We will start our reviews series with one of the Rare Malts which was reviewed by our friends at Malt Review. They are an honest bunch. We like that they say what they think. Perhaps that’s because they like a Rosebank Whisky, but truly, without writers who tell what they are really experiencing and do what they believe in, we wouldn’t know what to believe, would we. Mark Newton, who’s written for Whisky Magazine, Whisky Quarterly, Fieldsports Magazine and The Scottish Sporting Gazette and has been a whisky judge – don’t be jealous now! – wrote this review of Rosebank 1981 – Rare Malts – 20 Year Old in 2016.
‘This Rosebank Whisky was distilled in 1981 and bottled in 2002 at 62.3% ABV. A bottle of this particular Rosebank from the Rare Malts Selection will probably set you back over £300 at auction, but if you’re buying straight from a retailer then expect to pay £550 a bottle and later be shouted at by your better half.
As this was a sample from fellow whisky colleague, Whisky Rover, I tasted it blind and had no idea what it was.
Colour: yellow gold, with a tinge of light honey.
On the nose: gentle, strange, beguiling. There’s a solvent quality at first, which gives way to something very floral. Ashy, but not smokey. Seaweed. Boiled spinach. Coastal trawlers puttering by on a spring morning. Definitely maritime notes.
In the mouth: gentle ashes, lemon curd, sea spray. There’s a chilli pepper heat to this. Salted caramel. The texture is curiously light – Lowland in character – and yet there’s a huge amount of flavour from it. The ashes become mixed up with bitter wood, but it’s not unpleasant. Floral. Honey. What an interesting combination, though. Citrus sourness hangs about quite a bit, mingling with that wood. It’s slight in stature, but aggressive. A bit like an angry Robert Carlyle.
(In fact, in my notes I also said that ‘this reminds me of a Rosebank’ as I tasted it without knowing what it was – but given it is in fact Rosebank, there’s very little point in writing that sentence, other than for bragging rights, which I’m sure you’ll understand.)
Conclusions: Rosebank Whisky is indeed very good, there’s no doubt about it. Let people waste a grand or so on the overhyped Port Ellen – that more famous closed distillery. Joke’s on them. But if you’re in the game for pricey whiskies, and want something that’s very different, that will challenge you a little, then go for a Rosebank Whisky. The spirit is immensely flavoursome, and its profile is way off the charts compared to most modern whiskies. If you’ve got £300 to spend on a bottle of whisky – and some people do – then go for it. (And if you want Port Ellen then just buy old Caol Ila.)’