I assumed, years ago, that I had reached the sort of age where I would never again get to drink a whisky that was older than me, but thanks to Master Of Malt it turns out I was wrong. Earlier this year, they released an almost unbelievable dram; not only is it 60 years old, but a three figure price is nothing short of miraculous.
Age isn’t everything, but 60 years is an astonishingly long time. This whisky was distilled in 1954. It was three years old (and therefore legally already whisky) before the dawn of the space age. That’s right, it pre-dates Sputnik. There was only one TV channel – and The Sky At Night (the longest-running programme with the same presenter in television history) wasn’t even airing yet. And of course, TV was still black and white, because colour television had only just been invented, and wouldn’t make it to our shores for many years.
The list of things that this whisky pre-dates is breathtaking. It’s older than the Warsaw Pact (1955), older than NASA (1958) and was already sat maturing in the cask by the onset of the Vietnam War (1955).
Ok, enough of the history lessons. Suffice to say, 60 years is a long time. So what kind of whisky does that much history make?
The 60 Year Old Speyside is bottled at 42.2% ABV – although not declared, it’s fairly clear this is cask strength. It has a gloriously rich golden colour, like golden syrup which is only to be expected after those decades soaking in the wood.
The nose is sweet and spicy, warm nutmeg blending with honey and a slight creaminess underneath. Over time, a more fruity aroma starts to come through, sweet like a juicy peach with just a hint of pear drops. And all of this with a background of old, soaked oak.
Water brings out a fresher, greener fruit character and also hints of that wet, dank smell of a bonded warehouse.
On the tongue, it’s almost impossibly smooth. Creamy, it coats your mouth like molten chocolate before leading your taste buds on a delightful tour – initially sugar sweet, then plunging into a green apple, acidic tang and a fleeting tannic edge. And then it’s vanished from your mouth, fading to leave a lingering, fresh tobacco finish.
Watered, that journey is more leisurely with a sweeter, honey kick right at the end – although a part of me feels that watering such an ancient spirit is sacrilege, I think it marginally improves it.
Overall, it’s a delicious dram even without considering the history it represents. Taking its age into account, the £999.95 price tag starts to look positively reasonable. Thankfully, for those of us without that kind of disposable income, it’s available in a 3cl sample size – yes, the sample still the price of a full-size bottle of younger whisky but seriously, how often are you going to have the chance to try something like this?
Huge thanks to Master of Malt for sending me this sample to try.