gavin smith

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The legendary Elgin-based independent bottlers, retailers and distillers Gordon & MacPhail have enjoyed lengthy and fruitful associations with many Speyside distilleries. It is said that during very difficult economic times of the 1920s and '30s, only the purchase of new 'fillings' by Gordon & MacPhail kept a number of distilleries in business.

One of the leading Speyside distilleries with which Gordon & MacPhail has long traded is Glen Grant, located in the small distilling town of Rothes, and now owned by the Italian company Davide Campari-Milano SpA. The five-year-old expression of Glen Grant is Italy's best-selling single malt Scotch whisky, and we have become familiar with pale-coloured, comparatively youthful bottlings of light-bodied, relatively undemanding Glen Grant.

July's Whisky of the Month could hardly offer a more radical departure from that profile, being distilled in 1953 and matured in first fill and refill Sherry casks. In 1953 Glen Grant, in common with most distilleries, still operated its own floor maltings and coal-fired stills, and the spirit produced at that time was undoubtedly more robust and peaty than today's make.
Glen Grant, 1953, Gordon & MacPhail bottling (Scotland)
Remarkably, Gordon & MacPhail is now offering an example of every Glen Grant vintage from 1948 to 1968, plus some dating back to the mid 1930s and many more recent ones. The 1953 has a big, beguiling, peaty, Sherried nose, with ginger, honey and spices. It becomes more treacly when exposed to air for a few minutes. A splash of water opens up aromas of apricots and cedar, but don’t add too much, as this veteran could easily collapse. By contrast with the sweet nose, the palate is quite bitter, slightly smoky, with very dry Sherry and a note of oranges. A mere hint of water elicits softer, peachy characteristics. The finish is long, dry and spicy, with a suggestion of aniseed at the very end. Remember that this is a 53-year-old whisky, so think of it as an opportunity to drink a piece of whisky history. Considering the sums of money asked by many retailers for younger ‘vintage’ whiskies, its price seems very reasonable. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £225.00, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.

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