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Monday, August 21, 2017

Birthday Booze: Glen Esk 31 year old 1984 Cooper's Choice for Limburg Whisky Fair

It's that time of the year! Again. It snuck up and caught me unprepared. But I recovered quickly. There will be three birthday booze posts. The first two will be special samples from the stash, then Friday's post will be the birthday bottle.

Glen Esk (or Glenesk or Highland Esk or Montrose or North Esk or Hillside) whiskies are few and far between, and this is my only sample of this Eastern Highlands producer. The distillery opened in 1897 and closed in 1985. It spent 25 of those years as a grain distillery, and for another 25 (or more) years it was silent. It was a major ingredient in VAT 69 in the '70s and '80s before it was mothballed.

Most importantly, its second owner was the one and only Septimus Parsonage, who was named after the groundskeeper from the Transformers / Downton Abbey spin-off series.

Distillery: Glen Esk (amongst its many names)
Region: East Coast Highlands
Owner: Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. (SMD)
Independent Bottler: Cooper's Choice
Age: 30 years (December 1984 to 2016)
Maturation: "a bourbon cask"
Cask number4677
Bottles: 240
Bottled for: Limburg Whisky Fair
Alcohol by Volume: 49.5%
(Purchased sample. Thanks to Sjoerd for making it happen!)

Its color is remarkably light, as if it's actually 13 rather than 31. I'll say......unoaked French Chardonnay, to be ridiculous about it. The nose starts with lemon cake, peach skin, a hint of mango and lots of barley wash. With time in the glass, it picks up raspberries, peonies, red Pixy Stix and lawn. Keeps kicking long after an hour. So much barley in the palate! Very little sweetness or fruit, other than a tart citrus strike. Toasty with gentle bitterness. Marizpan with hints of toffee, metal and minerals. The delicate but long finish has barley, flowers, tart notes and a metallic hint.

The nose is damn near perfect. You nosing it for an hour may look funny to outsiders, but that's why we drink by ourselves, no? As pretty and demonstrative as its sniffer may be, the palate is restrained and unromantic, but very appealing to those looking for low-oak whisky.

It walks an interesting balance between fragile and powerful. I didn't add water because it felt like it would immediately fall apart, but then the palate would hammer its character through.

This is a rare case wherein I agree with both Serge and Ruben in their assessments of a whisky. And though it is indeed expensive stuff, I don't know how many more Glen Esks we'll see after this.

Availability - A dozen or so retailers in Europe and Japan
Pricing - $300-$450 (w/VAT)
Rating - 89