Sunday 27 January 2019

Tasted #429: 70yo Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection 1948 from Glen Grant Distillery"

Writing about whisky fairly consistently for the last ~7 years has afforded us the opportunity to try some incredible whiskies, as well as some incredibly old whiskies - with several in their 40s, a fair few in their 50s, and three in their 60s, topping out at 65yo.

With the exponential rise we've seen in both the demand for and value of old and rare whisky, it seemed like that 65yo might retain the crown as our oldest whisky ever tasted...until this arrived in the mail...

Bottled at a whopping seventy years old (70yo), this Glen Grant from Gordon & MacPhail's "Private Collection" range (full name: "Gordon & MacPhail 1948 from Glen Grant Distillery") was distilled on 11th June 1948 and bottled on 19th October 2018 @ 48.6% from a single first fill sherry butt - #2154, yielding 210 bottles.

See our previous thoughts on the "Private Collection" range here, including a 50yo Caol Ila, 64yo Glenlivet, a pair of 57 year old Longmorns and more.

A lot of whiskies are termed "liquid history" but this one is truly deserving of the title. Distilled only 3 years after World War II ended, when the UK was still rationing barley and spirit production was below pre-WWII levels, it was filled by G&M and maintained by four generations of the owning Urquhart family, whilst it matured in Glen Grant's Warehouse No.5 (for the first 20 years) and GM's Elgin warehouses (for its final 50 years).

You have to give G&M credit for their recent Private Collection releases - they've produced some stunning decanters to go with some stunning whiskies, and whilst the focus should always be on the liquid - it doesn't hurt when the presentation is this impressive:

But, the focus is on the liquid and so to that end...let's dive into the oldest whisky we've ever tasted...

Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection" 1948 from Glen Grant Distillery 70yo (48.6% ABV, 70yo, Speyside, One of 210 bottles, £17,500)
Colour: Golden orange-copper.

Nose: Fresh herbal-citrus at first - mandarin, orange peel and spearmint, with coriander. But hold on, now it's got some older, earthier notes coming through - vintage books, polished leather. After some time, a waxiness emerges, with some strawberry jam and cinnamon. Now there's mint, and some subtle-but-definitely-there dried, smoky oak staves.

Palate: Big and expressive - initially with cinnamon and oak showing, then strawberry and apricot jam. More of the smoked oak from the nose, and then some cracked pepper. Underneath all this are herbal undertones - earthy, wet-grass notes, along with hints of aged dry leather. The sherry influence here is noticeable, but remarkably restrained and refined for a 70 year old whisky. No one note dominates here - it's an orchestra of flavours, each coming and going and then returning again.

Finish: Medium to long in length, with more noticeable woodsmoke than the nose and palate. There's a residual citrus (whole oranges) note throughout, and right towards the end, more mint.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. It's truly astonishing that a whisky can be 70 years old, from a first-fill sherry butt, and still retain such complexity, refinement, and most remarkably of all - not be entirely dominated by oak. Well done to G&M for what would have to be one of the most incredible examples of maturation I've experienced.

Gordon & MacPhail 1948 from Glen Grant Distillery is available for a UK RRP of £17,500 (Hong Kong pricing TBC) and will be available worldwide. Thanks to G&M for this review sample.


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