Sunday, 11 November 2018

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Twin Casks - Longmorn 1961 Casks #508 and #512 (Tasted #403 - 404)

A lot of great tasting invitations pass across the desks of TimeforWhisky, but it's not every day those invitations involve trying a pair of 57 year old whiskies (filled into two different casks on the same day, way back in 1961) costing £30,000, in the presence of the two brothers who selected them.

This one did, though. I'm talking of course about Gordon & Macphail's new Private Collection 1961 Longmorn twin casks, released recently as a set of two decanters, both distilled on 2nd Feb 1961, both bottled 57 years later on 2nd Feb 2018, in a release of only 97 sets globally.



A few weeks ago in private whisky club in HK's Central, I found myself chatting to members of the Gordon & Macphail owning family (and twin brothers) Richard and Stuart Urquhart about these two incredible whiskies, hearing some great stories from the family's history, and then tasting them (alongside a 1973 Longmorn and a 1976 Mortlach, as if these two weren't special enough!)

The brothers explained that the casks (filled by their grandfather in 1961) were an experiment to determine "nature versus nurture" in a whisky context. Both were filled with the same spirit and matured side by side for their entire 57 years - one a European Oak cask, the other American Oak (both first fill Sherry Hogsheads).


57 years after their filling, the brothers each selected the cask that best represented themselves. Richard (elder by a few minutes) selected the cask filled first (#508, European Oak), a stronger and more robust whisky, whereas Stuart's cask (#512, American Oak) is a spicier, drier cask said to reflect Stuart's drier sense of humour.

(Of course, inevitable "stronger vs weaker" jokes were bandied back and forth between the brothers too..)


I've met Richard a few times over the years, and always respected his passion for whisky, and respect for the family's history. Stuart was no different, and it was fantastic to hear stories of their forefathers' foresight in laying down casks like these - all of which are owned by G&M from the day they're filled (the family doesn't buy pre-matured casks).


Of course, it's one thing to hear stories about rare whiskies like these, but another thing entirely to taste them. So on that note...

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" 1961 Longmorn Twin Casks - Cask #512 American Oak (40.8% ABV, 57yo, Speyside, Scotland, Cask #512, 1 of 97 bottles, £30,000 sold as a pair (UK), HK pricing available on request from Fine Vintage)
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Colour: Rich brown treacle.

Nose: Delicate, but with lots going on. Floral notes of potpourri, some varnish and saw dust. Then some vegetal notes. Fruit - dried apricots and prunes at first, then some tropical mango and guava. Lots of flamed orange peel, then some sweeter notes emerge - candied almonds and marzipan.

Palate: Sweet initially, with some slightly bitter herbal tannins, giving way to pineapple, raisins, and more oranges (whole and peel). There's some milk chocolate, slight hints of earthy smoke, at time some rum-soaked banana, and lemon notes. Many different notes, but integrated very well.

Finish: Long, tropical, with orange peel and dark (not milk anymore) chocolate most predominantly. The bitterness lingers (in a nice way) - not overly different to a bitter orange liqueur like say Campari.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. An absolutely stunning nose, followed by a delicious and complex palate and long lingering finish.


Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" 1961 Longmorn Twin Casks - Cask #508 European Oak (45% ABV, 57yo, Speyside, Scotland, Cask #508, 1 of 97 bottles, £30,000 sold as a pair (UK), HK pricing available on request from Fine Vintage)
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Colour: Deep coffee-copper with red tinges.

Nose: World's apart from the American Oak. Big, bold, sherried. Nutty, cherries, some allspice. Huge milk chocolate notes, Vietnamese coffee, lots of rum and raisin. Varnish and oak, but sweet, not dry or bitter.

Palate: Huge! The tannins are noticeable, but the sherry notes are super clean. Hazelnuts and orange peel (fresh, not flamed), lots of raisin and strong black espresso notes. Rum n Raisin. At times I'm reminded of some of my favourite Italian herbal digestifs - Averna (the barrel-aged variety only available in Italy), Cynar etc..

Finish: Long, warming, creamy and oaked. Hints of dark orange chocolate at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Definitely the more robust of the two, and whilst the oak shows, it doesn't overpower the whisky too much, and allows all the other notes (and wow, there are a lot) to shine through.


57 years is a long time for any whisky to spend in a cask - especially in a first fill sherry cask. These whiskies could have so easily been overpowered by oaky tannins, or some of the less pleasant notes that appear on some sherry casks (sulphur, etc) and yet, they didn't. They remained clean, complex, delicious, and each incredibly unique.

Fine Vintage in Hong Kong have an (understandably very limited) number of these sets available for purchase, should anyone be interested.

Thanks to Richard, Stuart and Howard for the invitation to this fantastic tasting. 


Cheers,
Martin.

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