What was possibly my last Twitter tasting of 2016 was undoubtedly one of the best! Five whiskies from the Gordon & McPhail 'Rare Vintage' series, with only one whisky that was younger than me! The oldest was distilled over sixty years ago. It's not often we are lucky enough to try such old and rare whiskies, so this was one tasting I had really been looking forward to.
My thanks as always to Steve Rush @TheWhiskyWire for selecting me for this occasion, and thank you to Gordon & McPhail for sharing such gems with us. Here are my tasting notes taken on that evening:
Balblair 1985 - 30 years old, 43%, £205
Distilled 14/01/85 and bottled 27/01/15. Drawn from Casks 245 & 246 (refill Bourbon barrels)
1985: The year the first British mobile phone call is made & Madonna is number one in the charts with "Like a Virgin".
All sorts of sweet, fruity, buttery deliciousness going on here. Grilled pineapples, buttered popcorn & a hint of leather? So much sweet ripe fruit though… kiwis, pears & apples appear over time along with a touch of varnish/polish. Properly lush nose.
Actually quite robust! Rich spicy tones with a slight earthy mustiness. Still some honey sweetness & fruit notes though. Some tropical fruitiness but not as much as the nose suggested.
This is where more of the musty, leathery notes become evident. And with dry vanilla, cinnamon & oak notes too, this has a good warming, satisfying finish.
Smith's Glenlivet 1974 - 33 years old, 43%, £450
Distilled in 1974, bottled 19/02/2008 - with 726 bottles available worldwide. Taken from the following barrels: Cask 840 Sherry hogshead, Casks 13837 & 13838 Sherry Hogsheads
1974: The year Richard Nixon resigned as US President & ABBA reach number one in the charts with “Waterloo”.
Biiiig sherry kick! Rich, resinous (almost port like) red grapes and raisins. Rich chocolate ganache too. Smells like I'll need a spoon!
Goes get a bit waxy and almost rubbery with time in the glass… it smells thick!
Warm rich mellow yed dry spice with sultana, cherries, a hint of rum and a touch of aniseed. Eventually some grape skin/winey notes
Quite juicy, red berries but with a faint 'farmyard' quality?!
Glen Grant 1966 - 45 years old, 40%, £650
Distilled in 1966, bottled 16/07/2012 - 1121 available bottles worldwide. Cask info: Cask 2924, 2925, 2930 RefillAmerican Hogsheads (distilled 04/04/1966), Cask 5260 First fill Sherry butt (distilled 03/11/1966), Cask 7376 Refill American Hogshead (distilled 28/12/1966)
1966: The year England won the World Cup & The Beatles reached number one in the charts with "Yesterday".
Floral yet dry… a summery meadow on a hot day. Hibiscus, watermelon, oak shavings. Simply phenomenal. 'Hardens' with time, more lemon peel and woody notes.
A balance of ripe, sweet fruits, stewed rhubarb with some hazelnuts and the faintest whisp of wood smoke.
Someone mentioned cola which I can get.
Bit of dry, dusty 'oldness' on the finish that I can't describe… with a bit of citrusy zest and a touch more smoke. I like the nose more than I like the palate, (although it's still bloody good!)
Strathisla 1965 - 50 years old, 43%, £730
Distilled 09/12/65, bottled 20/01/16 - 418 available bottles worldwide. Taken from a single cask #3474 First fill Sherry puncheon
1965: The year Sir Winston Churchill died & The Rolling Stones were number one with "I Can't Get No Satisfaction".
Such a dark dram, really rich PX sherry sweetness, full on Xmas explosion. Hints of leather, polish & pine too.
Demerera sugar, plum, fig, raisin… all stewed in a massive pot! Decadent is not the word.
Someone mentioned coffee grounds after time which does become evident.
Oh yeah! Cocoa, tobacco, dark fruits steeped in rum. Blackcurrant, old wood, burnt dark sugar… so heavy! Really dark thick cut marmalade was mentioned which is spot on. Marmalade that caught on the bottom of the pan a little.
Resinous, grape skins, marsala & a touch of rubber and the slightest mocha coffee bitterness… this is old & masterful!
Mortlach 1954 - 58 years old, 43%, £1850
Distilled 27/01/54, bottled 20/11/12 - only 347 bottles worldwide. Taken from Cask 494... a first fill Sherry butt
1954: The year rationing ends in the UK & the films ‘On the Waterfront’ & ‘Rear Window’ were released.
Really good legs in the glass. Ginger, allspice & brown sugar (unbaked gingerbread mix!) with a glass of cognac on the side. Thick, rich & decadent.
With a bit of time, you get the feel of a musty, dark bonded warehouse… you can smell the age.
So much going on here. Rich sherried fruity notes, hints of tobacco and coffee, bitter dark chocolate. Fennel and black pepper too… unbelievable. Taste it again and you pick up a medley of stewed blackberries, currants and blueberries.
You've got a touch of smoky ham, with the sticky sweetness of a rich toffee apple. This is something else!
I'd taste this over and over again and would pick up something subtly different each time. It's such an evolving dram... truly the dram that keeps on giving!
It was hard to arrive at an order of preference, although the Mortlach was my clear favourite. However after some consideration, I went for the Mortlach followed by the Strathisla, then the Glenlivet, the Glen Grant and finally the Balblair.