Saturday, February 25, 2012

The ruined tot

The following is a cautionary tale about oxidation and open bottles.  I visit my father in law in England most every year.  He is a wonderful and very intimidating man - brilliant thinker, international chess master, competitive athlete, and a knowledgeable oenophile.  I'm not much for wine, but I always eagerly look through his wonderful cave.  (If I visit your house I'll be poking around your liquor cabinet too - just warning you.  That's how I roll).  One year I found this rare single cask bottle of Springbank 28 in the far way back.  It had been opened, but was over 3/4 full.  The date on the label said distilled April 3, 1965 and the bottling age "28 years" meant that it had been bottled in 1993.  The year at the time was 2008.  I expressed interest and my father in law generously said "take the whole bottle" - that he wasn't interested in it.  I couldn't believe my luck.  The first dram I had was utterly first rate.  Like my beloved Springbank 21 reviewed earlier this week it was redolent of black fruits, spicy wood, deep rich malt flavors and also a bit of the sea.  It was magic.  The fact that it was a specialty private bottling of an expression not normally sold only added to the enjoyment.  Over the next year or so it featured in a few extraordinary tasting sessions.  
As is characteristic for me, I couldn't bring myself to finish the bottle.  However I also neglected to decant the remaining dram into a small bottle to preserve it.  Now here it is a couple of years later and I'm blogging about whiskeys and I think "I should pull out that last dram of Springbank 28.  I bet that would make a great blog post".  Sadly, as you might anticipate the final tot - nicely distributed around the bottle's central punt - was a terrible disappointment.  The nose had gone flat - like flat cola mixed with a lot of bourbon.  There was still toffee and black raisin in the nose, but also a dead dusty flatness with that tired soda and an odd rubbery aroma like old rubber bands.  The taste was a devastating failure.  It was still strong alcohol - but all the magic was gone.  The flavors were dusty dead and flat.  I'm a little too upset right now to transcribe the exact tasting notes.   For academic purposes I'll update this post later...


Ok - it's later.  I just finished my Port Ellen post so I'm ready to face this music.

Color:  dark amber with lots of old gold orange.

Nose:  Faint bourbon, waxed old wooden table, flat cola and raisin.

Entry is sweet. Dusty cloying sweetness.  Midpalate broadens into wax and then sourness that combines with the sweetness to meld into a rancid note.  This is unpleasant.  Finish has a bit of vinyl - almost the "new car smell".  There are echoes of dates and wood in the finish that are a sinister reminder of what was lost.

I can't go on.  This is a disaster because this stuff used to be one of the finest scotches I had ever had the pleasure of drinking.  Not a drop should have been wasted.  Instead I wasted a solid 50ml tot.  I should have decanted into a miniature bottle or, better yet, I should have just drank it straight away.  Let this be a lesson to us all.  ---Leave no dram behind---


  1. Bummer! Rest in peace: you were a fine old Springbank. Out of curiosity, how long has it been since your last drink from this bottle?

    1. I don't remember exactly - but somewhere in the 6-12 month range. My sense is that this bottle was probably initially opened in the mid-1990s but had been forgotten, mostly full until 2009 (Ill fix the blog post). It was drunk down to the final tot over 2009-2011 and abandoned from some time in 2011-2012. Thus the process of oxidation took place over years but didn't become catastrophic until the bottle was mostly empty.