Phil is our correspondent in London (as well as helping out with certain muling operations which are top secret (hehe). He was kind enough to accept the opportunity and go to the Mortlach 75 year old unveiling event last week in London. Here’s his lovely guest post. He’s a natural isn’t he?
Being the official mule of the Whisky Israel blog for the London-Israel trade route has its advantages. I get to preview the samples I bring over, and I also score the occasional invitation to a whisky launch or some such other event when our host Gal cannot attend.
This particular one was very special. 11am on a Wednesday morning in Covent Garden Opera House for a surprise unveiling. And surprised we were. With great fanfare, a mix of journalists, bloggers, hospitality and the whisky industry’s finest – the "whiskerati" if you will – waited for the big reveal.
The 100 or so people in the room were soon to become the only people – in the world – to ever taste a 75 year single old malt whisky. After a short intro from the Stephen Rankin of the Urqhart family (the owners of Gordon & Macphail), some entertaining words from Charles MacLean – the famous writer on all things whisky – and finally a reading from Alexander McCall Smith, the famous author, we were finally allowed a wee taste.
I’m a huge G&M fan – my favorite ever whisky (to date) was from G&M (a 1970 Speymalt), as was my 40th birthday bottling – a 1975 Braes of Glenlivet. These guys know what they are doing – as you would hope after 120 years in the business. My tasting notes cannot be compared to the great Charles MacLean who described this whisky as "elegant as a grande dame – the Ingrid Bergman of malts", but here goes:
Mortlach 1939, 75 year old, by G&M, 44.4% – 100 bottles. Yours for £20,000 (that’s TWENTY thousand pounds)
The first thing you notice about this is the color – a beautiful gold. For something approaching this age you’d normally expect something a lot darker, especially from a first fill sherry cask, but notwithstanding its age, this still had a great deal of youth about it. It literally glowed.
The nose: with great age, sometimes come great flatness, but not here. There was a liveliness. Ripe fruits on the nose, apricots, peaches, a little chocolate. Floral. A little vanilla in the mix.
The sip: again, what struck me was the liveliness. If you’ve ever tasted the General, or a 60 year old Glen Grant, you’ll know what "age" tastes like. This had none of that. Smooth on the sip, then filling the mouth with rich flavour. This tasted much younger, and I mean that in a good way.
Finish: A good length – not long, but not too short. One that allowed you to savour the occasion. A drinking whisky of this age is an occasion.
Phil and Mr. Charlie Mclean
Forget the price (easy to do when you’re not paying for it :)), there is a certain privilege, and deep sense of history, to sipping from a cask that was filled before the Second World War started.
I doubt that (m)any of you will get to taste this, but trust me when I say it’s a masterpiece.
The packaging was beautiful and innovative – a crystal decanter, with 75 cuts in the glass (one for each year), and it comes on a white plinth, with two crystal glasses, all served up in a beautiful leather Aniline leather travel bag. Travel bags and whisky usually evoke memories of airport duty free signage "buy three bottles of Chivas and get a free flight bag", but this had a rather different feel. Pure class. The package also includes a book of writings called "Seven Nights with Mortlach"
To top off a wonderful tasting, I bumped into Charles MacLean on the way out where I had an opportunity to tell him how much I admired his writing. A consummate "mensch", as we say in this part of the world.
So thank you G&M for an unforgettable time with some very special whisky, and thank you Gal for sending me – it really was my pleasure!