The Imperial distillery was a rather late casualty in the whisky world. It had an ‘on again, off again’ production cycle for most of its life and suffered sporadic (but lengthy!) periods of closure throughout much of the 20th century. The distillery managed to survive the worst rash of closures in the tumultuous early 1980s, but was eventually mothballed in 1985. Production resumed in 1991 – largely for fillings – but only for a few years, before the distillery was shuttered for the last time in 1998. The buildings stood intact until 2013, when they were razed to make way for the new Dalmunach distillery on the same site. A sort of phoenix act, I guess. That’s the quick and dirty for you. Well, not all the dirty. This particular whisky is pretty filthy in its own right. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense.
Did you check the abv on the bottle shot below? 70.2%. Seventy-point-two! To quote the great Billy Connolly, “Jesus suffering f*ck!” If I’m being dead honest, sipping this 11 year old neat is kinda like licking a flaming pool of angry bullet ants. I don’t generally add water to my whisky (generally, I said, before I get lynched here), but this whisky almost screams for it. Otherwise, the anesthetizing effect will simply kill your ability to suss out nuance.
Distilled in 1979 and bottled in 1991 for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Matured in first fill Fino. I never would have guessed that in a million years. Maybe the sherry is simply obliterated by the peat and scorching strength.
Final word on Imperial: while this is another of the oh-so-coveted closed distilleries, it’s definitely no collector’s darling yet. Give it time though. People will be scrounging for Imperial at some point. Buy while the prices are still sane.
Sincere thanks to my mate Brett Tanaka for the opportunity to taste this. The range of bottles he’s been opening for what we’ll call ‘The Brett Sessions’ are simply beyond comprehension. And I am beyond humbled to be able to partake. I’ll be reviewing dozens of them in the coming weeks/months.
Nose: Liqueur-soaked angel food cake. Chamois leather. Light smoke tied to some earthy notes. Herbal and ghrassy. Old ju-jubes. Apple slices in canola oil. Chocolate. A bit of a sweaty funk. Fino? Where?
Palate: The cereal shines through nicely here. More of those chocolate notes. A wee bit of peat. Orange oils. Dusty almond flour. Salty play-dough. Again, if there’s sherry influence here it is absolutely buried.
Finish: Long, of course. Takes a while for the initial heat to subside. Ebbing notes of cereal, peat and fruit skin. No wine.
Thoughts: I did drink this neat*, but holy hell…water is requisite here.
* One of the very few things I agree with the Fedora-sporting fella on: If I’m reviewing whisky, it has to be done neat. No two people will ever add exactly the same amount of water, so how can we compare apples to apples if we’re not tasting straight from the bottle?