In my quest to taste older whiskies with the complexity that Oliver Klimek discussed in his thought provoking article: "Has Whisky Become Better, Worse or Just Different" I came across the following listing on whiskysamples for an interesting blend bottled in January of 1964:
Thanks to the Belgian customs (never thought I would have to
say this) we know this blended whisky was bottled on 20/1/1964 by
Macdonald&Muir Ltd., Leith, Scotland.
What the label says: "the basis of this whisky is the matured
product of two of the finest malt distilleries in the Scottish
Highlands, Glen Moray-Glenlivet and Glenmorangie of which we are the
This sounded like a potentially worthy specimen which might display some of the complexity that old whiskies made with in pre-automation days are supposed to display. Old fashioned "Golden Promise" barley would have been used instead of modern varieties. Wooden washbacks, floor maltings, oven kilns rather than drum, direct fired stills - all those sources of micro variations within a batch that may have resulted in more complex flavors.
A fly in the ointment is that Highland Queen seems limited to this single issue. (There are plenty of references on the web to this issue - and none to any other). Why? Was it a dog product that just didn't taste good, so no further batches were produced?
Update: I'm wrong. Highland Queen is an old traditional blended Scotch that is still produced.
produced by Roderick MacDonald around 1893 while with Alexander
Muir of Lieth. / Highland
Queen Blended Scotch Whisky was named in honor of Lieth's
connection with Mary Queen of Scots. Highland Queen consists
of 30 - 35 percent malt prodominantly Glen
I see a NAS 40% abv. version of Highland Queen available for sale in Australia ($35) right now. I also see some 1930s Highland Queen ads on Ebay.
Color: light gold
Nose: Honey, hay, distant sherry with citrus apricot jam and musk noted, talcum dust and a slight musty mineral note that I'm coming to associate with old whiskies - perhaps a flavor signature of bottle maturation.
Initially sweet with malt and grain sugars, the entry and expansion are disappointingly thin after the nice nose. You can taste some young grain whisky burn. However, tasting beyond the young grain there are some august notes of old style sherried malts with a bit of peat. The finish is medium short with little tannin but some wisps of oak, smoke, and malt. There is some excellent malt here, but buried beneath a young and undistinguished grain whisky.
I can recommend this for a person who wants a whiff of the antique flavor profile - but only in that context.
More background to Highland Queen on Gavin Smith & Tom Cannavan's Whisky-Pages blog:
Highland Queen, 12 Year Old (Scotland)
old-established blended Scotch whisky of Highland Queen, once a staple
of the Glenmorangie business, is now part of the Bordeaux-based concern
of Picard family (Terroir Distillers), which also owns Tullibardine
A 12-year-old variant of the blend has recently been released to augment
the ‘standard’ expression with no age statement. The nose is full and
rich, with icing sugar sprinkled on pineapple, spice and black pepper.
Relatively full-bodied, with spice, malt and hazelnuts on the palate.
The medium-length finish features ginger and fruit and nut milk
Tullibardine Distillery Visitor Centre, Pharlanne Delicatessen, 13
Bridge Street, Kelso TD5 7HT and at www.pharlanne.co.uk 40.0% ABV, 70cl,
£25.00, Pharlanne, distillery website.