King’s Legend “Old Special” (Ainslie & Heilbron)

King's Legend, "Old Special"
You’re not really a whisky blogger till you’ve reviewed at least one blend that was bottled before you were born and about which not much is known. Here I am with my first; now I can finally retire—what a relief! Well, I guess I should say I don’t know much about this blend; somebody else may well know a lot. If you are that somebody, please write in below. All I know is that it is thought to have been bottled in the 1950s, that its strength is unknown and that Ainslie & Heilbron (now defunct) were once the owners of Brora/Clynelish. This last probably means this harbours some quantity of very old Clynelish, though it probably bears little resemblance to contemporary Clynelish. Bottles of this seem to have (re)appeared recently. Serge reviewed it in February and I got a sample as part of a bottle split a few months ago. How this has come to be I’m not sure either. Did some collector unload a stash? Anyway, let’s get to the whisky itself! 

King’s Legend “Old Special” (?%; Ainslie & Heilbron; from a bottle split)

Nose: Quite farmy (think a not-very clean horse barn) with damp, earthy notes and some rotting organic matter of fleshly origin. Stinky, yes, but in the way that can be so appealing in whisky. As it sits there’s some crayon and some dried mushrooms and dried orange peel peeking out from underneath.

Palate: Very vibrant arrival, bright and acidic—a coppery, metallic note leads (have you ever licked an old saucepan?) and then there’s beef stock, dried mushroom liquor and orange peel. On the second sip the farmy notes from the nose show up as well. I have no idea what the strength is but it’s not underpowered—lots of oomph and the flavours don’t seem to have faded at all. Begins to get a little sharp/tannic as it sits with notes of cold, over-brewed black tea but then more of the dried orange peel emerges as well. With more time it gets a bit sweeter (metallic) and also a bit thinner.

Finish: Medium. Nothing new here—the metallic note hangs out the longest, getting sharper as it goes.

Comments: I couldn’t detect anything here that I normally associate with grain whisky—I would easily have believed this was all malt. I’m very surprised by how “alive” this is. If it was indeed bottled in the mid-1950s it has held up very well in the bottle. Somehow, I didn’t get around to adding water.

Rating: 89 points.

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