It’s time for another visit to Tim’s Dusty Corner! As regular readers (Hello, Mum!) will be aware, each month I root around in the UK’s whisky auction market and dig out the cheap bargains, like a thrifty pig after cut-rate truffles. And every month I recommend a series of old bottlings, usually blends, vatted malts or mystery brands that you may or may not have ever heard of.
But what are these old whiskies from previous eras actually like? That’s what Tim’s Dusty Corner is for. I’m tasting these whiskies and giving you my impressions, so you’ll know if it’s worth putting your money where my mouth is.
This month, we’re looking at Strathspey Highland Malt. What can we tell about this bottle? First off, it says it’s malt but it doesn’t say it’s single malt, so it’s safe to assume that isn’t. Strathspey, then, must be what used to be called a pure malt or vatted malt and is nowadays confusingly referred to as a blended malt, ie a blend of single malt whiskies without any grain whisky added.
The label tells us that Strathspey was bottled by D. Cameron & Co. (not that one). A hunt through the reference books tells us that D. Cameron & Co. was owned by International Distillers and Vintners Ltd (IDV). IDV was part of the Grand Metropolitan group that by the end of the 1980s owned Burger King and Häagen-Dazs, before merging with Guinness plc in 1997 to form Diageo.
In the late 1970s, when this bottle is from (which we know due to the strength in proof and the volume in fluid ounces on the label), IDV owned just four distilleries. We can therefore assume that Strathspey is a combination of two or more of Auchroisk, Knockando, Strathmill and Glen Spey. From the name, it’s tempting to deduce that the latter has a leading role to play, but of course we can’t be sure – all of those distilleries are in Speyside, so all can be called Highland.
However, enough chit-chat and idle speculation – what’s the whisky like??
Strathspey Highland Malt, Bot. 1970s, 43%, 75cl
Nose: Autumn leaves and Ferrero Rocher. Cooked apples, old varnished wood and a faint, earthy, dusty character. Terry’s Chocolate Orange (the nice dark chocolate ones).
Palate: Mediumweight, very soft and gentle mouthfeel. Delicious old tweedy, woody notes – church pews, sugared almonds, brazil nuts, Danish pastries, cold apple pie, vanilla chocolate.
Finish: A decent length, with the apple pie and a soft cinnamon tingle as the autumn leaves creep forward again.
Comment: You can’t ask for more from a whisky like this. So pleasant, so laughably easy to drink, so moreish. A truly autumnal dram, quite perfect for this time of year. To return from a long walk and settle down at twilight by the fire with a film noir or a good book and a hefty glass of this… simply heaven.
Best of all, of course, is the price. I think the esteemed Mr. Sherry, to whom I’m once more indebted for the sample, paid the princely sum of £35 for this bottle at auction about six months ago and from brief research this particular Strathspey hasn’t gone above £40 this year. Back of the net!
That’s it for Tim’s Dusty Corner this month – Good Luck and Happy Hunting!