Many, many distillery’s fortunes were forever changed in the early 1980s, as over a dozen closed their doors during one of the most disastrous times in the history of Scotch whisky. Some have gone on the become legendary. Others, like Glen Albyn, are all but forgotten.
Glen Albyn is one of the three former Inverness distilleries – the other two being sister distillery Glen Mhor and Millburn. If you’d like te know more about Glen Albyn, be sure to read this E-pistle by former Malt Maniac and fellow Dutchman Michel van Meersbergen.
If there are still casks of Glen Albyn left, they sure are hidden away. The last known Glen Albyn to have been released, is a 1976 vintage from Gordon & MacPhail, bottled in 2012 – I’ll review that one a little later on. Since then, no new Glen Albyn has hit the shelves. Rare as they are, Port Ellen and Brora are actually much more common than Glen Albyn is.
This past Saturday though, a few of my mates and I had the opportunity to taste a whole bunch of whiskies from Glen Albyn in one sitting. All thanks to Ruud (who once accompanied me during this insane Springbank tasting). He developed an obsession with the distillery a little while ago, and amassed an impressive collection of Glen Albyn in record time.
Ruud also researched the distillery, found out it started production in 1844 (and—contrary to popular believe—not in 1846), and began writing an as of yet unfinished article. I don’t know if he’ll ever complete his article (I’ll happily publish it). At least he could educate us on Glen Albyn during the tasting, so it hasn’t been for naught.
The tasting was great, obviously. Except for last year’s Whiskybase Gathering Dinner and maybe one or two other occasions, this was probably the most rare assembly of whisky I have ever tasted. That’s not to say all of the whiskies were particularly good, but it was an experience nonetheless.
So much so, that I wanted to share my notes with you. Usually I only write tasting notes in the comfort of my own home, in an effort to be as consistent as possible. But for this unique occasion, I’m willing to make an exception.
Glen Albyn 1973 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1998)
Nose: Sweet orange candy and candy hearts with a hint of fermented apples. Slightly chalky, as well as some tannins. Taste: Soft spices followed by bitter oranges and a hint of menthol and tobacco leaves. Maybe even a touch of peat and rubber. Finish: A surprising lingering ashiness, which I’m not sure what to think of. Short to medium in length.
Glen Albyn 1980 12 Years Old (43%, Master of Malt, C#2946)
Nose: Very light with white fruits, chalk and a toch of banana. Finally a whisper of cotton candy as well. Taste: I enjoy its waxiness, and there’s a hint of menthol and soft lemons. Finally a floral touch, although after a while it gets somewhat soapy, which is a no no. Finish: Barely any.
Glen Albyn 1963 19 Years Old (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
Nose: Soft notes of chocolate, caramel and kumquats. Very enticing. There’s a touch of cough syrup, licorice and diesel, and even some peat. Soy appears if you wait a while. Excellent complexity. Taste: Subtle tannins, rubber and a very appealing viscosity. Some more caramel and soft spices. Maybe bit of OBE gone wrong though. A few dusty and cardboard-y notes. Can’t quite keep up with the nose. Finish: Not a whole lot.
Glen Albyn 1976 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, 2012)
Nose: Quite fruity (somewhat – but not entirely – reminiscent of those Fino matured old Speysiders) and mature with hints of porridge and cereal. There’s honey, oranges and a touch of pickle brine. Taste: Fruity and tannic with a whiff of honey and even a touch of smoke, followed by green apples. Somewhat waxy and a nice creamy mouthfeel. Finish: Lingering fruits, medium in length.
Glen Albyn 1979 25 Years Old (56%, Duncan Taylor, C#3958)
Nose: Green, a tad malty and whiffs of white grapes and sawdust. Slightly floral and a whisper of menthol, but otherwise pretty tame and closed. Taste: A subtle sour note, but also green veggies. Quite fiery and spicy. Water brings out tobacco and licorice. Finish: Porridge. On the shorter side.
Glen Albyn 1979 31 Years Old (56.3%, SMWS, 69.14)
Nose: The label says it matured in a sherry butt, and the nose does remind of a rather modern sherry profile. Might this be finished in a newer sherry cask? Hint of tobacco, chocolate and ripe red apples, as well as cinnamon, apple sauce and plum juice. A hint of copper as well. Taste: Warming arrival with brown sugar, and ginger and chili pepper. There’s also tobacco and orange peel. Finish: Lingering notes of apple sauce and citrus. Medium in length.
Glen Albyn 1974 33 Years Old (58.9%, The Clydesdale, 248 bts.)
Nose: Glue and peanut skin, as well coconut shavings and barley husks, followed by apple cider and fermented apples, as well as vanilla custard. Finally a touch of cherry syrup. Taste: Quite a harsh arrival, with plenty of chili pepper, but it also has a waxy quality. I find apples, almonds and cloves, as well as tinned pineapple. Finish: Lingering spices and orchard fruits.
First of all, thanks to Ruud for making this happen!
About the quality of the whisky: it’s not super impressive. While I’m very fond of the refill-sherry butt matured Glen Albyn 1976 from Gordon & MacPhail, this tasting also made it clear why Glen Albyn didn’t go on to become revered after it closed.
Most of Glen Albyn’s whisky ended up in blends, and of the ones that did escape to end up as a single malt, not enough turned out to be very impressive. Nevertheless, it sure didn’t take away from the overall experience for me, as it certainly was a very memorable evening.
Photos: Whiskybase, The Whisky Exchange, Whiskyauctioneer