Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Dearly Departed

Rosebank (Connoisseurs Choice Bottling)
1991 - 17 years old
43% ABV

One of my goals for 2012 was to sample more whiskies from mothballed (closed) distilleries.  Well, I may have sandbagged that one a bit since I had a lovely sample of a 1991 Rosebank Connoisseurs Choice bottling on top of my liquor cabinet when I wrote that.  Regardless, it was time to open it last Saturday.  Time to sample my little bit of history.

For me, the appeal of a mothballed distillery is that you are, in a way, drinking history.  Mothballed distilleries are closed, they're not producing any more spirits.  Their remaining inventory exists in barrels, maturing either in the distillery warehouse, or more often, purchased by an independent bottler for sale under their label.  Rosebank and Port Ellen are the two most well known mothballed distilleries in Scotland.
Rosebank began operations in the late 18th century (perhaps as early as 1790) on the banks of the Fourth-Clyde canal in the Falkirk area of the Lowlands.  At the time, its position on the canal - the British Superhighway of the era - was an asset to their business.  However, from the moment the canals lost business to the roads, the distillery's location became a liability.  Rosebank's ingredient costs rose.  It cost more to get their product to market.  The fact that the distillery remained open until 1993 is a testament to the quality of the whisky.  Rosebank, according to Michael Jackson, "was the finest example of a Lowland malt.  It was a grievous loss."

To the whisky itself.  I knew it was a Lowland whisky, so I had an idea about what I was getting myself into.  Rosebank had a light, golden color.  The nose was very mild and slightly floral.  What I was really waiting for was the taste - it's a 17 year old mothballed whisky for god's sake!  I was not disappointed.  Even for someone like me, who sometimes struggles with the palate, there were a ton of different flavors.  There was fruit, but more like the non-citrusy fruits like pears or apples.  There was also some spiciness and creaminess.  There was a lot going on.  And then, the finish, the last fleeting taste you get in the back of your mouth after you swallow, was minty!  That was a new one for me.  So new, in fact, that I consulted my Michael Jackson Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch to make sure I wasn't overthinking it.  Sure enough, he found mint as well.  Vindication.
All in all, this is an excellent whisky, one that leaves you wanting more (when there just isn't any).  And I think I'll be continuing my search for more whisky history.

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