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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Monarch of the Glens...

Well, bang goes the summer. Boo. Autumn has truly got its chilly grip upon us, so it's time to start digging out that old rain coat and planning on how to amuse one's self for the rest of the year. It is also a time for reflection on past experiences, which got us thinking. In our short, but perfectly formed life, (just 6 months) have tasted some truly great drams and had many memorable moments in the process.

The following review will be our 77th, which to most, is a fairly unremarkable number. But it is certainly a number that features highly at HQ. For one, it happens to be the year of the greatest Sci-Fi epic of all time, Star Wars, which undoubtedly shaped our childhoods. It is the year that the Sex Pistols released God Save The Queen, the pivotal point in the punk scene, which revolutionised British music. Closer to home, it is the vintage of one of our all-time favourite drams (Ardbeg 1977) - and now, also the vintage of the whisky we're about to try.

The whisky in question is the Glenfiddich 1977 Vintage Reserve. Glenfiddich are clearly no strangers to bottling older whiskies of exceptional quality. The 1973 Vintage Reserve was unbelievably well received and both the 30 and 40 year old bottlings have received prestigious awards. The premise behind this new vintage reserve bottling was simple- to find the undisputed champ from a small selection of vintage Oloroso casks owned by the distillery. Selected by an esteemed panel (including William Grant & Sons' Malt Master, David Stewart) from a shortlist of six European oak casks, the panel decided upon cask number 4414 - most likely 2nd or 3rd refill originally dating back to the 1940's. This cask was filled again on the 7th March 1977, which spookily happens to share a birthday with the inception of (born on the 7th March 2008 to be precise). Perhaps all just sheer coincidence, but it will certainly be at the back of our minds as we take our first sip.

Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve 1977 - 31 years old - Cask no 4414- bottle no 41 of 482- 54.1% abv

Nose: A slow swirl of the glass unearths a classic aroma or drying spices- cinnamon, cloves and cedar wood. Also a rich thick note of molasses, licorice, fresh cantaloupe melon and dried vine fruits are present. With a little water, the nose develops into smoky notes of bonfire toffee, black cherry and sweet tobacco.

Palate: The first treat is the rich, unctuous, oily mouth feel of almond paste, candied vine fruit and a surprising freshness. Oaky undertones with hints of that classic Oloroso spiciness are present but there's so much going on, your senses are really taken back. With water you'll find a slight waxiness emerge but a hint of sweet hazelnut, more cedarwood and an almost game like note (perhaps rare roasted venison?)

Finish: More sweetness and something aromatic, like licorice dipped in demerara. Hints of espresso coffee, cloves and something creamy. On the death, its respectable age shows through with some drying oak, but nothing overpowering. Tremendous.

Overall: A sublime, complex and exceptionally well rounded whisky. The selection process must have been incredibly difficult, considering the obvious qualities of the shortlisted casks but this bottling represents everything we at Caskstrength love about older sherried drams.

For more information on this bottling see here: