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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Secret Life of the Pensioner: Master Of Malt 60 Year Old

Old age is a funny thing.

In life, we look at old age as something to be fearful of. Things stop working the way they should. We slow down, most likely become more intolerant of the things that irritate us and reminisce about the 'good old days'. In fact, the archetypal pensioner in the UK comes in for a lot of stick really.

In whisky however, people seem to think that older is definitely better. Whilst it is fine to applaud complexity and wisdom, championing the well-seasoned and the mature, simply using age as the be-all- and-end-all indicator of quality seems absurd.

But as we all know, both life and whisky are full of surprises.

What. A. Legend. 
When Fauja Singh first ran the London Marathon back in 2000, he was one year shy of his 90th birthday and clocked a time of six hours and 54 minutes. Impressive stuff. By the time he had completed his 5th London Marathon he had shaved nearly an hour off that time and became the world record holder for his age range - aged 93. Now aged 102, his achievements keep getting all the more remarkable -  he can still run 10k in an hour and a half.

We couldn't find a suitable
picture of an rubbish old whisky,
so here's Flavio Briatore in a thong. 
Conversely, there are some truly terrible old whiskies. Bitter, brittle and well past their best, they coast ungracefully into an oaky retirement home of obscurity, still thinking they're as vibrant as they were 20 years their junior.

Likewise, there are some excellent age-defying whiskies that continually challenge the logic of older is better.  Consider the recent Brora 40 year old we reviewed a few weeks ago. Stuffed full of complexity, yet still as vibrant as a Hoxton hipster's moustache. In the same post, we referenced Overeem's magnificent sherry cask bottling which is likely to have only just seen its 5th birthday, yet has a startlingly broad array of complex flavours. Go figure...

We continue this theme with the launch of yet another old-aged head turner. (Thankfully not wearing a thong)

Master Of Malt continue to surprise and delight with their diverse portfolio of releases: from the brilliantly constructed barrel aged cockails, gins and other maverick gems, through to some serious single cask releases.  Their latest is no exception, this time weighing in at 60 years old.

Carrying the banner of the Secret Bottlings Series, this ancient Speysider (no real clues to which distillery it comes from, although we have a couple of ideas) allows the chaps to bring in some very old stock for a very decent price. £999 is what this will set you back  - yes, still a lot, but clearly a fraction of what this would have cost if the distillery name was included on the label.

With anything this age, one has to leave any preconceptions aside:  If whisky were measured in dog years, this would weigh in at 420. Lucky it isn't, but our impressions of the majority of whiskies the wrong side of 50 have left a lot to be desired - save for Highland Park's initial batch of 50 year old and the absolutely stellar Bowmore 50 year old which was released at the end of last year.  How will this fare?...

Master Of Malt  -  60 Year Old - Secret Bottling Series -  42.2% - £999

Nose: White grapes, some apple sour sweets, quite distinct herbal notes and then a nice waft of polished oak furniture. The age is present in a dusty, hot landscape-style aroma, but is still surprisingly restrained. Given a little time in the glass, toffee apple and sweet tea notes begin to come to the fore, giving this a very complex aroma.

Palate: Milk chocolate and rich sticky flapjack coat the mouth with a swathe of leather bound books and some dark cherry notes. Given a little more time to open up we find Black Forest gateau with a large dollop of vanilla sweetened cream, which makes for a palate both spicy and sweet - with a good vibrancy for its age. The oak is there, but again mercifully, not cladding the walls of the glass, like a Highland Castle drawing room.  

Finish: The cherry notes leave their mark, this time backed with nutmeg and cinnamon spice alongside some sweeter vanilla notes. 

Overall: An OAP whisky who has wisdom, wit and can probably run a marathon quicker than most middle aged posers in their expensive sportswear. Keep an eye on it'll probably have charmed the pants of your missus within five minutes of being introduced. A truly surprising elderly gent with the physique and personality of a whisky 30 years its Jr. If it were a real person it would clearly be this person...