Early this week, I gave you lucky people an introduction to Gordon & MacPhail – one of Scotland’s most highly respected independent bottlers. One range which the distiller has in its armoury is the Rare Vintage collection, which does exactly as it says on the tin, offering whiskies which are both rare and vintage.
I had the chance to taste five of these drams during a recent Tweet Tasting with The Whisky Wire, with a whisky from each decade between the 1950s and 1980s. Even the youngest whisky was older than me! And here’s my top three drams from the tasting:
(Both the Strathisla and Glen Grant seen in the picture were great drams but the three below were my tops picks)
Smith’s Glenlivet 1974 43% ABV
The origins of Glenlivet Distillery can be traced back to 1815 but it is well known that illicit distilling was going on long before then. Due to the success of Glenlivet, a number of distilleries in the region appended the name Glenlivet to their own. But In 1880, J.G. Smith took legal action and the court ruled that there was only one “The Glenlivet”.
The nose on this was very woody and reminded me of pencil shavings. There was also plenty of red fruit and the warming, spicy sweetness you’d expect from a sherry cask. The palate was quite light to start, but then a thick, yoghurt-y mouthfeel starts to emerge. It wasn’t quite as spicy as I was expecting. After a while, the palate starts offering bursts of fruits, a bit like a really juicy orange.
Mortlach 1954 43% ABV
Regular readers of this blog will know that Mortlach is one of my favourite distilleries in Scotland. Unlike most distilleries, Mortlach was given permission to remain in production during most of World War Two, and Gordon & MacPhail have some of the biggest stocks of rare war years whisky.
Although this doesn’t date back as far as World War Two, it was still an honour to taste such as old expression of my favourite whisky. After spenting 58 YEARS in a sherry cask, the nose on this was extremely heavy. Lots of the spicy flavours you might expect but not as overpowering as expected. It was also very sweet and nutty. The palate was a thick and treacly delight, but also had strong hints of strawberry. Some whiffs of tobacco also started to emerge after it was left sitting for a while.
Balblair 1985 43% ABV
Located to the north of Inverness, Balblair distillery was named after Balblair Farm, where it was originally built in 1970, before moving to its present site in 1895. I’ve tasted loads of great Balblair in the past 18 months and this dram continued the strong record, being my favourite dram from the whole tasting.
There was a massive burst of pineapples on the nose, which then gave way to more tropical fruit flavours and the promise of a syrupy sweetness on the palate. It seemed to remind me of the front row of the school tuck shop. Lots of citrus on the palate, but it wasn’t overpowering; some foam banana chews too. And a warming blast of cinnamon, accompanied by an oily mouthfeel. After leaving it to sit for a while, some strong notes of vanilla ice cream also started to come through.
For more information on the Gordon & MacPhail Rare Vintage range, click right here.