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Issue 46 - Respect your elders

Whisky Magazine Issue 46
March 2005

 

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Respect your elders

While it doesn't follow that older is necessarily better, great older whiskies are rare and to be respected. Ian Wisniewski reports

It's hardly surprising that malts aged 40 years, and longer, are a rare and recent phenomenon, as 15 years aging was widely considered the limit for malts up until the 1970s.

Consequently, more mature specimens of malt can be a case of serendipity as much as strategy. Overproduction in the 1960s-70s for example, proved to be a boon by providing additional stock that remained in the aging warehouses.

Of course there were exceptions within the industry.

“We've always had a policy to mature for 20, 30, 50 years, and have released 50 year old decanters since the mid-1980s,” says Gordon & MacPhail's Ewen Mackintosh.

Evolution of the malt market over the past 15 years has seen a broader range of older expressions, and growth of interest in them. Various distilleries continue to set a new personal best, with Auchentoshan's 1962 becoming the oldest Lowland malt at 41 years of age, while The Macallan's vintages span 1926-1973, with the 1926 bottled as a 60 year old.

It's always nice to include superlatives, and the most expensive malt is The Dalmore 62 year old, a bottle of which achieved a world record auction price of £25,877.50 in 2002. All 12 bottles of the original release have been sold.

The oldest Scotch to be released is The Glenfiddich 1937, bottled in 2001 as a 64 year old (at the cask strength of 44% abv). Part of the appeal of such malts is the story they encompass.

“The 1937 is like a time capsule. Back then we used more peat, as it was difficult to get coal...

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