Review: The ImpEx Collection – Glen Elgin 2006, Orkney 1999, Caol Ila 2008, and Springbank 1993
Folks, there’s a new independent spirits bottler in town… sort of. ImpEx has been importing whisky for as long as I’ve been writing about it, but for the first time it is starting an indie bottling label under its own name, fittingly called The ImpEx Collection.
The ImpEx Collection (alongside Single Malts of Scotland) fills a big hole created by the disappearance of the Exclusive Malts collection, which is no longer being imported to the U.S. (by anyone) after the brand and inventory were sold to a Chinese “private club.” (It is probably gone for good as far as most of us are concerned, as is Chapter 7.)
Like Exclusive Malts, the ImpEx Collection will be released in batches. Batch #1 includes six Scotch whiskies, one world whiskey (from Israel’s M&H), and three rums. We received small samples of four of the Scotch bottlings, all cask strength single barrels, which you’ll find reviewed below. (What are we missing? A 1982 Cameronbridge and a monster 40 year old blended cask from 1980.) We’ll review all of the rums separately in a later dispatch.
Ready to get the scoop on the newest independent bottler on the block? Let’s dig in.
The ImpEx Collection Glen Elgin 2006 14 Years Old Cask #9800012 – A big, classic Speyside, drawn from a bourbon barrel after 14 years and bottled at full proof. Glen Elgin is normally a pretty tame undertaking, but at full strength it presents with more punch and presence, offering a nose of toasty, well-sweetened cereal, barrel char, and fresh grass. The palate is surprisingly sweet, that breakfast cereal note popping brightly with a drizzle of honey atop a light touch of smoke, walnut oil, and some Christmas spice. Chimney soot notes linger on the finish — in a pleasant, wintry way that makes this warming malt feel destined for holiday time. 105 proof. A- / $129
The ImpEx Collection Caol Ila 2008 12 Years Old Cask #313250 – Its unpeated expressions aside, Caol Ila tends to offer a pretty stable experience from one bottle to the next. This cask strength 12 year old is no exception to that rule, offering a hugely smoky nose that’s stuffed with maritime notes, all typical for the brand. The palate continues the theme: sea spray, some smoked kippers, and a sharp citrus note that builds over time. The finish offers the only real surprise here, landing as just a bit flat, with some overripe fruit notes dominating. Otherwise, it’s as straightforward as anything in this collection gets. 116.8 proof. B+ / $126
The ImpEx Collection Orkney 1999 21 Years Old Cask #58 – There are only two real distilleries on Orkney, which really narrows down the options on this, particularly since Scapa bottled a peated whisky for the first time in 2016. So, let’s assume this isn’t a Scapa unicorn but is indeed Highland Park, drawn from a hogshead. It has much of the HP DNA, but not all of it, which makes it quite enticing. A gentle breeze of peat kicks things off, set nicely against a nose of toasted grains, golden syrup, and fresh citrus. The palate continues the evolution of these flavors, which eventually present as delicate and a bit floral, sweet and lush but with a nice layer of spice and just a hint of sea spray on the finish. Lots to love here, and highly worth exploring. Incidentally, this was one of the best in show winners at the recent 2021 Whiskies of the World competition where I served as a judge. 101.6 proof. A- / $210
The ImpEx Collection Springbank 1993 25 Years Old Cask #94 – A big 25 year old, finished in oloroso sherry casks. My incredibly high expectations for this whisky were quickly dashed. The nose kicks off with a much smokier character than the typical Springbank along with a distinct roasted vegetable note, the Campbeltown funk dialed up to 11. Beefy and dense with pepper, the aroma can be so savory and brooding it’s a little off-putting. The palate is similar in tone, extremely savory and quite vegetal, finishing with an overwhelming note of creosote and forest floor. Is this simply too old, too far gone? I don’t get any significant hint of the sherry finish here — which feels perhaps like a hail mary to save the whisky — nor much of the real DNA that makes Springbank so great. Skip it, especially at this price. 95 proof. B- / $950
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