Monday, March 30, 2015

Review - Ghosted Reserve

The Ghosted Reserve is the latest limited edition bottling in the Rare Cask Reserves series, which is released by William Grant & Sons.  It is a blended malt.  This term refers to a whisky that is made from two or more single malts blended together.  In this case, there are just two malts included and both are very rare as they come from the Inverleven and Ladyburn 'ghost' distilleries, which have been closed for a significant length of time.  The Ghosted Reserve has been created by Brian Kinsman, the Master Blender at William Grant & Sons.

The Inverleven distillery was founded by Hiram Walker & Sons in 1938 and produced single malt until it was closed in 1991. It was located in the town of Dumbarton, which sits to the north west of Glasgow on the River Clyde and close to Loch Lomond.  In fact, the water used in production at Inverleven was drawn from the loch.

Ladyburn was located to the south west of Glasgow on the outskirts of the Ayrshire town of Girvan.  It was founded by William Grant & Sons in 1966 and was only in operation for nine years until 1975.  Ladyburn was built as part of the site of the Girvan single grain distilling complex, which was constructed in 1963 and remains in operation today.

The Ghosted Reserve is bottled at 42% ABV and law determines that if an age is stated in a blended malt, that it must be of the youngest whisky (in this case the Inverleven at 26 years old).  It is available now in specialist retailers.  Due to limited numbers - there are just 4,100 bottles in total - it will only appear in selected markets around the world.  The UK has been allocated 1,200 bottles and the recommended retail price is £350.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is initially light, fruity and delicate. The fruit is distinctly tropical in nature and is most reminiscent of dried peach, mango and pineapple.  Underneath is a delicious dusty and woody earthiness (think of slightly damp soil, ginger and cinnamon), and this is accentuated by an increasing aroma of malted barley.

On the palate this whisky is incredibly soft, gentle and juicy.  The malted barley notes are less prominent now, but still present, and they add a delicate bittersweetness.  These are backed up and accentuated by earthy wood spices, especially ginger.  These increase with time with a distinct cinnamon-like note developing, and this compliments the sweeter and fruitier characteristics that are also evident.  Notes of golden syrup mix with the dried tropical notes from the nose (especially the peach and mango), vanilla and a hint of almond.  Some late candied orange peel adds further depth.

The finish is long and initially fresh and sweet.  This is until the fruity elements, plus the sugary syrup notes, begin to fade and the earthy, woody and warming spices remain and linger.

What's the verdict?
This is a very classy whisky and a creative use of two old malts that could easily have been bottled individually, especially as stocks of both are thought to be very low.  It is unlike anything that we have sampled for a long time, as we have rarely tasted Lowland whiskies of signifcant age, and maintains a delicacy and lightness that defies its years.  The mix of aromas and flavours is superb and makes for a very enjoyable sipping whisky.

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