Some days have moments that make them great, while others are defined by a single moment. One that is the product of lifetimes of great moments coming together to create something truly special.
What if that single moment was created by a whisky carried for 70 years in the same cask? One that was carefully maintained and monitored by generations of a single family until the right moment arrived to share it with the world?
Incredibly, all of these rhetorical questions have been answered because the Urquhart family has achieved exactly that with this whisky. Distilled on February 3, 1940 and laid down for seven decades in first fill sherry cask number 339 under truly meticulous care from 3 generations of the family, it is a time machine in every sense.
It carries the lucky consumer back to a day when the Battle of Britain raged, Speyside whiskies still used local peat to fire the roasting kiln, and when Glenlivet was the name in Scotch malt whisky.
Nose: Polished wood appears and disappears in a flash, immediately replaced by tropical fruits with pineapple at the core and candied oranges at the edges. Hints of leather and marzipan rise and fall opposite equally effervescent undertones of soft smoke and vanilla. It is remarkably lively and crisp without any indication of carrying an excess of wood notes.
Palate: The oranges sing loudly and in stunning harmony with the smoke as it now seductively reveals itself fully in a way that seems impossible to replicate. Beneath this, an elegant combination of fruit reminiscent of papaya, spices led by nutmeg, and a luxurious light brown sugar sweetness swirl together to deliver a transcendental tempest of flavours.
Finish: Lengthy and leaving an incredibly clean feeling in the mouth, it creates a longing to return to the glass. The brown sugar rises and then shifts to a honey sweetness while the smoke takes on an ash-like quality amid the dry finish. Oranges and Christmas cake appear beautifully on the exhale while the honey now surprises with a flash of marzipan. From here everything seems to end like slowly waking from a day dream as each element melts back to a single point of fruity, softly smoky, sweetness.
Overall: This is the finest Glenlivet I have ever had, and likely ever will have. I can assure anyone reading this that it will stand alone in a blind tasting against any whisky anywhere, regardless of whether or not people know what is in the glass. Possessing truly amazing structure, balance, and vibrance, it is clearly the product of efforts of whisky makers and purveyors of the finest pedigree, the likes of whom can only attain their skills through the passing down of knowledge and skill from one generation to the next.
Yet somehow it seems there is something supernatural at play here as well. The presumed loss due to the Angel's Share over the course of 70 years leads one to believe that this whisky should never have made it this far. Or perhaps that supernatural element is simply a combination of a truly superior cask stored in some the finest warehouses on Earth.
Regardless, it is a spectacular dram that ranks among the rarest and finest ever created; and now, after its initial bottling in 2010, the second release is available. For the past 40 or so days, one could only procure it at Vancouver International Airport's Duty Free shop for a shade under $36,000. Thankfully today, November 1, 2012 it is once again available at select locations around the world.