Cameronbridge 1984 – 30 Year Old Single Grain (Wilson and Morgan)
Review: Cameronbridge 1984 – 30 Year Old Single Grain Whisky (97/100)
Wilson and Morgan – Bottle #133 of 316 From Cask #12973 (SKU W&M214 )
Review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published April 18, 2016
Wilson and Morgan is an independent bottler of Scotch Whisky based in Italy. The company was founded in 1992 by Fabio Rossi who also founded Rum Nation. Wilson and Morgan specialize in single grain and single malt whiskies which have been purchased by the barrel from selected Scottish distillers. The whisky barrels purchased range in age from 10 years to 30 years and are left to age (usually at the distillery where they were purchased) until they are ready to be bottled sometimes after they have been re-casked for finishing in port, rum or Marsala casks.
The Cameron Bridge Distillery (currently owned by Diageo) built by John Haig in Windygates in the Lowlands region of Scotland. Built in 1924, it was opened in approximately 1830 and is reported to be the first distillery to produce grain whisky using Robert Stein’s column still method. The distillery produced both grain whisky and single malt whisky until 1929 when its production was directed solely to grain whisky. Today it is one of the largest grain distilleries in Scotland, and it produces both grain neutral spirit (GNS) for such brands as Smirnoff Vodka and both Tanqueray and Gordon’s Gin as well as the grain whisky for such brands as Johnnie Walker, J&B and White Horse.
The 1984 Cameronbridge 30 Year Old Single Grain Whisky was distilled in 1984 and bottled in 2015. The whisky is part of Wilson and Morgan’s Collector’s Edition which comprises of special bottlings all of which are currently aged 30 years or more. Because of the small number of bottles obtained from cask #12973, it was most probably an ex-bourbon hogshead. (After checking with Morgan and Wilson, I learned that the whisky had never been re-casked or subjected to any special finishing process.) This 1984 Cameronbridge offering is bottled at cask strength (56.7% alcohol by volume).
In the Bottle 4.5/5
The only place in my review where I factor in the cost of the spirit is when I judge the presentation. My feeling is that very expensive offerings should ‘look the part’ so to speak as often these expensive spirits are purchased as special gifts or to honour some special occasion. This means that although there is certainly nothing wrong with the manner in which this whisky is presented, I feel that for a spirit which is advertised for about $270.00 (Canadian) more could have been slightly more done to raise the bar.
The whisky arrives in a standard tall bottle with an easy to read front and back label. There is however, very little ‘pop’ to either the front or the back to capture my attention. And unfortunately, the side labels feature a very small font on a beige background which is very difficult to read. The display box which houses the whisky is nice, but again not spectacular. A lower priced whisky would have garnered a perfect score, but a ‘Collector’s Edition’ 30 Year Old Whisky perhaps deserves just a little better.
In the Glass 9.5/10
When I poured the 30 Year old Whisky into my glencairn, it showed me a pale amber colour, and the breezes above the glass seemed almost rum-like with smells of Mackintosh toffee combined with fine wood spices drifting into the air. I tilted the glass and gave it a slow twirl. The whisky deposited a thick sheen onto the inside of the glass and the crest only very slowly dropped fat droopy legs. Everything looks as it should for a 30-year-old cask strength whisky.
A rule of thumb I use when examining well aged spirits is to let the glass breathe for as long as I can before taking a sip. In fact, it is not unusually for me to wait one minute for each year of age a rum or whisky possesses. Although it is difficult to wait so long for a thirty year old whisky, the results are spectacular. The initial notes of mackintosh toffee and fine oak spice have gained depth and become absolutely luscious. Coarse brown sugar mixed with vanilla and bits of cinnamon make my mouth water as impressions of my Mom’s famous cinnamon rolls have began to form in my consciousness. Within all of that rich goodness are light herbaceous impressions of grassy meadows and piny forests.
The Cameron Bridge from Cask # 12973 has a spectacular nose. (And the impression in the breezes of yummy rum is unmistakable!)
In the Mouth 58.5/60
I began my examination by cautiously taking a small sip. At 56.7% alcohol by volume. Tasting the whisky neat, I receive a firm impression of rum-like sweetness at the front of the tongue with sharp wood spices and high alcohol heating the rest of the palate. A surprising coolness of mint and menthol follows and this is combined with a light grassy herbaceous flavour note. The whisky has depth and vigor and amazingly, even at cask strength I find myself enjoying the whisky immensely.
When I add a touch of water, a very positive creaminess develops. Mackintosh Toffee, coarse brown sugar and heated pockets of cinnamon have melded with oak spices giving the whisky a richness not often associated with grain whiskies. Vanilla and marzipan add to the impression of creaminess, and at the end of each swallow is a lovely coolness of reminiscent of menthol and forest herbs. The whiskey tastes as good as the nose promised.
In the Throat 14.5/15
I love the lingering spicy sweetness of the finish. As indicated above, at the end of each swallow is a lovely coolness of reminiscent of menthol and forest herbs. A full five minutes after finishing my sample glass I can still taste a firm impression of oak syrup, brown sugar and baking spices (vanilla and cinnamon).
The Afterburn 10/10
I received this whisky sample as a result of an email conversation with the Director of Morgan and Wilson, Fabio Rossi. During that conversation I indicated that I particularly loved well aged grain whiskies. I feel grain whiskies are well suited to long-term aging, and in some respects they are the superior to Single Malts Whiskies for that purpose. I suspect this is because the lighter flavours and the fine wood spices which are drawn from old wood match up well with the spicy character and flavour of grain whisky. This is of course a generalization and not a fast rule. In the case of the Cameronbridge 1984 Single Grain Whisky drawn from Cask 12973, the generalization has come to fruition.
This is a spectacular whisky which features the sweet spicy taste of grain melded perfectly with sappy oak flavours. It is almost as if I am tasting a yummy oak syrup. And the fact that the flavour profile is so reminiscent of well-aged rum is pretty much the icing on top of the cake.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)