I think that virtually all whisky lovers I’ve ever met agree on the fact that old Strathisla is a great thing. Those sherry casks that were mainly bottled by Gordon & MacPhail with their retro labels are stunning drinks, with a lot of weight and depth, and sometimes funky flavors.
See how I wove weight and depth into that opening? You know, ‘gravitas’?
Aaaaanyway… A 25 year old popped up several years ago in a bottle share group I’m in and at a decent price I thought to pick it up. I don’t remember whether I knew it was a bourbon cask instead of the somehow more expected sherry version, but what the heck.
Of course, this being an SMWS bottling, the name makes little to no sense, but with a name like this, it does presume something good.
There’s quite some oak on the nose, but the mountain of vanilla and custard trumps it. Apart from the white oak that’s rather clear on the nose, there’s also pancakes with golden syrup. It’s not very complex at all.
The palate isn’t overly sharp, with some alcohol bite but the quarter century in wood mellowed it. Again, lots of vanilla and custard, with a reasonably heavy profile. Oak, a bit of an oily texture, and those pancakes with syrup again.
The finish is a bit more dry than the palate was, but there’s nothing else that’s surprising. Lots of wood, even more vanilla custard. Pancakes and syrup. Maybe some apple crumble?
Well, if the gravitas refers to the heavy and thick custardy profile of the whisky, it’s spot on. Apart from that, this must be one of the more boring whiskies I’ve had this year. There’s nothing exciting about this oak juice. There’s no spirit influence left, I think, and that makes this a prelude of what’s to come if homogenization keeps ramping up like it does.
Having said that, and I know this is going to sound weird, this is not necessarily bad whisky. It’s just insanely boring and predictable. It’s not disgusting, it’s not off. It’s just that there’s nothing to discover apart from heaps and heaps of vanilla (and custard).
It’s almost like the folks who reviewed it on Whiskybase had a completely different dram than I did…
Strathisla 25, 1989, 56.1%, SMWS, 58.15 – Gravitas in a Glass