The remarkable Glen Grant 64 year (1949) 40%

No… that is not a typo… that really is 64 years… as in matured for 64 years… with the new make spirit laid to rest in first fill sherry butts in 1949. A piece of whisky history with the clocks turned back.

And I had a chance to sample it completely blind… no clue what I was trying or how exceptionally rare such a dram is.

Glen Grant 64 year (24/11/1949 –  6/6/2014) Cask 2200 + 3185 40%

What did my wee sniff, swish and savour sampling reveal?

  • Nose – Old wood varnish, betel leaf, peach pit, drizzle  of maple syrup, ripe fruits, specifically then shifted into roasted pineapple and a bit of jackfruit, red wine tannins, a bit yeasty, those sweet and sour, tart and tangy Chinese (Li Hing Mui) or Japanese (Umeboshi) dried plums, a hint of old leather
  • Palate – What have I discovered? A bit bitter with elements rarely found like hing, then shifts into raw mango powder or unripe guava, some tamarind, like bhel puri masala, yet no spicy “pepper” heat, continued that sweet element with substance yet truly tangy too, remarkable
  • Finish – After a simply marvellous nose, interesting palate, the finish was surprisingly light… closing with a puff of smoke

Overall it was a mystery – delicate and unique. Surprisingly tangy yet sweet too. Complex yet not heavy. Clearly old yet had fresh elements also. a kaleidoscope of contradictions… that somehow worked together in weird and wonderful ways.

I kept aside just a few drops to revisit after some time and was rewarded with an exceptional bouquet of fruits, flowers then pine.

The last drop drained, I again set the empty glass aside… and returned an hour later to discover the most glorious perfume! Simply wafting out from the glass. Beautiful.

When we learned this was matured in a 1st fill sherry butt, it was such a surprise. The colour was so light whereas previous brushes with older sherry drams were deep and dark – like the Glendronach 39 – 42 year.

It also is a complete marvel that after 64 years it could still achieve the min 40% required for it to be called a whisky!

This certainly goes into the category of “once in a lifetime” and I also have to appreciate the work the Gordon + MacPhail team are doing preserving then releasing rare examples of whisky history to the world.

Here is what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say:

Without water:

  • Nose – Delicate Sherry aromas mingle with vanilla, rose water, and violet notes. Hints of burnt sugar, prune, and a lingering marzipan edge develops.
  • Palate – White pepper initially with grapefruit and hints of apricot preserve. Ground coffee and toasted almond flavours are complemented by underlying cigar ash.
  • Finish – Long, floral, and smoky.

With water:

  • Nose – Tropical fruits with pineapple and mango aromas. Subtle beeswax polish notes combine with bonfire embers and an orange zest edge.
  • Palate – Ripe banana, raisin, and fresh grapefruit flavours with a delicate hint of violets complemented by a lingering smoky edge.

Other rare vintages sampled over the years:

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Glendronach Grand Dames – Age DOES matter!

Living in India, it requires significant effort to source unique whiskies from around the world. Though our ‘Duty Free’ options have improved considerably in the last few years and local distributors are stocking a wider range, typically what you can readily find is both relatively standard fare and insanely expensive for what you get.

So when a chance to sample a few drops of a quartet of gorgeous Glendronach grand dames came knocking? I would have been an utter fool to pass up!

Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

Until this night, the oldest whisky sampled was the Glenfarclas 40 year… It was also a unique opportunity to explore the subtle variation between a single cask and a single year…

All were aged exclusively in Pedro Ximénez Sherry puncheons with three laid in the same year – 1971. We were extremely fortunate that our whisky host was able to acquire over several years such a remarkable series of whiskies. While primarily intended for the Taiwan market, this quartet made its way to India…

What did we try? Here goes..

  • Glendronach 39 year 1972/2011 Cask#2033 54.7% (Taiwan exclusive)
  • Glendronach 40 year 1971/2011 Cask#1248 47.5% (Taiwan exclusive)
  • Glendronach 41 year 1971/2012 Cask#1247 48.9% (UK Batch #6 – 529 bottles)
  • Glendronach 42 year 1971/2013 Cask#1246 44.6% (UK Batch #8 – 432 bottles)

We started with the 39 year old, spent the most time distilling its character before moving on to each subsequent sample, contrasting, comparing and debating the similarities and nuanced differences.

Glendronach 39 year 1972/2011 Cask #2033 54.7%

  • Nose – Instant deep dark burnt sugar, dry fruits bursting with raisins, dates, prunes, figs… mellowed into a rum soaked plum Christmas cake, then a waft of musty old antique furniture polish, a rancio element, well oiled leather, a ‘brown’ sauce of demera reduction blending with laguna custard, cinnamon, cloves…
  • Palate – Sweet on the first sip then cigar smoke, green vegetables, the spices of cinnamon and cloves envelopes, rich, smooth, delicious chewy raisins
  • Finish – Dry, remnants of plum-cake, a beautiful bonfire, pipe tobacco
  • Water – Makes it much more creamy, burst of ripe sweetness, the nose becomes a bouquet of gorgeous dry fruits, a little bitter dry coconut… transformative!
  • Overall – We absolutely loved it! It is very robust, pulling in all the PX sherry elements with a certain panache and majesty

Glendronach 40 year 1971/2011 Cask #1248 47.5%

  • Nose – More approachable with all of the dry fruits like prunes, dates and figs still present and more yet restrained, more elegant, a whiff of temple agarbati, over time the prunes became the dominant dry fruit element
  • Palate – Similar to the 39 year yet sweeter, softer, gentler with more pronounced cinnamon, cloves and a hint of bitterness, a bit ‘woody’ with wet chalk, some copper, completely decadent
  • Finish – Drier than the 39 yet the finish holds even more
  • Water – Again, while initially reluctant to add, it simply rounds out all the gorgeous sherry elements
  • Overall – We found while clearly written by the same ‘author’, this ‘book’ had more refinement and grace than the 39 year

Glendronach 41 year 1971/2012 Cask #1247 48.9%

  • Nose – Same but… going deeper into the same profile
  • Palate – Of the four, this had the strongest ‘old leather’ quality, we compared it to a grandfather’s tobacco pouch, allspice added to the cinnamon and cloves, ripe dark cherries
  • Finish – Dry as the others yet also quite warm and beautiful, prunes in the finish as well not just the nose
  • Water – Yet again, not needed yet equally a few drops did enhance
  • Overall – Sampled after the 42 year, this was our last note to savour…

Glendronach 42 year 1971/2013 Cask #1246 44.6% 

  • Nose – Varnish, aged cheese, unmistakable prunes, sweet, men’s cologne, all that we found before concentrated with even more to uncover
  • Palate – Wild chokecherry jam with that bitterness from the skins, a tinge of black current jam, dry tobacco with the sense of it having been cured in cognac, the feel of being in a dark forest
  • Finish – The driest of the four with an ashy quality
  • Water – Adding a few drops was less transformative than we found with the 39 year yet still did help it open up beautifully
  • Overall – The most masculine of the four, it had a richness and complexity that simply cannot be matched by younger whiskies

It was such a privilege to sip, savour and enjoy such rich mouthfuls of whisky maturity. In this case, age truly does matter… and while some have argued these PX whiskies are so deeply enriched by sherry that one could save money by simply going straight to drinking sherry, that’s utter nonsense!

What I’ve found indulgent and decadent in the younger Glendronach whiskies is in full force here! No luxury spared… imagine being in a lush velvet boudoir with a crackling fire, your every whim fulfilled… and when your hand reaches out for a sip of something rich, robust yet refined… this is what you want!

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