Good Scotch can be expensive, and, typically, the older it is, the higher the price. Are these upscale libations worth it? While I can’t answer that question for you, I can, when distributors and agents are generous enough to send me samples of their rarest and most exclusive bottlings, scrutinize, probe and appraise their product and render an opinion.
As a drinker inordinately preoccupied with independent bottlers, I find the current trend of such bottlers to create their own distinctive, high end blends both exciting and instructive. The good folks behind The Exclusive Malts line have proven, twice now, that they know how to do it. Let’s see what the good people behind Spirit Imports’ The Classic Cask line have wrought with this exclusive forty year old blend…
Here’s what I’ve heard and read from various sources.
This blend is 80 percent malt and 20 percent grain.
Every constituent, malt and grain, was distilled in 1972 and cask matured for 25 years, then vatted together in newly selected casks and matured for another 15 years, at which point those casks were themselves vatted and the ensuing blend bottled. 1,800 bottles resulted. For a blend, that is very limited.
It has been bottled at 43 percent ABV and, I suspect, as it is the common practice of this independent bottler, the whisky has undergone no chill-filtration and has had no misleading caramel coloring added.
Which is not to say it ain’t dark. It is very dark, a deep amber color with a dark mauve blush. The legs are thinish, numerous and slower/more viscous than one might expect at this ABV.
You can learn more about this bottle and its bottler here: http://www.spiritimportsinc.com/index2.php#!/HOME
Oh, man Oh man!
A cedar chest filled with crushed fresh cherries.
Leather tanned with raisin oil.
Dried apricots, currants and banana chips on a small oak table where half a satchel of cut, moist, aromatic pipe tobacco has spilled.
Flat birch beer soda served in an unvarnished cup carved from tidal river drift wood.
A recently showered woman’s hands cupping shelled walnuts, oak pollen and lemon verbena.
Dried varnish on a brass goblet filled with Amontillado sherry.
Fresh pomegranate juice spilled on a recently sanded oak floor.
This is the perfume the goddess Persephone splashes between her breasts and below her navel as she prepares to rise from the heat of Hades back to a warming earth’s surface, bringing the nutrient-charged soils of Spring in her wake.
Really? Well, maybe not, but still…
What an abundantly rich, elegant, generous, measured nose! Measured, but not fastidious or shy. Measured as in presenting a perfectly balanced, broad array of many of the richer, more gratifying aromas this planet and good spirits have to offer. This is without question one of the most lavishly enchanting and sophisticated, multifarious and balmy bouquets I’ve ever experienced rising above a Glencairn nosing glass. 25/25
Again, it is the balance of riches that focuses the mind.
This sumptuous tipple is both pleasantly sweet and pleasantly dry. I’m not saying that for affect – it’s true!
It has a cooling sweet center and a rounded, warming, mouth-watering prickle that bathes the sides and underside of the tongue in a pleasant, measured mix of baking spices.
The sherry casks are more prominent in the palate than on the nose, but the honey and caramel of American white oak are also here along with a flow of liquefied dried fruits – citrus, yes, but also dried stone fruits, a bit of apricot and even a trickle of honeydew melon.
And a whisper of the taste of fresh baked oat bread.
Really, folks, this is astounding stuff. I hate to be the one to tell you, but this $400 blend is worth every penny.
Twice as good as the $200 Johnnie Walker Blue? I’d say yes. And that may even be an understatement, an undervaluation of the depth of quality of this Classic Cask blend.
This splendid potation is 40 years old and, while there is some dusty oak influence in the nose, this is not overly woody in the least. It gives absolutely no indication that it was over-aged. Not by a week!
Unfortunately, I can’t afford this bottle for myself, but I can and must admit that it is well worth the asking price. 24/25
Not overwhelming, not underwhelming.
This whisky takes its time finishing.
Only the most liquid sweetnesses remain and only at the first stage.
The sherry dryness and the spice take over after that, making this finish long, lingering, dry and spicy – and yet, despite those last descriptors, I would still say this libation is richly well-rounded.
I did not say “smooth” because that’s a ridiculously vague and overused word in whisky reviews that either means nothing or means something different to nearly everybody.
The finish is the only aspect of this wondrous elixir where the thought of extraordinary balance doesn’t immediately arise. 22/25
I don’t believe I’ve ever used the word, nor implied the concept of, “balance” so often in a review. As I’ve already said, this is truly astounding stuff. Its structure is clear. This whisky is the result of an experienced master blender putting everything he/she knows into a no-holds-barred blend. And this whisky is also the very successful result of balancing the characteristics of American ex-bourbon casks and French ex-sherry casks together in a manner that keeps those characteristics both balanced and distinct. Really, with fruit and honey, citrus and nuts, leather and tobacco, dried and fresh fruits, wine, mixed spices and pomegranates, a bit of soil and a smidgen of rose petals wafting on the breeze, nearly all the desirable notes of great Scotch are represented in this blend. Even the buzz one gets is both luxurious and refined. The only categorical omission that I can perceive is the lack of even the slightest suggestion of smoke. No mint or menthol, either (or were there? Hhmmm)… In any case, it’s quite obvious that smoke wasn’t a note this blender was aiming to include. I’m sure that’s true – but, still, that’s a challenge for this blender that remains, to add touches of peat smoke while maintaining a balance with all of the other elements that are already so distinctly present. Impossible? Maybe, and maybe even probably. But, don’t ya know, in a perfect world… 24/25
Total Points for this whisky: 95
A very special thanks to Lauren Shayne Mayer and to Spirit Imports, Inc. for the samples.