Passage of time

Posted 08 November 2018 / In Teaninich
The Dramble reviews Teaninich 1983 33 year old Berry Brothers & Rudd

Bottle Name: Teaninich 1983 33 year old

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Teaninich
Bottler: Berry Brothers & Rudd
Region: Highlands

Sometimes whisky can mirror human development in that age and maturity don’t always go hand-in-hand. It’s all very well slapping a large age statement on a bottle, but that’s far from a guarantee that the liquid inside will possess the characteristics and nuances that one would expect and hope for. Tired old 4th fill casks won’t impart the level of influence on the spirit they once did. Highly active ‘fresh’ casks might well stimulate rapid and intense maturation, but if left unchecked can result in an eventual whisky that’s more akin to wood juice. There’s a fine balance – and that’s not even considering that some whiskies are inherently more suited for longer maturation than others.

Teaninich is not a whisky you hear much about – much of its output is still utilised by owner Diageo for their extensive blends portfolio (Johnny Walker in particular). But, it’s a whisky I do keep my eyes open for. Production at Teaninich is unusual – the use of a hammer mill and mash filter (more usually seen in the beer industry, and the only one in operation at a Scottish distillery) removes the need for a mash tun entirely. It results in a wort of particular clarity, which when nurtured though the distillery’s particular bulbous stills produces an oily spirit. In my experience to date, it is often weighty, textural distillates that I find are best matched to longer maturation periods.

It’s therefore a shame that since its construction in 1817, there’s been so few original bottlings produced by the distillery. The most common examples you’ll find are a 10 year old Flora & Fauna and a small selection of Diageo Rare Malts bottled towards the end of the Millennium. But, expand your horizons further afield and there’s a much wider pool of independently bottled Teaninichs to choose from – some impressively aged.

Today’s review is not quite the oldest (a 43 year old bottled last year by The Whisky Agency currently holds that crown), but its certainly got some history to it. Distilled just a year before Teanininch ‘B’ (the site effectively housed two distilleries from 1970-1984), was closed down and mothballed, it was matured in cask #6739 (I’m guessing refill ex-bourbon) for 33 years. Berry Brothers & Rudd bottled the whisky towards the end of 2017 at 46% ABV. You can still purchase this one directly from BBR, but the best price I’ve found for it presently (and I believe it has increased since its initial release) is via Whisky Exchange at £244.

Nose: Waxy, bright and packed full of high quality furniture polish. Fruitiness levels are high, with very ripe pears, banana, guava and plenty of tinned fruit salad. Creaminess is apparent with honeyed yoghurt and pancake batter. Age with maturity is reinforced with a parcel of woodiness – walnut, teak and cedar – quite dry seemingly, but in no way overdone. In the background, a combination of minerality and steeliness – chalk and brass – alongside more delicate field aromas of hay and press flowers. All in all, rather alluring. A few drops of dilution takes the edge off of the sweetness, emphasising chalk a limestone as well as adding some dusty dunnage floors.

Taste: The arrival has a delicate waxiness – it’s not thick and coating (probably more a function of the 46% ABV), but certainly has texture and a high degree of juiciness. Honey and polished lemons lead off, followed by toffee apples, peaches and oaty cereals. The mid-palate interestingly reinforces the weight of the spirit with some sunflower oil, but then reverts back towards baking soda minerality. The cask influence is, unsurprisingly high – but mainly reveals itself as a building wave of white pepperiness – tingly, but never aggressive. The addition of water reduces sweetness, accentuating underlying maltiness and oat.

Finish: Long, sweet with honey, slightly citric and quite dry.

This well-aged and certainly mature Teaninich is quite the treat. It falls into what I’d consider to be an older style of whisky – where distillate and cask has been given equal space to shine and the resulting whisky is bright and fresh, yet potent and well developed at the same time. There’s quite the sense of Clynelish about it – and those of you who favour that distillery will find a lot to like here also. Great spirit + great cask = great whisky. This is no exception.

Score: 90/100


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