...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, November 1, 2021

North British 50 year old 1962 Alambic Classique, cask 12042

Though calling Single Grain Whisky nothing but barrel-aged vodka is a bit further than I'm willing to go, I will say that convincing people to pay Single Malt prices for Single Grain whisky is the scotch industry's most successful con job. The very nature and production process of grain whisky renders a cheap, thin, nearly featureless spirit. Putting it in active casks results in bland extraction that doesn't even have the texture of American corn whiskey. Though three or more decades of maturation does produce a grain whisky with real characteristics, that's just the cask talking. I had hoped that whisky geekdom's introduction to French brandies and Jamaican rums would spell the death of three- and four-figure single grain prices, but buyers still can't resist those big age statements.

What I'm saying is, I don't like single grain scotch whisky. And this will be the last week of single grain scotch you'll ever see here. I'm going to take a look at three bottlings from North British, a distillery that uses a corn-heavy mashbill that occasionally results in a better grain whisky than its competitors. Today, it's a 50 year old. No, that's not a typo.

Distillery: North British
Owner: 50% Diageo, 50% The Edrington Group
Independent Bottler: Alambic Classique
Age: 50 years (1962-2012)
Maturation: bourbon cask
Cask #: 12042
Limited Release: 159 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 44.9%
(sample from a bottle split)


It has a pretty nose, with floral notes, saline and shortbread up front, and bits of mango and grapefruit in the background. Hints of honeydew and cream soda appear after 45 minutes.

The palate starts dusty and papery. The tannins begin subtly, but do tilt towards bitterness. Mild notes of clove, eucalyptus, vanilla, caramel and black pepper slowly take shape. Around the 45 minute mark, Mount Gay Eclipse rum and cheap Canadian blends (Black Velvet, if you please) start to take over, and are only halted by a wall of paper pulp.

It finishes bitter and metallic, with notes of paper, caramel and young sugar-doped rum.


*strains heroically to avoid using a GIF*

In defense of......whatever, I will say that this sample has not been sitting in my stash for nine years. Less than nine months, in fact. And the bottle was split by a very reputable member of the whisky community. He is likely thankful to be freed from a full bottle of this liquid.

I really enjoyed the nose as it suggested a graceful five decades of maturation. The palate is where it all falls apart, as is usually the case for single grains. Its similarity to $10-$20 spirits is disheartening, and the overwhelming paper notes are nearly tragic. That poor cask could have been used for so many other things, or maybe that tree could have been left alone to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Most importantly, I did get a sweet 2oz French Square bottle out of the deal.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 76 (the nose keeps the score aloft)