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Issue 20 - Vintage appeal

Whisky Magazine Issue 20
December 2001


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Vintage appeal

Ian Wisniewski explains what makes a vintage worth shelling out extra cash for – and why collectors are going crazy for them …

Thriving on their inherent sense of élitism, vintage malts are a self-perpetuating phenomenon, with a growing number of distilleries regularly ‘declaring' a vintage. In fact for distilleries such as Glenrothes, vintage is currently the only way to be, while Knockando has recorded the ‘season' (year) of production ever since 1899. Each Knockando season is bottled as it peaks, usually 12 to 15 years old, which highlights an equally important date. The year of distillation may provide the main focus, but how long a malt has actually been aged is another primary consideration.

As the result of a single year's distillation, vintage malt from a single cask could be considered the ultimate, and ‘purest' expression of the house style, particularly when compared to a single malt comprising a recipe of first-, second- and third-fill sherry and bourbon casks. Similarly, a 12-year-old (or whatever) age statement on a single malt doesn't prevent more senior malts from being involved.

For the distiller, vintage malts provide an ideal opportunity to explore the house style, beyond the constraint of consistency that applies to a ‘regular' malt.

Both of The Macallan's latest vintages, the 1951 and 1961, certainly fulfil our expectations by delivering familiar characteristics, but also exceed them with an additional range. “These new releases have the classic citrus signature that advocates of The Macallan expect, and a background of dried fruits. The classic Macallan house st...

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