Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Miltonduff 15 G&M Exclusive for PAL: Speyside In All The Right Ways

Miltonduff, near Elgin on the Black Burn, is one of those classic storied Speyside distilleries that you don't run into that often because they don't have regular expressions.  Gordon & MacPhail, located less than 3 miles away in Elgin, produces regular 12 and 15 year single malt bottlings and are the closest thing to a house OB that Miltonduff has.  In the familiar tale, Miltonduff, an old traditional distiller, was purchased and expanded into a giant to secure malt for a major blend, in this case Ballentines.  Most of the output goes into Ballentines which is why you don't see it much.  Along the way, there have been some fascinating bits of trivia.  Miltonduff was built on the old site of the Pluscarden Priory in 1824 and supposedly a stone of the ancient structure is kept in the distillery.  Miltonduff formerly practiced triple distillation, but adopted double distillation in the early part of this century.  In 1964 two Lomond stills were added for production of “Mosstowie" (a separate label produced entirely inside Miltonduff). Mosstowie is now one of those lost distilleries in plain sight a la Malt Mill.  The idea of the Lomond stills is that they can be tuned by adjusting the plates and necks to alter the character of the spirit.  The benefit was for Ballantines which could produce more variations for a more complex blend by tuning the Lomonds at Miltonduff.  There were some individual cask bottlings, but Mosstowie is rare.  By all accounts it isn't particularly good.  Lomond stills are still used at Loch Lomond - which isn't considered particularly good either.  Scapa, apparently uses a Lomond as their wash still.  I'm not a huge fan of that one either.  But the most famous Lomond still around is the salvaged "Ugly Betty" which makes The Botanist gin over at Bruichladdich which, by all accounts, is excellent.  In any case, by the 1980s the Lomonds were removed and replaced with additional post stills.   Since 2005 Miltonduff has been owned by Pernod Richard via Chivas Brothers.

Some of the aforefmentioned facts came from

The bottle considered here is part of a special single cask bottling made by Gordon & MacPhail for Park Avenue Liquors as an exclusive.  It was one of the first custom bottling projects put together by the relatively new Gordon & MacPhail US National Brand Ambassador Chris Reisbeck.  It's quite a cask - first fill Bourbon barrel #9461 which produced only 198 bottles.  Distilled on June 24, 1996 and bottled in August 2011.  It is bottled non-chill-filtered (as will become abundantly clear in a moment) uncolored, and at full cask strength.  This is raw - straight from the cask goodness brought to you by an impressive chain of whisky geeks for whisky geeks.

Miltonduff 1996-2011 15yo 56.3% Gordon & MacPhail

A drop of water turns it cloudy like milk
This is bottle 181 of 198.

Color: rich old gold. Even the tiniest drop of water causes this to turn milky with condensed fats.

Nose: densely honeyed, floral, and fruity in the white melon & pear way so classic of the Northern Highlands and Spey. Unctuous and almost incense-like in the sweet filigree of the floral-fruit sweet honey on the nose. Turns to an aching apricot-like acidic almost tangerine citrus note with additional time and deeper nosing. Indeed, this one can be nosed for a long long time.

Palate:  The entry is powerfully sweet up front with pure wildflower honey. There's a lacy filigree of floral esters at the light tiny white end of the floral spectrum. Then paraffin and sweet butter show right before the big expansion. The midpalate bursts with spirit heat and a broader more fruit centered sweetness marked by soft honeyed boiled citrus and melon with honeysuckle and vanilla florals in attendance. The turn to the finish sees a bitter eucalyptus note and then a relatively short finish with a clean cherry malt glow and a hint of oak tannins.

The addition of a few drops of water turns the dram cloudy but amps up the sweetness, richness, and the viscosity of the mouth feel.  In other words, this is a classic "swimmer": it loves water.  All that is good and great about this lovely Speyside honeyed fruit basket gets more honeyed and more "fruit basketier" (tm - by the Coopered Tot) with some water. 

Wow, what a lovely fruit bomb!  I'm in love.  I've been sipping this compulsively so much that I haven't been able to make myself sit down and write this review!

Before water it's clear


  1. That's right Jordan. And I'm going to drain this bottle dry and smack my lips and VERMOUTH SHALL NEVER TOUCH IT. Do you hear me. Keep your sour fortified wines away from angelic whisky such as this, my friend, and tell your little demonic minion "The Muse of Doom" too. NO VERMOUTH!

    1. I'm just going to leave this right here...


  2. A point to ponder over your whisky:
    Does something like Malt Mill or Mosstowie count as a separate distillery? One the one hand you could say they were a distillery inside a distillery (MALT-CEPTION! Sorry, couldn't resist) but on the other you could say they were simply an extension of the distillery brand like Hazelburn and Longrow are to Springbank. I don't think we'll ever find an answer but it sounds like a fun topic to debate over a dram.

    1. It's a "DBA" for the same distillery. This happens all the time in the Bourbon world. All the Jim Beam Bourbons are made at a single pair of distilleries - sometimes on the same equipment and sometimes on different equipment. Is Knob Creek a different distillery than Bookers, or Bakers, or Jim Beam Black? They are all made at Clermont and that's that. As far as I'm concerned Mosstowie is just the name of a particular pair of stills at Miltonduff. Malt Mill is slightly different because it had different ownership and staffing (sometimes) although located in the walls of Lagavulin. The ownership angle gives it a categorical autonomy argument that Mosstowie doesn't have.

  3. I saw this bottle on Bottlespot and decided to buy after reading this review. I also have a 21 year Miltonduff private bottling from Gordon's liquor in Waltham MA and really liked the flavor profile. Well needless to say this 15 year blew me away last night. I could not put it down, which was evident from the bit of fog I was in this morning. Similar to the 21 year I have but on steroids. So rich and intense.

    1. I'm so happy I was able to help steer you towards this winner, David. A really lovely barrel. Very hard to find now - but delish!