This week’s review brings us to uncharted territory in the form of a SINGLE GRAIN whisky. It is also the oldest whisky that I have reviewed thus far and I thought that it was probably a good time to add another chapter to this blog by introducing an entirely new category to the mix.
Carsebridge is a distillery that not many know of (and even less have heard of), but its history is interesting to say the least. The distillery was founded in 1799 by John Bald and was originally built to produce malt whisky.
After slightly more than half a century of malt whisky production, the owners of the distillery decided to change direction and in 1851/1852, the decision was made to switch the distillery’s production from malt whisky to grain whisky in order to supply the various blends on the market at that point of time.
The distillery also had an important part to play historically as in 1877, it became one of the founder members (alongside the likes of Cambus, Cameronbridge, Glenochil, Kirklison and Port Dundas grain distilleries) of the famous Distillers Company Limited (DCL), which regular readers of this blog will know was the predecessor to Diageo.
The distillery’s annual production during the period of 1886/1886 was reputed to be between 6-8 million litres, which made it the largest distillery at that point of time. It was increasingly used in blends such as Johnnie Walker and Haig’s and was seen as an important component of these blends, among others.
The distillery continued producing grain whisky under the aegis of DCL until 1966, when the company was restructured and the ownership of the grain distilleries was transferred to a newly created subsidiary by the name of Scottish Grain Distillers. This change was also meant to complement the existing Scottish Malt Distillers subsidiary which owned and operated DCL’s malt distilleries.
However, the Great Rationalisation of the 1980s threw the Scotch whisky industry into the doldrums and DCL began centralising production of their malt and grain whiskies, which led to the temporary and even permanent closure of several distilleries within the company’s portfolio.
As such, Carsebridge was mothballed in 1983 and the distillery was silent until 1992, when DCL’s new parent company United Distillers decided to dismantle the distillery and repurpose the premises for commercial use.
The distillery buildings were sold to a commercial entity, which proceeded to demolish part of the facility and redevelop the area into a business park. Some aspects of the distillery buildings were incorporated into the new business park for storage, technical and biotechnological purposes though and can still be seen to this day.
Over the years, Carsebridge has been released as a single grain by several independent bottlers such as Duncan Taylor, Signatory Vintage and James MacArthur and some of the vintages have been rather old (and rather good).
Hunter Laing also got into the act and augmented their single grain portfolio of bottlings in late 2015 with a single grain whisky from Carsebridge which was distilled in 1965, aged for a staggering 50 years and bottled for the company’s Sovereign range.
It is this bottle which is the subject of this week’s review and it was something which I had the pleasure of sampling during Whisky Live Singapore, which was held during the weekend of the 12th & 13th of November at Capella Resort in Sentosa.
Surprisingly, this bottle was available for sampling on the main floor itself and was a hit among the attendees.
So, let’s jump right into the review!
Carsebridge 1965 50 Years Old (Bottled by Hunter Laing, 41.5% abv)
Nose: Initial entry presents a hit of alcohol followed by a dollop of brown sugar, toffee and vanilla. There is a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg in there, although it is rather understated. With time, hints of clotted cream, caramel and oak emerge, providing this dram with a nice and rounded nose. (22/25)
Palate: The palate exhibits many of the characteristics of the nose, although in a more pronounced fashion. Brown sugar and vanilla coat the palate well and are chased by Scottish tablets, cinnamon and oak.
The caramel and clotted cream hints also make an appearance, although they are not as apparent as the nose suggested. Oak emerges later on as the mouthfeel takes on a slightly drying note. (23/25)
Finish: Long and lingering finish, with the grainy note emerging and accentuating the drying oak and cinnamon. A final flash of vanilla and brown sugar brings things to a warm and delicious close. (22/25)
Balance: A supremely well-balanced dram which exhibits all the classic notes that one would expect from a well-aged grain whisky. At 50 years old, this expression still retains a full-bodied and sprightly character which is rather unusual and also rather welcome. A wonderful dram which would make a great digestif. (23/25)
It’s a shame that there aren’t as many expressions of Carsebridge on the market as there are of the other grain distilleries, but its relative rarity is something to be cherished as it would allow connoisseurs to keep an eye out for releases from this intriguing distillery.
This expression of Carsebridge is available on The Whisky Exchange for £408.33 ex-VAT and Master of Malt for £408.33 ex-VAT, although it is presently sold out at the latter. Considering that only 267 bottles were ever filled, this expression is destined to run out sooner rather than later.
Until the next review, have a great week ahead.
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