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Between 1998 and 2004, Diageo released four different Rosebank bottlings in their 'Rare Malts' range. This review refers to the third release from 2002, bottle no. 5,637 of a 20-year old version. Sadly, and as we all know, Rosebank will never return. The maltings have been demolished to make way for housing development, and the stills were stolen and have not been recovered.
The nose is light and floral at the beginning, quite astonishing given the rather high ABV. No alcohol punch in the nose, simply these floral and almost perfumy notes at the beginning. Astounding! Then malt and lemon flavours kick in, now quite forcefully, so perhaps a little bit of water should be added here. With water, there now are plenty of vanilla notes, together with lemons, oranges and a touch of honey. There are also very distinct grassy notes, accompanied by mint and eucalyptus. A wonderful start to this tasting session!
The palate is full-bodied and dry. Similar to the nose, the palate is surprisingly smooth at cask strength. The malty flavours are back, together with a good dose of vanilla and lemons, and followed again by honey. With water, the palate opens up beautifully: there now is even more of vanilla and honey, together with notes of lemon zest and white pepper. Gorgeous, even if not quite up to the level of the nose.
The finish is long, warming and spicy. Grassy notes last to the very end.
This is the first Rosebank that I tried from the now discontinued Rare Malts series, and I was stunned! Above all, I was fascinated by the nose that is both light and distinctive, and I could have nosed this whisky for hours. Another intriguing discovery was how drinkable this was at cask strength: 62.3% is an impressive figure but this worked very well without adding water. In short, this was absolutely stellar material from a sadly lost distillery!