Close your eyes. It’s 1940. You are traveling through the beautiful Speyside region of Scotland. An era, true to its time with tranquillity of the Spey river and bare hills. It’s a year after the Second World War has started and grain distillation has halted and only limited malt pot-still distilling was allowed. The world was definitely in a different place - one that today we have never seen.
On February 3rd, a visionary mastermind of single malt Scotch whisky, George Urquhart and his father, John, had the extraordinary foresight and vision to lay down spirit from Glenlivet Distillery in a bespoke Gordon & MacPhail cask to be enjoyed by future generations.
When the war ended, the Glenlivet Distillery was taken back a few years with their plan to expand sales into the US as they did not have enough 12 year whisky in stock as the distillery did not produce very much whisky for themselves in the early 1940s.
I imagine that Gordon & MacPhail would have been contacted numerous times to see if they would sell the casks back to the Glenlivet as Captain Bill Smith Grant needed the liquid for his plans to showcase his brand on a global level. By doing so would have fast tracked this but Gordon & MacPhail maintained their vision of bottling a whisky for future generations. Due to this, Glenlivet didn’t see a larger amount of stock available of their iconic 12 Year expression until the early 1960s.
Fast track to 2021. We have faced and seen so many historical moments and global challenges in history that at any given moment the vision of Gordon & MacPhail, now in their fourth generation could have changed to sell off these casks. But they kept to their great-grandfather’s plan to seeing this through to bottle the oldest single malt ever.
Last night I had the pleasure of attending an intimate dinner whereby I sat right across of Mr. Richard Urquhart. It was amazing to have the opportunity to share stories and learn more (a lot more) about Gordon & MacPhail and their vision going forward for the next 80 years. It was an evening of epic proportion. The people, the food, and of course the whisky were all exceptional!
Now you’re going to ask, where’s all the photos for the night? Well, there aren’t any of the food or of the presentation as we gave up our phones and cameras when we arrived at the restaurant for the sole purpose of taking in the entire experience without any distractions. Just like the Generations Glenlivet 80 Year did, patiently waiting for it’s time to be bottled.
We tasted two additional Glenlivet releases from Gordon MacPhail, and as Richard would say are a young 30 and 40 year! Both phenomenal and could each be a highlight whisky to any tasting.
Then, the table was cleared and a Glencairn was placed with a generous sample of the Generations Glenlivet 80 Year - the oldest whisky ever to be bottled! At this moment I felt like I was frozen in awe as to the time has finally arrived to taste and experience something truly historic.
When observing the appearance of this whisky you would think that it would be almost darker being in a cask for 80 years. But the dark mahogany was surreal, the legs were thick and slowly took its time coming down from the mouth of the Glencairn glass.
The nose is meaty, almost as if at that time Glenlivet had smaller stills to bring forward such a heavier bodied whisky. Old library, that had a fire which brings forward a musty whiff of smoke. Powerful, yet elegant. In older expressions you will always find a touch of smoke and Richard stated that in the early 1940s, Glenlivet was lightly peated, however those of 1945 have a higher influence of it.
I tasted a small touch on my lips to prepare myself as to what would come next. On first sip, floral earth notes with an overwhelming, yet of course, satisfying mouthful of sweetness that took my palate on a torque driven (Like driving a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle 454 Big Block and gearing up on the hurst shifter pushing you deep in to your seat) whiplash of flavor. Nutty notes and sherried fruits. However, once it opens up a tropical influence of coconut, citrus and vanilla appear!
The finish is spicy and stays with you where a hint of old sherry peat comes back which stays with you. I’ve only encountered this in one other whisky and it is phenomenal. The citrus notes then reappear just at the end with hints of chocolate almonds.
This is a whisky that is remarkably defined and elegant, yet raw. One that elevates on each nosing and taste that in the moment time stops. And I agree with Mr. Charlie MacLean, for me as well it is one of the finest malts I have ever encountered.
Thank you George Urquhart for your commitment and vision 80 years ago! I do believe that “THE FUTURE IS SHAPED BY WHAT YOU DO TODAY”