Whisky Review #136: Coleburn 1981 27 Years Old

Coleburn is one of those distilleries that not many are familiar with, primarily due to the fact that the whisky was used for the various blends within the DCL/UDV/Diageo stable during its years of operation.

The distillery was also an experimental workshop where different recipes and distillations were conducted in order to maximise the variety of malts available for blending purposes.

After the distillery closed in 1983, the buildings remained under Diageo’s purview until 2004, when it was sold to private buyers. Diageo retains the stocks and will sporadically release it to the market, although how much is left is anybody’s guess.

It is hoped that the distillery gets revived sometime in the future and restored to its former glory (in the same way as the trio of Brora, Port Ellen and Rosebank will be), but only time will tell.

This week’s review focuses on an expression of Coleburn which was distilled in 1981, matured for 27 years in refill sherry casks before being bottled at 43% abv by Gordon & MacPhail for their Connoisseur’s Choice range.

So, let’s jump right into the review!

Coleburn 1981 27 Years Old (Connoisseur's Choice, G&M)
Coleburn 1981 27 Years Old

Coleburn 1981 27 Years Old (Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, 43% abv)

Colour: Bright gold

Nose: Initial entry presents a rather Linkwood-esque nose, featuring hints of white wine, honey, floral notes, cherry blossoms and icing sugar. Malty and oaky in equal measure, with hints of supple sherry, cinnamon and acetone. (21/25)

Palate: Initially closed off, but does open up with time to showcase some sweet, malty notes. The sweetness is counterbalanced by a rather elegant tannic note which keeps things in check. Dry white wine, cinnamon, malt and floral hints emerge over time and are complemented by cherry blossoms, breakfast tea and oak. (22/25)

Finish: Medium to long on the finish, with warm and tingling sensations rippling through the palate from the white wine and late developing citrus hints. A rather light and yet complex whisky. (21/25)

Balance: A very well-balanced expression which exhibits both sweet and tannic elements coupled with malt, floral undertones, white wine and a surprisingly refreshing citrusy finish. The sherry is understated, but everpresent in different forms while the mouthfeel is oily with a drying edge. (21/25)

Rating: 85/100

This expression was savoured at The Auld Alliance in late 2016 and is the only expression of Coleburn that I have tried thus far. On the basis of this initial foray into the closed Speyside distillery, I am definitely intent on sampling more expressions.

Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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