I tasted a Glen Albyn today. It was my second one ever. It blew me away, in the bag-of-gasoline way a Hollywood car crash does, or one of those exploding buildings the hero doesn’t look back at. It is a Very Bad Whisky. And yet…
A little while back Martin, a fellow member of my whisky club the Dutch Usquebaugh Society, slipped me a sample while we were waiting to catch the bus to a tasting. He didn’t say much, but the gleam in his eye said that it was probably something special. On the bottle was written ‘Glen Albyn 1980, SV #2946-48 43%’. As I had only had one Glen Albyn before (which was glorious) this filled me with joy, as I was certain I would taste something quite extraordinary. I couldn’t have been more right and yet more wrong.
Glen Albyn '80-'93 43% (whiskybase) 13.11.1980 - 02.1993 Signatory Vintage Cask# 2946 - 48
The nose makes me question whether Martin is playing a cruel joke on me. It is petrol, mixed with lighter fluid and paraffin. We’re not talking a whiff or a smidgeon here either, this is full on nose above a jerrycan stuff. It’s extremely hard hitting for the ABV. After letting it (or myself, not quite sure) breathe for a while the overwhelming petroleum odours have subsided slightly, to the level of an exploded petrol pump a few streets off. I now get mouldy notes, some vanilla and a hint of cheap dry white wine.
I detect a physical, nigh involuntary hesitation upon taking the first sip. I taste no petrol, but that doesn’t mean were in any less weird territory here: laundry detergent, air freshener (No, I don’t know how that tastes, but it can’t be far off) and pot-pourri. Some relatively normal flavours: vanilla, woodspice (pepper and cinnamon), coconut. Then, the taste of sucking on the corner of a freshly washed bath towel (I do know how that tastes, which is perfectly normal, or so I keep telling myself). Oldfashioned unscented soap and aniseed round it out.
The finish is quite long, and lingers on that slightly soggy towel corner with a hint of paraffin.
This is quite simply the weirdest whisky I have ever tasted. Previous champion in that department was this Craiglodge by Loch Lomond distillery, which I actually scored in the 80s despite the obvious flaws. This Glen Albyn however, is simply whisky gone hideously wrong. It is extremely interesting as a masterclass in what can go awry in both distillation and maturation (I suspect a bit of both here), but pleasant or tasty, it is not. In fact, it is very close to being undrinkable. 50/100 points