Get ready for TWO WEEKS of birthday booze reports here on Diving for Pearls. 95% of my bottle and sample collections are not currently in my possession, though they will be in ten days. In the meantime, what I do have on hand is a bunch of fun old stuff. So I'm going to open these samples and see what happens.
For my final whisky review at age 37, I'm reviewing a 37 year old single malt today. It's my first (and probably last) whisky from Ladyburn, a distillery that sounds like an unfortunate shower shaving accident. Ladyburn had a short life. It was sort of a nine-year experiment (1966-1975) to produce single malt at the site connected to the large grain whisky distillery, Girvan, in Ayrshire. William Grant & Sons set up two pairs of pot stills, tried some continuous mashing, then said f**k it after less than a decade. The idea was to set up a one-stop whisky production shop for their successful Grant's blended whisky brand. Three decades after Ladyburn's demolition, the company finally did build the facility of their dreams, Alisa Bay, right next to Girvan. And they paid their respects to Ladyburn's single malt by releasing it in watered-down form, blended with grain whisky and Inverleven via their Ghosted Reserve products.
Luckily, Signatory has (or had) 20+ casks of Ladyburn in their warehouses and has been releasing them at cask strength over the past few years. I previously had this particular cask at two different events (the LASC Dead Distilleries Night 2014 and the grandiose Calabasas event this past May) and enjoyed the whisky very much both times. (This sample comes from the LASC event, thus I paid for it.) Since both events took place outdoors, I was sure I'd have a better take on this single malt once I could focus on it under controlled conditions. I had anticipated this would be a 90+ point whisky.
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 37 years (October 24, 1975 - September 6, 2013)
Maturation: former bourbon barrel
Bottle count: 111 of 162
Alcohol by Volume: 48.5%
Caramel Colorant? No
Selected by: Stoller Wine & Spirits
Its color is light gold, which is nice to see on an oldie. The pretty but sometimes faint nose leads with clementines and clover honey. Lychee candy and apricot preserves. A light farmy note shows up here and there. After 20 minutes, a bubblegum note develops and takes over. At 30 minutes, notes of orange oil, cinnamon rolls, and barrel char ease in. The palate begins vaguely tangy and sweet, with tropical and citrus fruit notes. Then vanilla bean and cinnamon. Hessian, carpet, and cayenne pepper. The sweetness grows and feels distinctly sugary and malty. Around the 30 minute mark, a big woody bitterness rolls into the forefront. It finishes with the hessian and cinnamon. Vanilla and sweet maltiness. A slight (malt) vinegar thing going on. The woody bitterness soaks the left side of the tongue and black pepper hits the back of the throat.
With the very pleasant (but sometimes very quiet) nose, the whisky set me up to think I was going to be writing paragraphs about the wonderfulness of subtlety. But while the palate was okay at first, it was also indistinct and generically Speyside-with-a-little-Lowlands. The late arriving woody bitterness suggests a little too much time in the barrel. And the finish leaned a little too heavily on the bung cloth and vinegar notes.
In the environment of an outdoors tasting wherein small pours of whisky hit the glass every ten to fifteen minutes, this whisky works. It smells very nice and it tastes sweet and fruity for a little while. But if one bought a bottle for oneself, I don't think the whisky holds up, especially if one wants to take one's time with an extinct $350 single malt. Binny's may have a few of these bottles left, but there's a reason they still have them after more than two years on the shelf.
Availability - Binny's, maybe
Pricing - $350
Rating - 83