Convalmore 21, 1984 (Gordon & Macphail)


I don’t have much experience with Convalmore, a Speyside distillery that closed in 1985, just one year after this whisky was distilled. During its active period it produced exclusively for blends—as did and do most Scotch distilleries. The ownership situation of the brand is a bit confusing. My understanding is that when it was mothballed in 1985 the premises were sold to William Grant & Sons (owners of Glenfiddich and Balvenie) and used by them primarily for warehousing. The brand, however, is owned by Diageo—because the active distillery was part of the portfolio of Diageo’s precursor?—as is the remaining stock. If I am wrong about any of this—likely—or if you can confirm any of it, please do write in below. At any rate, very little Convalmore has ever been released as a single malt—Whiskybase lists only about 100 unique releases over the years. The most famous of these are a couple of Diageo special releases. Predictably G&M and Cadenhead have bottled far more. This cask was bottled by G&M for the American market in 2006. I purchased it from Binny’s in 2013—which should give you a sense of how relatively recent the boom in single malt purchasing insanity is. Anyway, I’d forgotten I had this bottle. Looking forward to finally tasting it.

Convalmore 21, 1984 (57.1%; Gordon & Macphail; cask 1798; from my own bottle)

Nose: Lime peel, cereals and polished oak; some apple juice in there too. As it sits the acid and apple merge and move towards apple cider with a yeasty edge. Some sweeter orchard fruit below. With more time the acid recedes a bit and mellower notes of vanilla and cream emerge; the apple now moves towards apple pie crust; the lime moves towards lemon. A touch of water brings out some sweeter notes with the acid (pear, apple).

Palate: Comes in as predicted by the nose with plenty of acid leading the way—tart green apple, gooseberry, lime peel. With a splash of tonic this would make an excellent fizzy refresher in the summer! Quite approachable despite the high strength, but you do feel its bite. On the second sip the oak and the mellower notes begin to peep through. The acid calms down here too with time and the oak has more to say (both bitter and sweet); some roasted malt as well now. Water pulls out more fruit here as well and it’s muskier—some peach, some pineapple.

Finish: Long. Develops as on the palate with a lot of acid following through at first and then after it’s sat for a good while it’s the polished oak that’s the top note (though the lime peel is right there with it). With water too it’s as on the palate.

Comments: This starts out as a solid, unsexy malt. But with time, air and water it begins to come on strong and turns more complex; finally, it’s a lovely melange of oak and malt and fruit (especially with water). Absolutely no flaws and it’s gotten better with every pour from the bottle so far.

Rating: 90 points.

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