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Imperial distillery was founded in 1897 by Thomas Mackenzie, an entrepreneur who already owned two other malt whisky distilleries, Dailuaine and Talisker. Its construction coincided with Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and the year that the British Prime Minister, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, hosted the first Imperial conference – hence the name ‘Imperial’. The distillery was closed again within two years due to the Pattison crisis and remained so for almost two decades. In 1916 it was partially acquired by Distillers Company Limited (DCL), a consortium comprised of James Buchanan, John Walker and John Dewar. Production resumed in 1919, but in 1925 the distillery was closed yet again, and in 1930 DCL took over Imperial completely. The distillery was rebuilt and reopened in 1955. In 1965, the number of stills was expanded from two to four and a Saladin box was installed to malt the barley. In 1985 Imperial was mothballed and in 1989 sold to Allied Distillers (which would become part of the Allied Domecq conglomerate) that had production resume in 1991. In 1998 the distillery was mothballed yet again and officially closed by Allied Domecq in 2000. As of 2013 most the distillery has been demolished and nothing is left apart from some old warehouses. This particular expression was distilled on 4 December 1990 and bottled by Mackillop’s from cask #11972 in March 2013.
The nose is intensely malty to begin with, then turns spicy while displaying distinct vanilla and honey flavours. With water there is not much change, apart from a slowly developing orange note.
The palate is medium-bodied, spicy, and nicely warming. Vanilla and honey are back, followed by pencil shavings and a tannic dryness – quite austere. With water the palate becomes more rounded but also a bit bland.
The finish is of medium length and very dry. Oak is now very prominent, followed by some faint lemon flavours.
This was my first ever Imperial. While I was very fond of the well-balanced and nicely malty nose, I found both palate and finish less enticing. Still, this is a solid, well crafted single malt, and I am glad to have tasted it.