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5 Whiskies That Made Us Look Twice

Updated: Mar 5

Weird whisky decanters

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

Have you ever encountered a bottle of whisky that made you wonder about its unusual characteristics? We have compiled a list of 5 whiskies that caught our attention due to their peculiarities, which we have never seen before.

  1. Cardhu Pure Malt

Cardhu Pure Malt

Image by Whisky Vault

From 2002 to 2004, the Cardhu distillery produced a blend called 'Pure Malt', which tried to pass itself off as a single malt. However, Pure Malt is an old term for blended malt, which is a mix of two or more single malts without any grain whisky. This blend was made using Cardhu and Glendullan single malts.

However, the industry soon criticised Diageo, the owner of the Cardhu distillery, for producing this blend, and so they discontinued it. For some people, Cardhu's reputation never fully recovered from this incident, and it is considered a misstep even by Diageo's standards.

As a result of this incident, the term Pure Malt was banned in the Scottish whisky industry due to its possible misleading nature.


2. Loch Lomond Single Blend

Loch Lomond Single Blend

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Loch Lomond is a distillery that produces different types of single malts and grain whisky. Although blends typically consist of whiskies from more than one distillery, Loch Lomond is capable of creating a single blend by mixing its various whiskies. However, this blend was discontinued before the major rebranding in the mid-2010s and replaced by the Loch Lomond Blended Whisky.


3. Black Bowmore 1964

Black Bowmore collection 1964

It might seem like the five releases of 1964 Black Bowmore are too dark in colour. Has colouring been used to get that "Black" hue to the whisky? Well, allegedly, yes and no.

The only legal additive that can be added to whisky is colouring E150A, but that's not where the Black Bowmore's got their colour. There are two different options here. One: The whiskies were aged in heavily sherried casks, resulting in a deep and rare blackish hue. Or Two: The 'evil' Paxarette was used to paint the inside of the casks. Heavily.

Paxarette is a little-known but widely used so-called additive to whiskies. It was banned in Scottish whisky production in 1990. Paxarette is still used in sherry winemaking, where it was borrowed to meet the high demand for sherry casks in the early 1900s. At its core, Paxarette is fermented grape juice mixed with concentrated Pedro Ximenez grapes to create a thick syrup that can easily be applied to the inside of the cask, creating a 'fake' sherry cask.

The use of Paxarette has only recently been discussed by whisky enthusiasts. But more likely than not, if you've ever had a whisky laid down in a sherry cask before 1990, you've drunk a Paxarette-influenced whisky.


Image by Whiskey Network/ Paxarette

Some people consider the Black Bowmore's whiskies to be a prime example of the misuse of Paxarette, although the owner has never discussed its use. However, since Paxarette was widely used in the industry before 1990, the deep black colour of these whiskies suggests that someone may have gone overboard with the additive or accidentally spilt a truckload of it on the barrels. It's hard to say for sure.

If you're interested in learning more about ageing whisky and casks, check out our article on Caskology here.


4. Glenury Royal 1970 40yo

Glenury Royal 1970 40 year old single malt whisky

Image by Whiskybase

Diageo's Special Releases in 2011 included the 1970 40-year-old Glenury Royal whisky. This release was unique due to its high alcohol content. Bottled at 59.4% ABV, it is unusual for a whisky aged 40 years in refilled American oak casks to have such a high alcohol content. Typically, only whiskies aged for less than 12 years have an ABV of around 60%.

Cask-strength whisky of this age is usually around 50%, so this release caught attention due to its almost 60% bottling ABV. The release included around 1500 bottles, which is assumed to be from a vatting of around 4-5 casks.

One possibility for the high alcohol content is that the whisky was laid down in casks at a higher alcohol level than usual. The ABV would have remained high even with a normal amount of angel's share.

Glenury Royal whisky distillery

Image by SMWhisky

It is possible that the location of the casks during the maturation process played a role in the outcome. The average loss of liquid due to evaporation, known as the 'angel's share,' in Scotland is typically around 2% per year. Therefore, it is possible that the casks were stored in an area of the warehouse where there was less evaporation of the liquid. We also considered the possibility that the casks were aged in an environment that was somewhere between the 'devil's share' and the 'angel's share,' resulting in only minor fluctuations in alcohol content due to changes in temperature. Nevertheless, the reasons behind the unique qualities of this particular bottling remain a mystery.


5. Macallan 1928 ~55 years old

Macallan 50 years old distilled 1928 and bottled in 1983

Image by The Whisky Exchange

We came across a bottle of whisky while working at a high-end alcohol retailer that caught our attention. Not because it was an expensive bottle of Macallan but because its ABV is below the required legal limit of 40%, which is mandated by The Scottish Whisky Association. This whisky was distilled in 1928 and bottled in 1983, making it over 50 years old, and has an alcohol level of only 38.6%. The release was limited to only 500 bottles.

But how can this be called whisky if it doesn't meet all the necessary requirements? In the early 1900s, the alcohol ABV was reduced to 40% when teetotal David Lloyd George was fighting with Scottish whisky makers over the strength of their product, and it soon became the industry standard that everyone followed. However, the minimum was only made into law in the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988, and this bottling might be the reason why.

It is highly probable that this particular sherry butt was forgotten about and only discovered in the depths of the warehouse when the ABV had already dropped below 40%. Usually, these casks would be blended with whiskies containing a higher alcohol level to balance the ABV, but that would have been a shame because of its age. So, they decided to bottle it as it was. Alternatively, Macallan may have had to appeal to the SWA to release this product as whisky to make some money from it, and the SWA made an exception.

The Macallan whisky distillery

Image by Whisky List

When it was first released in the 80s, a bottle of Macallan was sold for around £50. However, when we recently found it, the price per bottle was over £50,000, and it was sold within just 6 months. Not many of these bottles survived the 80s because it was considered a relatively cheap whisky, and people drank it as they should have. Regardless of whether Macallan had permission or not, it was necessary to make it a legal requirement to prevent others from attempting such a feat again. The primary reason behind this regulation was to ensure a certain level of quality and integrity in the industry.


Come across 'a freak of whisky'? Let us know by commenting below, and follow us with The Whisky Ardvark with #whiskyardvark #thewhiskyardvark

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