In that accursed year of 1983, 10 distilleries were mothballed, never to return to production. Among them are the legendary Brora and Port Ellen, but the eight others include two I was especially curious about: St. Magdalene (Linlithgow) and Dallas Dhu. I set out to taste both of them during this trip to Berlin, and I have.
Now, I’m not big on any of the modern Lowlands distilleries, as I don’t like triple distilled whisky so Auchentoshan isn’t on my drinking list, and the others are too gentle to get me excited about them. Nevertheless, I kept hearing about St. Mags – and had to try a dram. Boy, was I in for a treat!!
St. Magdalene 28 Years Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask (50% ABV, refill butt, cask 6810)
Color: Light straw, slow legs very well spaced out.
Nose: Lemon and green apple, fresh zestiness, honey, heather, licorice. The green apple takes over after a few minutes to dominate the nose. Vanilla ice cream shows up after a while with some sherry notes, dried fruit and more honey and the lemon takes on the character of the lemon scent of a freshly washed floor. just a few drops of water open nutty and floral notes. It’s worth noting that despite spending 28 years in a barrel, the oak did not make its way into the nose. When you finish the dram, the residual scent left in the glass is of cream.
Palate: smooth, sweet and mild all around the mouth. Spice, pepper, nutmeg, raisins and butter are prevalent. When held in mouth for a bit crushed peppercorns and nutmeg come to dominate, and they lead to the peppery finish.
Finish: Long warming in the belly. Sherry sourness on the inside of the cheeks and the peppery finish stay for a long time.
This is in the top five most complex whiskies I’ve had. The nose just keeps developing, the different aromas changing every few minutes and the interplay of dominance between the different aromas is fascinating. I’m awed by the magnitude of the loss in the closing of this gem of a distillery.