft like suede.  It coats the inside of your cheeks and tongue in a way the lightness in the glass belies.   The apples are present throughout from nose to finish, however they continuity evolve from fresh and tart on the nose to cooked and soft on the palate and red and rich on the finish. The heavier, oaky notes from the palate become clotted cream and vanilla pods with a touch of orange blossom, and the pears from the palate.  This is a long finish, there are no big surprises, but just when you think it has given all it has to offer there is just a touch of the mint found with grilled pineapple from the nose at the start.  It’s elegant and beautiful.

Conclusion:  It is no surprise to hear that 30yo Rosebanks do not come along every day, and its no lie to say I was extremely excited and a little trepidatious.  I wanted to love it, it was so full of mystery and promise, I was almost afraid to open it.  I shouldn’t have worried.  There is no denying that this a beautifully crafted whisky.  It is grown up and elegant, timeless, a real classic.  It isn’t overly complex but this is by no means a negative, in fact it is its simplicity that really shines through.  This is a gentle, subtle whisky, where no one flavour pushes itself to the fore for any length of time and no battle for supremacy.  Instead each waits its turn, appearing one by one, almost as though waiting in line to dance, and it creates the most beautiful express.

Do not think that its subtly makes it boring as it does not, those 30 years have allowed the true magic of cask and spirit to marry together and to really shine. It is also so very moreish.  It really does invite you in for another sip.  I am very reluctant to even hint at the term “session whisky” when we are talking about a 30 year old whisky, and not just any 30 year old whisky, a Rosebank and at a rather steep price tag of £1,600, but I cannot deny that this is scarily easy drinking, and I feel that if I were lucky enough to open a bottle, it would not hang around for too long.

We must however address the elephant in the room; the price.  It is undeniably pricy at £1,600, however I can understand why the price is as it is.  Whisky prices as a whole have exploded over the past couple of years and prices continue to climb.  18yo whisky, which you could up at around the £60 mark a few years ago now regularly retail at the £200 mark, this of course impacts the price of older expressions.  Now factor in that this is a whisky from a closed distillery.  Yes Rosebank is being revived and that is hugely exciting, but this is old stock, it has lived, it comes from simpler, happier times, it is history; and what price that?

Whether or not you think that history justifies the price tag, only you know.  What I do know for sure is that this is a beautiful, classic, elegant expression.  One sip is not enough, it calls you back to the glass again and again and I was sorely disappointed to find my glass empty.   I cant wait for next years’ release.

Stewart’s Notes

Nose: The first thing I notice is a lovely scent of lemons, like putting your nose in a small paper poke of lemon drop sweets. This is followed by creamy fruit, white grapes and gooseberries covered in single cream. Very light, almost floral in places and very inviting.

Palate: Wonderfully sweet, crisp, almost menthol feeling, this gives way to fruit but unlike the nose, this is more like apples that have been coated in toffee. Holding it in the mouth brings light spices, dancing on your tongue, but gently in a very pleasant way.

Finish: I would say the finish brings a freshness, like the first suck on a mint sweet, this lingers while you contemplate picking up the glass again and as you do the last hint of sweet crisp fruits dies away leaving you feeling very satisfied in the knowledge you have been drinking a special whisky.

Conclusion: I’ll be honest I’ve not had many Rosebank in my whisky drinking life and certainly not one as old as this one, so I cannot comment or compare to previous whiskies from this distillery, however what I would say is that this is a fantastic drinking whisky, it is really difficult to put the glass down as each sip positively encourages you to take another.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to purchase a bottle, then I would think it a great shame to leave it unopened on a shelf gathering dust. It may not be an every night dram but is certainly made to be drunk as it really demands tasting.

The only downside I can see is the price. Now I know that certain distilleries have a special aura around them and Rosebank is no exception, but at £1600 is it worth it? Is any whisky worth that? I suppose that is a discussion for another time and I would imagine there will be no problem in selling this, as people who can afford it will surely snap it up.

Available to purchase directly from Rosebank’s website.