One of the benefits of tasting whisky from an independent bottler is that you are sometimes able to access some of the more rare whisky distilleries’ products, and occasionally, if you’re lucky enough, that can be some of the final stock from a distillery that is no longer around today. Claxton’s Spirits have done just that their limited release, single cask bottling of Dumbarton single grain whisky.
The Dumbarton distillery had experienced an absolute rise and fall in its success, starting out of necessity as a means to create the grain whisky that formed the backbone of the Ballantine’s blend, back in 1936. At the same time, the site was developed to include the Inverleven malt whisky distillery, and then a third brand was created, called Lomond in the mid 1950s, which used an experimental Lomond still (wonder where it got its name from?), to create a different style of whisky. The site, whist managing to survive the worst of the ‘whisky loch’ crisis of the 1980s, did however meets its demise in stages, as the Inverleven malt whisky was decommissioned in the early 1990s, followed by Dumbarton’s grain whisky in 2002. [ed: the Lomond still was salvaged by the team at Bruichladdich and installed on their own site on Islay as ‘Ugly Betty’ and is used today to create their unique The Botanist gin]
This whisky therefore represents a significant little bit of whisky history, having been distilled on 19th August 1986 and housed in a single bourbon barrel for its 32 years of maturation. The whisky itself has been bottled at its cask strength of 57.1% ABV, without chill-filtration or colouring, and the remaining cask was able to bear 96 complete 70cl bottles for Claxton’s, all of which have now been sold out.
Once the more perfume-y vapours dissipate, there’s a lot going on in this glass. There’s a strong depth of flavours too. I’m thinking along the lines of cola cubes, leather, mahogany, (insert your own Anchorman joke here), and delicious .toffee pennies (why they are left to the end of the chocolate box, I have no idea!).There’s the distinctive grain whisky banana/custard note too, but there’s also apples and mangoes in the fruit bowl too. The final scent reminds me of whisky warehouses.
The whisky is coming in hot, hot, hot with that cask strength percentage at play, but then all sorts of sweet dessert flavours start to roll out. Crème brulee is the first that springs to mind – the toasted brown sugar top and delicious vanilla custard underneath. The puddings don’t stop there though. There’s banoffee pie. Vanilla ice cream. Toffee pennies (again). Cola cubes (again). Pineapple chunks. Even a rum cocktail aftertaste too.
A lovely length on this finish, and the unctuous sweetness of the pudding flavours trail off and leave a little reminder of the 32 year tenure in an oak barrel with a nice woody and spicy finish and grain whisky rasp.
Well, if you were too full after your main meal for a dessert course, then this whisky would sit nicely on top, without the volume needed for a full pudding, because it brings all of the desserts’ flavours with it instead. And I mean all of the desserts. I rarely have that many different tastes or experiences come out of my tasting notes, which are presented with such clarity and vivacity. This whisky really did conjure up some vivid food memories and it is just such a shame that the whisky has so quickly run out, and that the source distillery is not even there anymore. A great experience and “journey” that this drop has taken me on, and great to have been able to have the opportunity to taste it. One for the scrap book.
Sample Disclosure: This sample was received as part of a Tweet Tasting event hosted by Steve Rush (@TheWhiskyWire) in conjunction with Claxton’s Spirits (@Claxtons_Hugo). All notes have been drafted as honestly and independently as possible.
Brucey Bonus: we have previously been lucky enough to taste some of the Dumbarton distillery’s Inverleven single malt whisky as part of a lost distillery tasting at Aberlour distillery – see notes here.