...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Expectation versus Reality: Burnside 24 year old 1988 AD Rattray, cask 1739

Burnside (aka "teaspooned" Balvenie) distilled in the late 1980s can be a gorgeous thing. During my last trip to Japan (sigh), I had a chance to try several of such malts in bourbon cask form, and they were all flawless Speysiders. So when my buddy, Secret Agent Man, gave me a generous pour from his bottle of this particular 1988 single cask, I was very excited. Then he said, "Try it and tell me what you think," which sent me from thrilled to curious. Sipping the whisky, I winced out a "What the hell?" He nodded in agreement, then gave me a pour to take home so that I could attempt to put "What the hell?" into more words. Here it goes.

My fabulous sample label.
I don't think this was actually selected by Binny's.

Distillery: Balvenie (plus a teaspoon of Glenfiddich)
Owner: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 24 years (29 Nov 1988 - 7 Dec 2012)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask #: 1739
Outturn: 212 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.1%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(thank you to Secret Agent Man for the sample!)


The nose begins with strawberry candy and red pixy stix, then takes a turn for bubblegum and perfume. Then paint VOCs. Barrel char and tar. Cottage cheese and chalk. The palate's woodiness is outrageous. Perhaps there are some oranges, yuzus and hazelnuts in there, but they are fucking trampled by bitterness and tannins. There's some cloying stuff happening around the edges as well. It finishes with split lumber, barrel char, mothballs, limes and agave nectar.

Dare I water it?

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Berry candy, peach candy, copper and chalk make up most of the nose. Some VOCs in the background. Perfume joins late. The palate remains full of bitter oak, but now burnt things and acidity join the carnival. Lots of sweetness too. Limes and menthol add some interest in the background. The tannins back off of the finish now, but the burnt stuff and acid remain. Some strawberry gum and lime candy hints linger in the back.


There are too many sensible-chuckle-inducing Expectation versus Reality memes for me to choose from, so I'm afraid I'll have to refrain from memes this time. Sorry, not sorry. Either someone (Rattray) sat on this cask for way too long, or its contents were never right. I'm not going to give it a failing rating because the nose has plenty of entertainment value, but the palate is a wreck.

I've had a few too many weird casks from Rattray, so I've stopped trying to source samples of their stuff. This may be my last review of their single casks.

(For what it's worth, Whiskey Jug (2.5/5) and especially Whisky Musings (76/100) found this cask problematic as well.)

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 70 (saved by the nose)