...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Luxury Product Report: Convalmore 36 year old 1977 Special Release (2013)

Speaking of Diageo's 2013 Special Release ultra-luxury products......here's a 36 year old Convalmore.  This was the other 2013 Special Release that interested me.  I knew it would be out of my price range since Convalmore was silenced three decades earlier.  What shocked me was that its suggested retail price was only £100+ less than that year's Brora and £100+ more than the 28yo Talisker.  I was (and still am) unaware that Convalmore was in such demand.  But then again, the following year Diageo priced a Glendullan at $1000.

Just to be fair and not to crap all over Diageo as I usually do, consider the fact that Convalmore is a dead distillery with very few indie or official releases.  Consider the fact that the product is 36 years old and burning in at 58%abv.  With that in mind, also consider Balvenie, which is not a dead distillery, which has a more widely available 30yo bottled at 47.3%abv selling for the same exact price as this Convalmore.  Then there's the Dalmore 25yo, bottled at 42%abv which sells for more than these two.  And yes, there's the 43%abv Macallan 25yo which sells for 50% more than any of these.  So, yes, Diageo is far from being the only culprit, and in this instance their whisky is the rarest, oldest, and strongest of the four products mentioned in this paragraph.  And of these four Convalmore is the only one that interests me.

How about a pause in the opinions for some history?  Built near Dufftown in 1894, Convalmore was sold to the big blender James Buchanan ten years later.  In 1925 it was bought by DCL (proto-Diageo) who then mothballed it in 1985.  At that point they sold the distillery and dark grains plant at Convalmore to William Grant & Sons.  Grant later demolished the plant and cleared out the distillery equipment but left much of the building standing.  They currently use Convalmore's old warehouses to store Balvenie and Glenfiddich casks.  Meanwhile, even they sold off the physical assets, Diageo still owns the Convalmore brand name and are thus able to release the single malt under its distillery's name.

Thanks to St. Brett of Riverside, I have a sample of a real Convalmore to try out!

Distillery: Convalmore
Ownership: Diageo (owner of the brand only)
Range: Special Releases
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Age: at least 36 years old (1977-2013)
Maturation: refill European oak
Alcohol by Volume: 58.0%
Limited Bottling: 2680
Bottling year: 2013
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? Yes

Like yesterday's Oban, this product's color is worryingly close to DiageoGold™. Ah, yes "mit farbstoff".  Why the hell would they do that to a 36 year old "Special Release"?  At first sniff, the nose shows a funny combination of gummy bears and a moldy dunnage.  But give some time, a lot of time, and those notes are replaced by cucumber skin, yellow peaches, lemon cake, autumn baking spices, and a hint of manure.  The palate begins quirky as well: watermelon candy and burlap.  That is soon overwhelmed by loads of lemons.  Maybe some grapefruits too, and a hint of honey.  A little bit of toffee keeps getting stomped down by all the lemons.  The lemons don't last so long in the finish.  Smoked almonds, watermelon candy, carpet, some drying tannins, and a peppery tingle take the lead.  There's also something dirty and earthy to it which gives it another nice dimension.  Great length.

Going easy on the water here since this is an oldie:

WITH WATER (~50%abv)
The nose is all honeycomb, lemon zest, and autumn baking spices.  The palate is made up of the angriest lemons, like first-presidential-debate-Trump angry.  Likely some bitterness and tiny hands too.  It finishes sweeter, with earth, pepper, and lemons.

What a curio this is.  I wonder what the rich folks would think of this product if Whiskyfun and Whisky Advocate weren't telling them it's magical.  It's certainly quirky and old school, for which it certainly deserves points.  And it's a good thing I like lemons, because this has lemons.  But all its parts are flying around, bouncing off each other, never really merging or balancing out, when neat.  Adding water pulls everything together and intensifies some of the better elements.  It's good to very good, but (to me) doesn't merit hyperbole.  Nor, obvs, the price.

Availability - A few dozen stores worldwide
Pricing - In the US $900-$1000, In Europe $650-$850 w/o VAT
Rating - 86


  1. Another big fan of Convalmore, if I remember well, is Ian Buxton. It looks like this will remain on the short list of distilleries from which I owned/drank zero bottles.

    I didn't quite understand the business of owning the Convalmore brand name. If that's the name of the distillery, shouldn't anyone be able to name it on their label? Or is this a case of Glen Gyle?

    1. I'm wondering if it's a Glengyle sort of thing. DCL didn't part with too many distilleries during The Reckoning, and the ones they did sell off (Benromach and Bladnoch) had restrictions attached to the sale. So maybe Diageo kept the brand rights when they sold off the distillery.

      Or....as per Charlie Maclean's Whiskypedia, Diageo only sold off the buildings.

    2. So, I never thought about this one before, but when they sell a cask to an IB is it up to the Scotch distillery to give or restrict the right to use their name on the label? And this has to be done explicitly in the paperwork accompanying each sale?

    3. I believe it's up to the distillery (Glenfarclas comes to mind) to establish this in the contract. Unless someone from the industry would like to comment here about this, I'll seek out a reliable indie rep for the official word.

  2. So, I never thought about this one before, but when they sell a cask to an IB is it up to the Scotch distillery to give or restrict the right to use their name on the label?

    Gin Hamburg