Some years ago I tasted a couple of malts from Coleburn distillery and found them surprisingly good. When reading through various whisky books, the remarks and reviews of Coleburn at the time were not exactly sky high. Since then I have found it interesting to find and taste great drams from some of the lesser known distilleries. Distilleries that you don't hear about very often or sometimes in a not so positive manner. As my little experience with Coleburn had been good, I decided to start here by buying some of the (rather few) Coleburn's that were out there to find.
Earlier this year I held a Coleburn tasting with 14 different expressions from this Speyside distillery which closed in 1985. I didn't quite know what to expect and was a bit nervous having invited a good bunch of whisky friends over. Would Coleburn make it or break it. It could go either way.
As it turned out, everyone participating in the event were positively surprised by the quality of the Coleburn bottlings. Most of the 14 bottlings were cask strength and the age ranged from 14 to 36. I must confess that now I really have a soft spot for this distillery and can honestly say I think it is one of the overlooked malts of the whisky world. Personally I scored the 14 whiskies between 84-92 points with five reaching the magical 90 or above.
Retasting a couple should be fun. Here we go:
Coleburn, 21 yo 1979/10.2000, Rare Malts, bottle 0024, 59.4%
Nose: Fresh and strong mixture of several vegetables including broccoli and horse radish. To that we can add grass and ammonium chloride. Oak juice.. Ahem, perhaps I should try squeezing a tree next time I'm in the forest to see if some of this comes out.. Moving on, in the end some candyfloss comes forward. The sensation in the mouth is extract like.
Taste: Lovely vegetables again. The oak juice here turns a bit more bitter but the profile is crystal clear. Grass and evening dew with no-nonsense shots of chili, ammonium chloride and horse radish. To me this is as authentic as it gets. Oldfashioned indeed and I'm very happy with that!
Coleburn, 26 yo 1983/2009, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 120 bottles, 49.5%
Nose: Beautiful rose flowers and sweet champagne avenúes. Perfume and garden fruits. Mixed candy galore. A loving embrace from someone you love.
Taste: Blossoming rose bushes, a summer field ready for harvest. Sweet mirabelles and plums. And something slightly spicy and rotten which I like! This Coleburn seems to have it all when speaking of softness and character. Only a little bit lack of oomph prevents me from scoring it as high as the words suggest. I could drink this every day...
Concluding comment: If you're into oldfashioned, authentic malt whisky and have a sweet and fruity tooth (we're not talking much sherry influence here), try one of the Coleburn's around while they're still here.