Saturday 29 December 2018

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" 1954 64yo Glenlivet and 1968 50yo Caol Ila (Tasted #418 - #419)

It's fair to say Hendy and myself have tried a fair few special drams this year, including a number of old and very old whiskies. Whilst we all know that older doesn't always equal better, there's something undeniably special about drinking a single malt (or even a grain, blend or other distilled spirit) aged for 40, 50, or 60 years, or more.

With the end of the year just around the corner, it was probably reasonable to expect that my "old whisky" quota had been used up, when low and behold the following package landed on the doorstep of TimeforWhisky HQ, courtesy of the lovely folk at Gordon & Macphail...

Containing not only the oldest ever commercially bottled Caol Ila (at 50 years old, distilled in 1968 making it very much "old style" Caol Ila), a sample of Glenlivet was included too - at a whopping 64 years old (1 year shy off the oldest whisky I've ever tasted). 

Considering the previous two months had also seen sample deliveries of a pair of 57yo Longmorns,  a 33yo Glenrothes and a 43yo Inverleven, you'd forgive me for feeling a little spoiled by G&M lately. Suffice to say, I wasted no time diving straight into 114 years worth of whisky...

First cab off the rank was the 1968 50 Year Old Caol Ila, distilled well before the distillery's expansion (completed in 1974), considered by many to be the point at which Caol Ila spirit became significantly lighter. Whilst I wouldn't usually start with an Islay, after 50 years it's a fair bet the majority of the "in your face" peat smoke will have dissipated, as was the case here. Bottled at a healthy 52.5% from a refill sherry hogshead (cask #4021901), this Caol Ila was aged from 21 March 1968 to 8th July 2018 and produced only 199 bottles.

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" from Caol Ila Distillery 1968 (52.5% ABV, 50yo, Islay, Scotland, £7,500)
Colour: Light orange gold.

Nose: Orange rind and lemon zest. Dig a little deeper and there's some citrus-menthol smoke. Lots of fruit - green apples, pineapple, guava. After time licorice allsorts appear, followed by the burnt pastry crust on a lemon tart.

Palate: Full-bodied and "big". Orange zest at first, coated in allspice. Vanilla ice cream, orange chocolate, cranberry syrup and baked apple pie.

Finish: (Very) long, with hints of sweet citrus smoke and confectionary - lemon drops and gummy bears.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Absolutely beautiful.

The 1954 64yo Glenlivet naturally came next, bottled at 41% from a single refill sherry butt (#1412) with an outturn of 222 bottles. Distilled on 15 April 1954, it was bottled on 27 April 2018.

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" from Glenlivet Distillery (41% ABV, 64yo, Speyside, Scotland, £9.950)
Colour: Yellow golden sunset.

Nose: Well-aged sherry (on the drier, Fino / Manzanilla end of the spectrum). Lots of apple and a noticeable amount of grassiness. Rich creamy vanilla, soft oak, and a certain candle-like waxiness.

Palate: Well, that was unexpected. First some earthy smoke, with a distinct herbal note (herbal Strepsils actually). Then some berries - blueberry, raspberry and then sweeter strawberry notes coming to the fore, all with an undertone of aged leather. There's Manuka honey too, and some slight hints of matchheads, but the leather notes remain throughout. There's milk chocolate too, but it's subtle. Certainly the most fascinating Glenlivet I've ever come across.

Finish: A slight meatiness, more leather, mature honey and some oak. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Extremely balanced for a 64yo whisky, with the oak kept in line very nicely.

What an experience. A big thanks again to Gordon & Macphail for the samples.


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