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Thought I would squeeze in some tasting notes before dinner - ambitious, eh? But really, this is driven by my desire to free up the overcrowded whisky-rack and countertop space in my kitchen. It's slowly working.
Three firsts here with this write-up: my first Rosebank, my first closed distillery (I think) and my first SMWS bottling. Rosebank was a Lowland distillery founded in 1840 and sadly closed by Diageo in 1993 when it decided to keep Glenkinchie as it's Lowland "Classic Malt". The spirit is triple distilled (the style of the region) and was once considered the best Lowland malt; in 1890 customers had to be put on allocation due to high demand! One can only dream that this distillery will rise again...
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is an independent bottler that only does single cask, cask strength, non-coloured, non-chill-filtered single malts. Contrary to the name, it also does single malts from Ireland, Japan and other countries, as well as single grains. One can only buy bottles through membership (for an annual fee). The number combines a distillery "code" (so as to "hide" the distillery name from the consumer, so the focus is on the spirit, not on where it comes from) and the number of the cask. The name is usually a cheeky distillation of tasting notes, which also feature prominently on the label. This particular Rosebank is 21 years old, distilled in November 1990, from a refill hogshead. Thanks to Igor Kossov for supplying the sample.
The colour is very very light gold, almost platinum. Extremely delicate nose, fresh cut grass with drying hay, the slightest whiff of smoke, very herbal, yeasty, definite pear notes (as the name suggests) and apple, and very floral as well. A beautiful, delicate, refreshing nose. Water does little except accentuate the floral notes, perhaps due to the age and delicacy of the malt.
The palate is wonderful! Also delicate and fruity - the high ABV provides some heat but it is not overpowering. Spicy and a little medicinal, in a clean, refreshing way - beautiful, with some light wood notes (pine, not oak). Water brings out more spice and malt, and conversely, ups the heat factor. Crisp and delicious.
On the finish: wow! More vigorous than the nose or palate would suggest, bringing waves of pepper (again, as the name suggests) but retains a backbone of delicate sweet fruit. Extremely complex, to say the least. This is a gorgeous whisky, and one that makes me long to try more Rosebanks (this is my first...I think...) Standard Lowlanders don't usually excite me, but when they are like this (or limited edition Auchentoshans, for example), they can be among the loveliest and beautiful whisky experiences.