There’s a common belief that once bottled, whisky is completely inert. To some degree that’s true – certainly if your bottle is still sealed and stored in optimum conditions. However, once your bottle is open, it is likely to change slowly over time, especially if the level of oxygen in contact with the spirit is quite high. I.E. your bottle is fairly empty. This isn’t a continuation of maturation, that’s all done and dusted before you purchase your whisky, but it is both a reductive and oxidative process, both of which can markedly change the tenor and structure of your whisky over time.
Today’s review of Glen Deveron 30 year old brings you one such example where I’ve found that a bottle which I’ve had opened (but stored well) has undergone some notable changes. Whilst in many instances you’ll probably find that oxidative changes are not too desirable (unless you’re talking about resting your poured glass for a short time), in this case they’ve improved the contents of the bottle dramatically.
Glen Deveron 30 year old is part of the Macduff Distillery’s ‘Royal Burgh Collection’ – Three travel retail expressions (16, 20 and 30 years of age) all bottled at 40% and available at an airport near you. I picked up the 30 year old at auction a few years ago – the price was to my mind too good to pass on for a 30 year old whisky, and greatly below the RRP. Speaking of which - when launched in May 2013 the Glen Deveron 30 year old was priced at £150. As of this morning, it’s available from Heathrow World of Whiskies for £310 – who says price escalation is being over exaggerated?
When said bottle arrived, it wasn’t look before it was cracked open for sampling. Cue rather large disappointment. I found nose to be incredibly reticent and unremarkable, the palate to be very thin and quite wishy washy, and the finish all too short. Not what I was hoping for from a 30 year old whisky, despite what I paid for it. So, over the course of the next 6 months I hacked away at the bottle on occasion until around 1/3 remained. Then It went back up on a shelf and I forgot about it…..for nearly a year.
I brought the bottle down last night ready to write up what I thought would be a somewhat scathing review of an overpriced and unremarkable 30 year old travel retail expression. Only, this was not the same whisky I’d drank 2/3 of a bottle of last year. It has changed. Quite dramatically. For the better.
Nose: Toffees at a mahogany table. Quite sweet with both toffee and honeycomb getting us started, but there’s immediate old wood and polish here – quite sharp, quite pronounced. Orange peels, sour lemons and warmed stewed berried are joined by a delicate touch of grassiness. There’s some nuts and biscuits here, both walking a fine line between sweet and savoury. A sprinkle of pepper adds another nice dimension. Remarkably improved in the bottle – whereas before this was both ultra-shy and in no way displaying characteristics of a 30 year old whisky, the situation has changed dramatically – for the better. Fruit, wood and polish notes are all much more pronounced and provide the type of aromas that you’d expect from a malt of this maturity.
Taste: Quite rich and syrupy (wow, where did that come from?!), but still with just a touch of initial rawness. Oranges, acacia honey and toffee provide sweetness that is tempered by earthy malts, polished wood and quite tart lemons and rhubarb. Cask influence here is much greater and indeed there’s quite a dose of bitter wood here alongside cinnamon, pepper and raw stem ginger. Again, quite a transformation from my previous tasting which found this to be incredibly thin on the arrival with no real prominence of any particular flavours.
Finish: Short to medium, some astringency and with bitter spices.
I went into this Glen Deveron fully expecting a similar experience to when I last pulled down the bottle a year ago – a very disappointing, shy and thin one. But, my my, there’s been some changes going on in my 1/3 full bottle since. Whilst not perfect by any means – the level of bitterness and astringency are both too high for my liking – this is so dramatically improved that it’s almost a different whisky entirely. I was expecting to score this in the mid 70’s, but that would not reflect the liquid that I now find left in my bottle. It’s become quite solid, good in fact. I shall enjoy the final 1/3 much more than the 2/3 before it!