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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Glenisla 37 year old 1977 Signatory cask 19604

It is my pleasure to begin 2020 with a review of the only Glenisla I'll likely ever try.

A very short-lived experimental single malt distilled at Glen Keith distillery in the mid- to late-1970s, Glenisla. Allegedly, the distillers added peated water to the wash charge rather than just peating the malt. (I use italics because of that genuinely odd idea.) Not much peat character made it into the spirit itself as a result, then the whisky sat around to be used in blends, including Chivas Bros' Century of Malts vatting where the teenage Glenisla vanished under 99 other malts.

The only time the single malt saw the light of day was via nine single casks released by Signatory, all distilled on 7/7/77. The cask I'm reviewing today made to the USA thanks to Stoller Imports.

Whisky still in the sample bottle! And data included! Amazing!
The nose's main note puzzles me. I have no idea what it is. It's sort of oily and waxy, yet organic. Luckily there are more familiar notes to be found. Ocean, hemp, seared pear. Peach skins, peach candy, peach-colored roses in the sun (per my notebook). It gets mustier with time, while also gaining a mango yogurt note.

The palate has fruits: apricots, kiwi, and some sort of mango cream or puree. Some florals and fruity tobacco. Tapioca pudding and a hint of the nose's mystery note. After 45 minutes the whisky picks up a simple lime-like tartness along with hints of dried cheese and floral tea.

It finishes with apricots, mangoes, roses and tapioca pudding, with a tanginess holding on the longest.

This was so delicate I didn't dare dilute (sorry). Judging by the outturn and ABV (240 bottles, 43.5%), the angels had elected to steal the alcohol rather than the water over the 37 years. Though the nose may have some phenolic-ish notes, there's no peat in the palate. The cask itself has also, thankfully, remained very quiet. Old barley spirit remains. This Glenisla isn't just interesting for historical purposes, it's also good unique whisky. It's a little quirky and very pretty with its fruits and flowers. May everyone open and/or share their bottles!

Thank you to Signatory for salvaging these casks from Seagram's claws. And THANK YOU to LV33 for this sample!

Availability - maybe Binny's?
Pricing - $350
Rating - 88

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    Glenisla.... there are - at least - two versions of how it was made.

    Now defunct scotchwhisky.com says

    Glenisla was peated in a very peculiar way. Under Seagram, Chivas Brothers had been sending 45-gallon drums of peated water from Stornaway to Glen Keith, where it was run through an angled condenser to concentrate the phenols. Apparently it was added 10 gallons at a time to the wash charge and its impact on the whisky must have been considerably less than using well-peated malt in the traditional way – a method Glen Keith also used.

    thewhsikyexchange.com says

    Glenisla is an extremely rare, peated, experimental malt made at the Glen Keith distillery in the 1970s. The whisky was made using lightly peated malt and heavily-peated water that had been run through the still to concentrate its peatiness further before being added to the wash charge.

    And some have claimed, it was not made a Glen Keith at all, but that is history now.