There are special drams and then there are those extraordinary drams that we get to try every now and again, how we define which dram goes into which category is of course an individual thing but on Wednesday night ( 16-11-16) a group of extremely lucky whisky drinkers were given the chance to take part in a rather special tasting, something that generally does not really happen to meer mortals like me.. Steve Rush who runs a series of Twitter tastings through his online “tweet tastings” and ” the whisky wire” offered people a chance to participate in his latest tasting.
Firstly you apply, secondly you wait for notification, and once you are notified then you wait for your samples to arrive.. You usually know what you will be sipping when you apply but this time was a little more hush hush but you had the feeling it could be a good one as Gordon and macphail were involved.. Then came a little tease that there could be whisky from the 50s and 60s and believe me, you don’t get the opportunity to try these malts very often !! But when the samples arrived I was blown away.. bottom jaw dropped and I did a little ” happy dance” 5 samples ranging from 1954 up to 1985 , unfortunately for me one bottle had leaked which was a Strathisla from 1965 to which Gordon and Macphail very kindly sent another in order for me to review.. This line up really is a once in a lifetime for most people and the whisky on the night did not disappoint !! The full line up was as follows… A 1985 Balblair, a 1974 smith’s Glenlivet , a Glen Grant from 1966, a Strathisla from 1965 and finally a Mortlach from 1954.. Any one of these malts in a tasting would qualify as impressive but all 5 in one tasting, well this is the land where dreams can come true !!
So let me get to the important part.. The whisky itself..
Balblair distilled 1985 and bottled 27-1-15, this was matured in re-fill bourbon barrels and bottled at 43%abv..
Nose.. This started off like an explosion of vanilla, caramel and toffee with big fruity notes from apples, poached pears and plums before a big hit of citrus and spice aromas come flooding in on the back of oak and subtle earthy notes..
Palate.. A tsunami of flavours hit you all at once, amazingly fruity with big honey and vanilla flavours that are balanced out with delicious spicy notes from cinnamon and nutmeg.. There is a slight earthy note possibly Manuka honey that is drizzled over poached pear and stewed apples..
Finish.. fruity with an oak twist.
Smith’s Glenlivet, distilled in 1974 and bottled 18-2-1974 at a strength of 43% abv.
Nose.. A mix of dried fruits and spices greet you with a warm welcome while aniseed, candied orange and a succulent Turkish delight just make your mouth water even more.. Some natural oak tannings come through with winter berries and rich dark chocolate.
Palate.. Think chocolate orange with spices and mulled wine.. the flavours are all there, cinnamon, ginger, berries, vanilla and honey along with chocolate, aniseed and oak.
Finish.. Deliciously fruity with a distinct maturity..
Glen Grant distilled in 1966 and bottled 16-7-2016 with an abv of 40%..
Nose.. Quite fruity with both dried fruit and fresh fruits doing battle.. Lots of dates, raisins and candied orange with pear drop sweets,baked apples, vanilla and subtle citrus notes. Hints of melon and fresh pear seem to come and go along with sugared almonds, marzipan and dark chocolate.
Palate.. More subtle than I imagined it would be with more of those dark fruits doing battle with fresh fruit and natural sweetness. A distinct mature flavour comes in with some earthy notes and hints of dried tobacco..
Finish.. Distinct and long.
Strathisla distilled 1965 and bottled 19-1-2015.. bottled at 43%abv..
Nose.. Very elegant.. seriously dark with those dates, raisins, figs and prunes mixing with rich dark chocolate, candied orange, cigar boxes and coffee grinds.. Subtle oak in the background with dark treacle, maple syrup, liquorice and rich spices..
Palate.. Dark fruits as one would expect but with an earthy note.. a drying mouth feel gives you the sense your drinking liquid history that has a very distinct maturity to it. Nothing comes rushing in with this one, it’s gentle release of flavours just screams quality.. eventually there is a richness in the form of dark chocolate and coffee with Demerara sugar and burnt toffee..
Finish.. medium but delicious..
Thoughts.. This is not a big sherry bomb…. it is so much more… it is elegant, it is mature, it is sophisticated, it is complex and it is very well balanced.. you have to sit back and appreciate just what your drinking.. This is history in a glass..
Mortlach distilled in 1954 yes I did say 1954 !! And bottled 20-1-2012 at a strength of 43% abv ..
Nose.. WOW….This is something else.. Those dried fruits are to die for, lots of coffee notes with liquorice, tobacco and the richest darkest chocolate along with candied orange.. delicate Turkish delight and spices just sit together perfectly..
Palate.. Thick and chewy, decadent with those luxurious flavours that just make you dream.. The dried fruits mix perfectly with a sweet earthy texture and the oak just compliments the delicious fruitiness that flows constantly through every sip.. The richest of chocolate along with coffee and spices just make this one to savour for as long as you can..
Thoughts.. Where can you find words to do whisky like this justice ? As you pour this you feel giddy, as you Nose it you giggle inside and when you go to sip it you pause just long enough to realise what your about to taste.. This really is history in your glass and there is not very much whisky out there from the 50’s so with every sip you take you should remember just what it is that is in your glass !!
Overall Thoughts.. This must go down as the finest whisky tasting off my year.. No, in fact possibly the best tasting I have had the privilege to take part in !!
I know i might never get to try anything like this again so I am truly thankful to Steve from the ” whisky wire” on Twitter and Gordon and Macphail who not only included me on this tasting but sent a replacement in order for me to get the complete experience..
There is no way I can pick a winner from these malts and really I don’t feel I should as every one was special, unique and a piece of whisky history..