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Friday, July 20, 2018

Old Perth 21 year old 1996 Blended Malt (55.1%abv)

I first saw Old Perth whisky at Shinanoya in Tokyo last summer. There were a half dozen bottlings, all blended malts, most hitting 46%abv, others cask strength. None had an age statement. I'd never heard of Old Perth before, and thought they might be a brand produced specifically for the Asian market.

Then I came back to the states to find European retailers selling Old Perth, many of which had age statements and vintages. And according to Morrison and Mackay, the brand owners, that brand has been kicking since 2013. So I'm behind on this, like most current whisky news.

I'd read heresay that one of the 21 year old sherry cask Perths was mostly Glen Grant with a little bit of peaty Islay malt. But it was unclear which release that pertained to. There were 55.1%abv, 55.2%abv and 55.4%abv 21yo releases, as well as a 55.4%abv 20yo release.

As some of you may know, I do NOT like buying whisky blindly. But I wanted something that was twenty years old, deeply sherried, cask strength and under $100. Hah! Good luck, right? But the 55.1%abv 21yo Old Perth fit the bill.

Company: Morrison and Mackay
Brand: Old Perth
Type: Blended (or Vatted) Malt
Distilleries: Scottish, and that's all I know
Age: 21 years (1996-2017)
Maturation: a single sherry something
Outturn: 335
Alcohol by Volume: 55.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No

This thing has the one of the darkest colors of any whisky I've owned. What will that mean for the rest of it? Unexpectedly, the nose leads with honey, green apples, cantaloupe and orange oil. Then comes toffee, Hershey's milk chocolate and a moderate bit of toasted oak. Salty almonds in caramel. It gets a tiny bit woodier with time, while picking up hints of both vanilla and ground mustard seed. The INTENSE palate starts off with ginger, lemon candy and wood smoke. But its spiciness takes the fore throughout. There's black pepper, lemon pepper, cloves and something savory. In the mid- to background, there are limes, tropical fruit juice and Cherry Coke. No generic raisins or prunes. Plenty of spiciness (cloves and dried ginger) carries through the long, warm finish; as does the non-specific tropical fruit stuff. A few wisps of the wood smoke too.

Hoo, that's a big drink. Time to water it down.

DILUTED TO 46%ABV, or 1.25tsp water per 30mL whisky
The nose keeps much of its intensity, but shifts focus. There are dried apricots, lemons, vanilla and the same measure of toasted oak. Now there's cocoa powder, musty basement and a salty seaweedy note. The palate calms and simplifies. Less smoke. A mild fruity sweetness. More tangy citrus. Bitter chocolate, ginger, limes and a whack of chili oil. It finishes smoky, tangy and a little sweet. Ginger and pepper. Lots of limes.

No, you're not imagining things. All three of my reviews this week were of my own bottles. I don't think I've ever done that, and probably never will again due to how many months it takes me to drink through a single bottle. But wow! Okay, moving on.

Can't tell if this was the batch that was Glen Grant + Islay. The smoke/peat comes across more Highland or Island, but that could just be the mix. Other than the arrival of a seaweed note in the diluted version, the phenolics read more like wisps of wood smoke more than anything else.

I like the lack of raisins and prunes. Not that those particular dried fruits are a problem, but they can be over-prevalent in the bottlings of many popular official sherried whiskies. The cask shows its activity in other ways, specifically with all those spices. But there's no sawdust, no woody bitterness and vanilla levels stay low.

No complaints about the nose, at all. The is palate is quite good, but had it had a bigger fruit nose to lift it out of the darkness, then it'd be looking at a 90+ (or A or 4-star) grade. As it stands it's a dark, intense thing, more suitable for colder weather than the summer. The 20+ year old cask strength sherry options are nearly nil at this price point, so I'm pretty happy with my purchase.

Availability - Europe
Pricing - Still kinda possible to put it in a good-sized order and keep its per-bottle price near or below $100
Rating - 87