Quick Hits: Two Old Whiskies

Okay, after a bunch of still available—if not always easily purchased—whiskies in recent weeks let’s get back to being useless. I have two very old whiskies tonight. The first is the oldest I’ve ever had—not in terms of age, but in terms of when it was distilled. This is a Gordon & MacPhail release of a Glenlivet distilled in 1940. I confess I do not have any idea when it was actually bottled or how old it is (and Whiskybase doesn’t have details either—it’s this one). Regardless, it was very cool to drink a whisky distilled before my parents were born. The other was distilled a couple of years before I was born and it’s from a distillery that is no longer in operation: it’s a 36 yo Glenury Royal from 1968. I don’t believe I’ve had any other Glenury Royals. I actually took these notes in March, before leaving for London—I just forgot that I’d done so and so am only getting around to posting them now. As they were taken from 20 ml samples I’ve not assigned scores to them.

Both 20 ml samples came to me from Whiskybase before I started the blog. Back then I used to order from them very regularly (I’ve cut back all my whisky purchasing drastically in the last year or two) and, as those of you who order from them know, they often/always include a few complimentary samples in the box. Imagine my surprise on finding these two samples in a box on one occasion. I mention this circumstance because it’s my policy to not accept samples for review. But this, again, was before I had the blog or had thought of having a blog; they were not intended as anything other than a generous gift from two whisky geeks (far more advanced than me) to another. The Glenlivet sample I especially treasured as they’d opened that bottle to mark the second anniversary of the Whiskybase store.

Glenlivet 1940 (40%; Gordon & Macphail)

Nose: Closed at first but with a bit of air and a bit of swirling it begins to open up with apricot, orange and that pleasant metallic note that very old whiskies often develop. Faint phenolic notes show up after a few minutes. With a tiny drop of water it gets creamier.

Palate: Not a whole lot on the palate either at first and the mouthfeel is very thin. Comes on here too with time with the metallic note and the citrus; some oaky bite here. Nothing interesting here with water

Finish: Short-medium. The oak gets spicier as it fades out.

Comments: It was great to drink a whisky distilled before my parents were born but this didn’t make much of an impression. The only interesting thing was the slight whiff of peat on the nose. Quite likely this would make a better impression with a larger pour and more time.

Glenury Royal 36, 1968-2005 (51.2%)

Nose: Much more vibrant: fresh and acidic with lemon and pineapple to start; turns musky quite quickly with tart mango and the pineapple goes from fresh to tinned. There’s a note of camphor as well. With more time there’s a pleasant grassy/floral note. With a drop of water there’s a touch of buttery pastry crust.

Palate: Quite fruity here too but also malty (malt biscuits). The fruit expands as it sits as does that old whisky camphor/metallic note. Spicier as it sits and the fruit is muskier, though still quite acidic. Muskier still with water and unless I’m hallucinating there’s a hint of something tropical.

Finish: Long. The acidic fruit takes a long time to fade out and it gets more peppery as it goes.

Comments: Well, I liked this much more than the Glenlivet 1940. That extra 11.2% of abv may have something to do with that. On the whole, this put me in mind of bourbon cask Caperdonichs of this general era—I’m not sure if that’s par for the course for Glenury of this age and of this era. Not sure if I could have afforded it when this was first released but a bottle of this would be a nice thing to have on the shelf.

Thanks again to CJ and Menno (who probably have no memory of ever having sent them to me)!

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