Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review - Port Dundas 12 & 18 years old

These two whiskies are from the closed Glasgow single grain distillery of Port Dundas.  Occasional bottlings of Port Dundas have appeared from Diageo, the owners when the distillery closed, and independent bottlers in the past but this is the first time that the distillery has been presented as a range, albeit a limited one.  Two expressions have been selected from remaining stocks - 12 and 18 years of age - and these will be exclusive to the American market with no immediate plans to expand beyond that.  Both whiskies have been matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks.

The Port Dundas distillery was located in the centre of Glasgow, next to the Forth and Clyde Canal.  The distillery was founded in 1810 by Daniel Macfarlane and the whole Port Dundas area, which was named after Sir Lawrence Dundas (who had funded construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal), was the industrial heartland of Glasgow.  Another distillery was founded on a neighbouring site in 1813 by Brown, Gourlie & Co and the two were merged in the 1860s.

An old drawing of Port Dundas distillery

The distillery was closed in 2010, just after celebrating its 200th anniversary.  Owners Diageo switched most of their single grain whisky production to the Cameronbridge distillery and North British, which they run in conjunction with the Edrington Group.  It was heavily modernised in the 1970s and at the time of closing had an annual capacity of 39 million litres.  Most of this was used in Diageo's popular blends such as Bell's, J&B, Johnnie Walker, White Horse and Vat 69.

The Port Dundas 12 years old is bottled at 40% ABV and will retail for $50.  The 18 years old is bottled at 43% ABV and will retail for $100.  Both will be available through selected US specialist whisky retailers.


Our tasting notes

Port Dundas 12 years old
The colour is pale golden yellow and the nose has a lovely and very promising fragrance.  There are initial aromas of golden syrup, vanilla and dessicated coconut, which are backed up by further notes of freshly sawn wood, oak, cinnamon and crisp green apples.

On the palate this whisky has an immediate drying woody spiciness, with the cinnamon from the nose especially prominent.  As this softens it becomes creamier in the mouth and the sweeter notes come through well.  The two that show first are vanilla and golden syrup, although this is now more reminiscent of honeycomb.  Then comes some fresh coconut and green apple, followed by a hint of tropical fruit (maybe peach and mango?) and ginger.  The vanilla note seems to increase and the combination works very well.  The finish is on the the short side, but is warming and full of the woody and spicy characteristics.


Port Dundas 18 years old
The colour is deep gold and the nose is expressive and highly fragrant.  There are initial aromas of vanilla, cream soda and honey, which are supported by lighter aromas of cereals, dried mango and pineapple, dessicated coconut and hints of beeswax, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.

On the palate this feels soft and creamy with a oily viscousity.  The sweetness and dried tropical fruitiness are very much upfront - think of a lovely combination of honeycomb, vanilla, golden syrup, dried mango and pineapple, juicy sultanas and coconut milk.  These are enhanced by some warming oaky notes and wood spices, especially cinnamon and mace.  There are also hints of over ripe banana, candied lemon, ginger and lime zest.  The finish is long lasting and the woody spices are warm and lingering.  The sweet and fruity elements also last well and create a delicious combination.


What's the verdict?
These two new expressions of Port Dundas are both very pleasing whiskies and show how good single grain whiskies can be.  The 12 years old is quite simple but is expressive and stacks up favourably in terms of quality and flavour against other single grain whiskies of a similar price (Girvan No.4 Apps and Haig Club being the most widely available).  We preferred it to both of these, if honest.

The 18 years old expression has more depth and complexity than the 12 years old and rivals any independently bottled single grain whisky of a similar age that we have tasted to date.  It is priced quite favourably and offers good value in our view.  It seems a shame that these are only available in America - maybe they will get a wider distribution if they sell well and remaining stocks allow.  We hope so, but will have to wait and see ...


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