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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Glen Grant 50 year old 1958 Gordon & MacPhail

(Glen Grant cluster homepage)

As bloggers more knowledgable than I have written: Aged spirits tend to converge in style after four or more decades of maturation. Though my limited experience leads me to agree with that statement, I'd like to amend it. After 40+ years of maturation, aged spirits take one of two paths.

I call the first path, Liquid Furniture. Leaving a whisky or a brandy in oak for such an extended period of time does give it a lovely color, a riotous nose and a high price point, but it also risks turning the liquor nearly undrinkable if the spirit and cask interaction isn't well managed. Think over-steeped tea that is also half poison. That first path is a damned tragedy.

The second path lies beyond simple description, and to capture it may require different syntax than a normal whisky review. Most of my contact with ultra-aged spirits comes from cognac rather than whisky. Once upon a time when one could enjoy grandpa-aged brandy without taking out a bank loan, I experienced a few pours which I cannot describe because they press me to the limit of language. So I anticipate handing out a hundred-word description and a numeric score will not do a 50 year old whisky justice.

Purchased from an LA Scotch Club event two lifetimes ago

Distillery: Glen Grant
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Ownership at time of distillation: The Glenlivet and Glen Grant Distilleries
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Series: Distillery Labels

Age: 50 years (1958-2008)
Maturation: sherry cask(s)
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

The nose. I'm wading through bushels of dried oregano and thyme, around damp moldering tree stumps covered in furry moss and yellowing polypores. Waves of pumpernickel, browned ghee, date rolls and wormwood reach through, while in-season peaches and loquats rise from beneath.

Radiantly bitter herbs and roots meet mangoes, figs and blood oranges in the palate. A mix of salty roasted almonds and toffee chips color the background. Wormwood and maté appear late, meeting the sweet fruits well.

The finish glows with bitter herbs, tobacco and blood oranges. Soft smoke carries maté and salted toffee on and on. It concluded but I can't remember when.

105 words. I tried. The roaring nose never weakened during the whisky's 90 minutes. That stamina — at 40%abv! — feels either mystical or radioactive or something in between. I write about balance in the final paragraph of my reviews so frequently that it's probably getting tiresome. But. The equilibrium of the palate's salt, bitter and fruit has rarely been topped in my whisky experience. This whisky was a thrill, and I was happy to set it free.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - a lot more than it was in 2008
Rating - 94

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