Review: Mystery Speyside, 1990 Daily Dram

Distilled in Speyside, 19yo 1990 The Daily Dram

(Distilled 1990, bottled 2009, 48%)

This is an undisclosed Speyside single malt … but might there possibly be a clue in the picture of Balvenie Castle on the label? Hmm. Other bottlers, of course, use the “Burnside” name for whisky from that particular distillery … ahem ahem. Not that I can confirm things one way or another of course.

There’s no info provided about the cask type either (although from the colour I’d say bourbon barrel or fairly active hogshead) so we have to plunge in blindly.

Nose: OK, while trying to maintain a bit of uncertainty I have to say this certainly smells like classic Balvenie: apricot jam, a bit of syrupy peach, touches of honey and floral vanilla. Beyond that though are some interesting and even unexpected notes: banana, some dried mint tea leaves, a limestone mineral thing, and just a faint waft of something medicinal. A bit of germolene and gauze? Just the teeniest hint of those I have to stress. but it’s an example of what I like so much about this nose – upfront you get all the immediately appealing sweet fruitiness, but it’s backed by some complexity and even idiosyncrasy. An excellent start.
Taste: We’re starting off with all that fruit from the nose, but also some more tart notes – green melon, slightly unripe red plums, lime, bit of persimmon maybe? There’s a nice creamy thing happening too though, and I keep thinking of banana-flavour Nesquik (a guilty pleasure, I must admit). There’s also a good amount of wood spice here – ginger and white pepper – and I’m still getting that faint medicinal touch. Almost iodine, actually, which is a weird thing to find here.
Finish: Interesting two-track finish of creamy fruits (tropical fruit yoghurt style) battling with those spices which verge on being drying and tannic. Have you ever tried Autumn Olive fruit? I’m reminded of their combination of spiky tropicality and slight astringency. The aftertaste is more straightforwardly lovely though – with dried apricot and black tea.

A tricksy one this. It starts and ends fantastically well, but in the middle the ginger/pepper spice just verges on being too much … it’s probably a matter of personal taste as much as anything, but for me it’s definitely on the borderline. Still lots to enjoy here, but perhaps an occasion when bottling a few years earlier might have been the right move.

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