Review: Cadenhead's St Magdalene 32 year old


Lowland distilleries are finding new avenues of appreciation as many whisky enthusiasts seek out malt from Littlemill, Rosebank and St Magdalene also known as Linlithgow. This has been assisted by some excellent releases lately from Rosebank and even Littlemill; one of the most haphazard of all Scottish distilleries. 
 
In comparison releases from St Magdalene are extremely thin on the ground as it’s not one that seems to be well stocked by the independent bottlers who we often have to rely on for closed distilleries nowadays. You can always rely on Cadenhead’s to come up with the goods and a quick online search shows that they have been able to bottle St Magdalene more consistently than anyone else. How long this can continue for is debatable but looking at the alcohol strength of this 32 year old St Magdalene there could be life in the old girl yet.
 
Rumours of an impending St Magdalene release from Cadenhead’s began to circulate in December before official confirmation. Then Serge over at Whisky Fun reviewed the whisky that would arrive as part of Cadenhead’s January releases. Needless to say I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to purchase a bottle given demand. I missed out on TWE’s double header of Japanese bottle lotteries recently, but you cannot win them all and the St Magdalene would have been my bottle of choice given the trio.
 
The distillery has a varying reputation that with time has grown significantly, as back in the day it was often referred to as canal water! Thankfully it seems my £205 is well placed. What remains of St Magdalene was converted into residential accommodation and still stands today. I’ll have to go out for a drive over the Forth to check it out. Sadly there isn’t any other reason to be in this part of Scotland as there is little between Falkirk and Edinburgh; come to think of it there’s little in Falkirk or the Central Belt either. Still, my opinions aside, here’s what I thought of this dram.
 
 
Distillery: St Magdalene (aka Linlithgow)
Distilled: 1982 (the distillery closed in 1983)
Bottled: January 2015 (32 years old)
Strength: 58.1%
Cask: butt
Edition of: 282 bottles
Price: £205 (original retail price if you can find it)

Colour: dandelion and burdock bitter

Nose: huge soft fruits that classic Lowland expression. This really benefits from time in the glass very much like the Glen Mhor I reviewed in 2014. Barbecued pineapple no doubt that little bit of smoke from olden times penetrating the fruit layer. Golden syrup, Lyle's of course and complete with the tin; not one of those plastic bottles. There is a zing edge so bear with me here. It's taking me back to metalwork glass at school where you chisel and destroy a piece of metal in pursuit of creating something ultimately pathetic and pointless. Yeah, metal shavings on the fringes and tarragon just adds to this. A very distinctive and utterly wonderful nose.  

Taste: it's remarkable just how similar this feels in texture and details to the George Strachan Rosebank. It's so spritely and lemon fresh. Oh how I'd like to chop some soft fruit, cover it in honey and sugar before tossing it onto a barbecue. Thankfully this dram saves me from having to do this or reaching for the fruit pastilles. That metallic edge carries through right until the finish and what a prolonged finish it is.

If this is canal water then stop me from jumping in and taking a few gulps. Yet again we have another departed distillery that through the combination of time and nature has given us a wonderful legacy.

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