The stills of St Magdalene distillery fell silent in 1983, a victim of the raft of distillery closures of the early 1980’s as the industry spun into decline.
Yet here upon my desk sits a sample from 1982, a year before its eventual closure.
Released as part of the Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection this 36 year old expression was distilled in July 1982, matured in cask no: 2012 (a refill American hogshead) which yielded 161 bottles in March 2019 at a strength of 53% abv.
St Magdelene 1982, Lowland, IB (Gordon & MacPhail) 53%abv (press sample)
The nose is initially remarkably zesty and fresh. There are a raft of soft subtle fruits, melon, apricot and various other stone fruits mixed with perhaps some over ripened kiwi. Light touches of white chocolate come and go amongst the increasing influences of light grass and fresh flowers. There is a slight woody undertone amidst it all, but never overbears. It opens to reveal more citrus infused sweetness and perhaps the lightest hint of tangerine.
The palate is initially a bit sharp, with the citrus at play alongside a little cedar, a handful of gooseberries before it gives way to some interplay between warm honey and some binding vanilla. A little tobacco and very distant leather with perhaps the slightest herbaceous tinge. The white chocolate on the nose turns to darker chocolate. Some mildly tannic weak black tea leads us to the finish.
The finish is where the wood starts to really pop out, giving a little dryness. The wood mixed with some drying spices is the dominant note here with cedar, mahogany and ginger alongside a twist of pepper with a delicious undertone of distant and dark subtle honey ( I’m not sure how best to describe it) Old honey? Honey essence? Perhaps a honey and spice reduction or something similar.
Not a distillery I have tried before so I have little in terms of comparison or reference in terms of distillery character. What I can say is that it was much more complex than I usually assume (which I shouldn’t do) Lowland whiskies to be. Perhaps this will be a touch woody for some but I enjoyed the antithesis the woodiness provided with the fruity fresh character.
In my experience of trying whiskies of older age it seems that there is a fine line between over maturation and becoming overly woody and catching it before this happens.
Gordon & MacPhail seem to have captured this at just the right time.
The Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection 1982 St Magdalene is available now with a UK RRP of £1000.
You can find more of my tasting notes in the Amateur Drammers Archives.
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