It could have taken 80 years, however yesterday, the world’s oldest single malt Scotch whisky was launched. I had the chance to style the Gordon & MacPhail Generations 80 from The Glenlivet Distillery, and I can say with out reservation that it was well worth the wait.
Gordon & MacPhail, as collectors and different whisky obsessives know, is famend for its uncommon whiskies. However this one, which got here from a single cask and resulted in simply 250 bottles, is a stunner even by their requirements. And the story behind it’s each bit as epic as you’d count on.
The truth that this whisky even exists is essentially due to the truth that Gordon & MacPhail continues to be a family-owned enterprise, which signifies that sure long-term selections that have been made almost a century in the past have been seen via by subsequent generations, with out the pressures that may have been dropped at bear by newer company possession.
Gordon & MacPhail traces its roots again to 1895, when James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail opened a grocery in Speyside that, amongst different merchandise, specialised in whisky. Early on, they have been joined by John Urquhart, who had a knack for working with native distilleries to decide on and age whiskies. When in 1915 the unique companions retired (MacPhail) and handed away (Gordon), Urquhart instantly discovered himself the managing associate. His son George Urquhart joined the enterprise in 1933, additionally working with whisky distilleries to supply and mature their spirits. He additionally, it seems, was a little bit of a visionary in when it got here to with the ability to see which liquids would be capable of stand the check of time.
Which is the place the story of this explicit single malt begins.
As was the observe of Gordon & MacPhail, they labored with greater than 100 Scotch distilleries to create distinctive expressions of whisky from the nice producers of the nation. Basically, Gordon & MacPhail paid the distilleries and offered ex-sherry casks, which the distilleries would then fill earlier than growing older them till they have been advised it was able to be bottled by G&M. Successfully, G&M offered the growing older vessels and rented area from distilleries throughout Scotland, labeling the ensuing bottles with each their agency’s title and the distillery the place the spirit got here from.
This explicit cask, I used to be advised final month throughout a zoom tasting and dialog with Stephen Rankin, fourth-generation member of the Urquhart household and possessor of probably the very best skilled title on the earth—he’s Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Status—has its personal fascinating backstory.
It was “harvested when Queen Victoria was a newlywed…Tsar Nicholas I used to be the tsar of Russia, Abraham Lincoln, in Springfield, Illinois, was a younger, humble lawyer, and it was the seventh era of the Qing dynasty on the time,” he stated. “So, fairly outstanding: That’s when the wooden was harvested. It then made its means all the way in which to Spain the place it was coopered…and the very first thing that went into the wooden was mosto, which is freshly pressed, concentrated grape juice. Then as soon as that served its time within the cask, the subsequent factor was a lightweight wine, post-fermentation…After which mature sherry was put in; on this case it was an oloroso,” he continued. “This cask was made to resist lengthy transport and being banged about…so it was fascinating that it made its means all the way in which right here [to Gordon & MacPhail]. So the staves of the cask are actually thick,” he defined. “It’s a really large cask, in extra of 500 liters, initially crammed to it. With that comes a really nice integrity to the construction and power of the cask. It’s simply outstanding. And it was on the third of February, 1940, that the distilled spirit was put into the cask.”
John and George Urquhart, after which subsequent family members, plus managing director Ewen Waterproof coat, who isn’t associated by blood however whose 30+ years with Gordon & MacPhail tie him deeply to their historical past, regularly tasted the liquid on this explicit cask. 12 months after 12 months, era after era, the judgement was made, Rankin advised me, “‘No, we’re not going to bottle this immediately, we’re going to maintain it.’ Ten years later, ‘We’re not going to bottle this immediately, we’re going to maintain it.’” And so it went for decade after decade, till instantly, by some means, almost 80 years had handed, at which level it was determined that the liquid was prepared. They selected to attend till final 12 months to bottle it, which at that time had evaporated a lot over the intervening years that solely 40% of the cask was full.
They labored with Sir David Adjaye, the internationally revered architect, to conceive of and design a wooden field and crystal decanter that may appropriately comprise what’s now the oldest single malt Scotch whisky in existence. 249 of the bottles can be found now, with the value upon request, and the ultimate one will likely be auctioned off in Hong Kong subsequent month by Sotheby’s, with the proceeds going to the Bushes for Life group…an ideal symmetry for this unbelievable spirit whose otherworldly character owes a lot to the wood cask that contained, nurtured, and influenced it for the higher a part of a century.
As for the spirit itself, Rankin advised me, he suspects that it “would have been a full, sturdy spirit that The Glenlivet distilled again in early-1940, impacted by the truth that among the malt was possible dried utilizing peat, and the stills have been heated utilizing coal fires. These gas sources, he believes, created sure aromas within the distillery that influenced the character of the liquid itself, even earlier than it was barreled. The outcome, 80 years later, is fascinating and profoundly scrumptious in equal measure. Aromas unfurl in layers of orange marmalade, barely charred cedar, sun-warmed heather, and an outlined umami character with hints of the leather-based of previous books, drying orange blossoms, dried dates, woodsy spices, mashed Marcona almonds, allspice, singed spearmint, well-aged cigars, and Amarena cherries in darkish chocolate ganache. It’s so energetic and contemporary alongside its unbelievable fragrant depth. And the palate is from one other planet: Candied lemon peel and pith, lemons preserved with Moroccan spices, cigar smoke, Center Jap spices, lemon blossoms drying on a sunny windowsill, refined natural notes, dried apricots, white nectarines, Seckel pears, and cracked pink peppercorns all flash via every sip and the lingering end. That is vibrant, layered, profoundly advanced, and in contrast to something I might have anticipated. It’s a testomony to Gordon & MacPhail, The Glenlivet, and the mind-boggling imaginative and prescient and persistence that it took to permit this majestic whisky to achieve such an unbelievable state of maturity.