On WhiskyUnplugged we have posted a handful of times about the whisky sourcing and branding skills of Keith Bonnington. From the Scalasaig to the Whisky Cellar series, he has put out new whiskies from great sources and he’s only gone and done it again…
Last year saw the Brig O’ Perth whisky brand resurrected after it was acquired from the Edrington (Mr Bonnington’s old haunt). The original whisky was bottled in the 1890s as a house blend by the Perth-based wine and spirits merchants Matthew Gloag & Sons.
The bottle released nowadays celebrates the 125th anniversary of that first release. Whilst not able to follow any sort of recipe of the original release, Keith has replicated it as best as possible from “limited resources and some purchase ledgers” of the time. We know that they used a lot of Highland Malts including those used here, which were largely ex-bourbon barrel matured “to be as light and sweet and desirably smooth and mellow as the original.”
The original release was described by Matthew Gloag in 1896 as “clean and delicate of flavour and of genuine age. In every way of very great excellence” – even if he does say so himself!
Both the original bottle and new bottle carry a review from a local news paper describing “This whisky is clearely a wholesome and well blended spirit possessing age, and is desirably smooth and mellow to the taste”. In fact the full review is made available as part of the new release’s promo materials…
“The flavour of whisky is entirely a matter depending upon the skill in blending, while its wholesomeness may be measured by the time the spirit has been allowed to mature. The above whisky (Brig O’ Perth), though of full alcoholic strength, possesses a delicate and soft flavour, and is free from any excess of colouring matter and extractives. It is clearly a wholesome and well blended spirit, possessing age, and is desirably smooth and mellow to the taste”The Lancet – 3rd July 1897
The modern day release is a blended Scotch whisky 46.7% ABV. Largely ex-bourbon cask matured (refill and first fill) using Ben Nevis and Blair Athol as base malts. Only 1,125 bottles made. RRP £45.00
A delicious series of sweet sensations just flow from the bottle and glass here: I noted Honeycomb, apples, milk chocolate, and dusty bonbons, as well as the smells of a delicious slab of thickly buttered toast. It’s not all about the sweetness though as there is a little earthy/dusty/musty body to it, and a little nutty/almond note. Oak and pine needles close out the nose, providing depth and contrast, whilst always remaining quite light and approachable.
For a fairly delicate nose, the liquid itself has a lovely unctuous syrupy texture and brings those honey notes to the front. It is then joined by good touches of orchard fruits plus sultanas, apricots, and figs on the fruit side; a mix of pecans, almonds, and walnuts (particularly that bitterness) for a nutty side, and then little flashes of black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon heat to round out a nicely spiced experience.
A balance of that smooth and syrupy texture with flashes and fizzles of the oaky cinnamon spice on the way down and a final lingering good malt character.
A lovely whisky – there’s a class and sophistication to this. I’m very tempted to reduce that pool to 1,124 bottles available! Despite having a fairly light nose there were numerous layers to the whisky, which just amplified and unfurled further when drinking it.
As a single malt fan (but not snob!) I have found that good blends use grain whiskies to round off the edges of flavour profiles and add layers of sugary sweetness. I find it interesting then that this described itself at the time as having an “Uncommonly high malt whisky content” and I feel that does show in this modern day interpretation of the classic. It’s got a decent bite to it with lots of layers to it and sweetness without being cloying or sickly.
I think the experience is also rather enhanced by the back story. I recently reviewed the Penderyn Royal Welsh Whisky and – as a whisky nerd – am really intrigued by the opportunity brought by the replication of the flavours and stories of times gone by that I’d never be able to sample for myself, and can therefore rely on these blenders’ expertise to bring that bit of history to life. Whisky has been around for quite some time, and as much as I try to enjoy everything that is offered today, having that access or influence from the annals of whisky history just makes this a more enticing venture. And… a really tasty one at that. Another win for Mr Bonnington and Co by my book, for sure.
Sample disclosure: This whisky sample was provided as part of a Tweet Tasting promotional event with The Whisky Cellar. All notes however are intended as an honest, fair, and independent review of the whisky and not a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.