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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Two 1978 Highland single malts from James MacArthur

At some point I'll get around to dishing out scores to all the whiskies from my Killing Whisky History episodes. Okay probably not. But I am happy to review the two 1978 single malts featured in Episode 16: Blair Athol and Ben Nevis, both 14 year olds bottled by James MacArthur.

It was just my luck that one was from a bourbon cask, and the other was from a sherry cask. The former was very good, the latter I pronounced "phenomenal" and it still remains among the top 3 whiskies I've covered in the KWH series. For more on these whiskies, please see Episode 16.

Blair Athol 14 year old 1978 James MacArthur's Fine Malt Selection, 53.1%abv

The nose's boldest note are wheat bread crust and strawberry candy. There's also clay, newspaper print, honey, shredded wheat cereal and hints of lemons and dried herbs. The palate leads with sweet limes, riesling and newspaper print. Gentle dunnage and smoke notes mix with malt and tart apples. It finishes with dates, soil and tart apples.

These notes differ a bit from those on the video. Some of the oak has peeled away and some earthier, dustier notes have joined the grain. It also has the sort of creamy mouthfeel one doesn't often find in modern malts. A pleasure.

Rating - 87

Ben Nevis 14 year old 1978 James MacArthur's Fine Malt Selection, 55.8%abv

The nose shows a very clean nutty sherry cask. Toffee, orange peel, Luxardo cherries. But that's just one side of the whisky, because Ben Nevis. Hot engine, hot concrete and a bushel of crushed dried herbs begin outside the sherry cask, then gradually work their way inwards. The palate is intensely earthy and mossy. Funky dunnage notes and manure. Fresh dark cherries and peach juice. It finishes long, sweet, earthy, with hints of herbal smoke and pickled ginger.

A lovely single malt pulled from the cask at just the right time, this Ben Nevis sets the bar very high for this year's birthday whiskies, one that might not be topped.

Rating - 91

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