The Wood Makes The Whisky Series
What Gordon & MacPhail say:
Taken from The Wood Makes the Whisky series, in which G&M explain the impact choosing the right casks has on whisky, and explaining how they have applied that knowledge of maturation to their whiskies.
What I say:
Today we have a Glen Grant that was distilled in 1954 and bottled in 2006, this has then sat maturing in sherry casks for 52 years. I know we often argue that an old whisky doesn’t necessarily guarantee good whisky, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to try this and my expectations are high.
This will really highlight just how skilled at cask selection Gordon and MacPhail are, it takes real skill to pick a cask that can handle spirit for over 50 years, whilst still imparting flavour and not over oaking.
This is bottled at 40% ABV and is available from The Whisky Exchange here at a price of £1,170.
Gloriously sweet, there are sour notes of choke cherries and fizzy strawberry laces, so much so it makes your mouth water instantly.
Smooth, rich baked figs are quick to appear with dates, stewed plums and warm oranges, it has an almost mulled wine quality with cinnamon, star anise and plenty of cloves.
Dried raspberries slowly introduce themselves along with lemon sherbet pips which really enhances the sour notes. It is almost too sour, but just as you reach that point, the softer side of the sherry influence starts to impart, there are plump raisins and juicy sultana’s all wrapped up with a generous amount of fresh vanilla pods. Milk chocolate and cherries combine and there’s a hint of cigar smoke and fresh tobacco, combined with gentle wood spices.
The initial sourness of the nose transfers through to the palate, with the dried raspberries, gooseberries and strawberries washing over the palate, it’s refreshing and juicy.
Fairly quickly the warm oranges and star anise add heat and depth, with cinnamon and pink peppercorns really ramping up the spice quota.
The cask influence is very quick to announce itself with a drying, woody bitterness, it’s briefly unpleasant as your palate adjusts.
Once this has happened the abundance of oak is joined by chopped hazelnuts, adding a nuttiness which, though drying, prevents the oak from taking over completely.
Given some time to open up there is a distinctly green note, with sage and thyme and plenty of wet freshly mown grass, it’s very damp, dank even, almost overpowering.
Luckily just at that moment the baking spices, sticky jammy fruits of blackberries and blackcurrants and a dash of lemon zest pull through and start to lift this whisky in the right direction, some sweetness of vanilla pods and fresh cream lower the heat and make this comforting and sweet.
This is a long finish, and it switches between sweet and fruity and rich, spicy and oaky over the duration of the finish. The fruits from the nose pull through one at a time, the spiciness imparts throughout. There is no doubting that there is a heavy dose of oakiness and wood spice, however this isn’t unpleasant.
This is one of the oldest whiskies I have ever tasted. It isn’t over casked or too woody, although there is no denying that there is a heavy dose of oakiness.
Wood spice is here in abundance and at times it is almost too much, too drying and woody. That said, the fruits from the sherry are the star of the show, without them this whisky would be far too drying, the plums, blackberries and sour strawberries and raspberries are very welcome when they appear.
This is a very sophisticated whisky, it keeps you on your toes and is not one for the faint hearted. This needs time, and to be fair, after 52 years in the cask it deserves your time!
Granted at just over £1000 it isn’t cheap, but it is 52 years old, the evaporation alone would have been massive, let alone the costs associated with storing and monitoring this. Does it justify the price tag? I would say yes, but only just.
If you are lucky enough to try this whisky, then devote the time and understanding it needs, handle it gentle, curl up in your favourite chair, light the fire, get comfy and then dive in, you’ll be glad you did.
Kirsty Clarke (@KirstyClarke29)