Sunday, 5 May 2019

Tasted #455: Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection" 1981 from Coleburn Distillery

We've been fortunate to feature and try some fantastic recent Gordon & Macphail releases on the blog over the past few months, from a sublime 50yo "old style" Caol Ila to an impressive 1975 Glenrothes right through to the oldest whisky we've ever tasted.

With the exception of a 1985 Inverleven however, all the whiskies tasted were from operational distilleries. Of course, G&M being G&M, they no doubt have a plethora of casks from closed distilleries, and have recently bottled one in the form of this 1981 Coleburn, bottled at 38 years old under their "Private Collection" range, which showcases greatly-aged whiskies from celebrated, little-known or closed distilleries, hand-selected by members of the owning Urquhart family.


Laid down on 11th March 1981 (just four years before the distillery was mothballed in 1985), the whisky was matured in a refill sherry Hogshead for 38 years in G&M's warehouse in Elgin, before bottling on 14th March 2019, still at a healthy 55.9% ABV. It goes without saying that that beautiful mahogany hue above is all-natural - no doubt a product of 38 years in good wood.

I have to be honest, Coleburn is a distillery that I either hadn't tried before, or hadn't remembered trying, so I was pretty excited to learn G&M were generously sending me a sample. As a single malt primarily used for blending (there was only one Official Bottling ever released - part of Diageo's Rare Malts series) it's not one you see very often - certainly less often than the other "big name" closed distilleries like Port Ellen & Brora, who have had a steady stream of IBs (and even OBs) released in recent years.

So, the distillery ticks the "rarity" box and the whisky sounds great on paper...but how does it fare in a tasting? Read on...




Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection" 1981 from Coleburn Distillery (55.9% ABV, 38yo, Cask #476, Speyside, One of 101 bottles, £1,250)
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Colour: Fiery amber mahogany.

Nose: Clean, rich, fruity sherry. Red berries, hazelnuts, dried apricot, eventually evolving into as subtle underlying earthy smokiness.
With water: Similar, with slightly more nuttiness evident, as well as caramel & roasted coffee grounds. After 20 minutes, sweet toffee notes came to the fore.

Palate: Initially drying, then satisfyingly becoming juicier, with spiced orange, cloves, then gingerbread and dark roasted coffee beans. Oak? Sure, but perfectly balanced and not at all overpowering.
With water: A touch more oak and the coffee beans become coffee grounds. Some cherry notes emerge and the spiced orange remains. With or without water, it's delicious.

Finish: Long, orange and gingerbread notes. It really does linger with hints of distant earthy smoke barely perceptible.
With water: Equally long and enjoyable, with more noticeable sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. I'm being a bit stricter with my "high scores" this year, but in my view this deserves it. A wonderfully complex and delicious dram, with none of the negative characteristics that can often betray a dram of this age. Well done, G&M.

The Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection" 1981 from Coleburn Distillery 38yo is available for purchase worldwide, with a UK RRP of £1,250. With 101 bottles, it's unlikely to last too long though.

Cheers,
Martin.

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