Funny how chance sometimes leads you to pour part of a mini some friends made sure you’d get to taste, and as you nose it you take note of the fact that the 56th distillation anniversary is just a couple of days away (and is today!)….
This is one of those drams that will actually put you in the camp of those who believe that older was better, which echos Neil Ridley’s article in the 2021 Malt Whisky Yearbook which I reviewed the other week (see that review here). That, however, would be a mistake. The reason for that is that Gordon and MacPhail are an exception in the independent bottling world as they procure their own casks. Their filling contracts have them bringing the casks to the distillery to have them filled, rather than purchasing the distillery’s casks. That means that wood management was front and center for G&M at a time when the industry’s focus was squarely on filling the American’s market almost unending demand for whisky (until it did end about a decade and a half later, plunging the industry into the whisky loch of the 1980s) and not on the quality of the liquid. This whisky is gorgeous not because it’s a 1964 Bruichladdich, but because it’s a Gordon and MacPhail 1964.
The casks are different than the 1950s sherry casks in that they’re lacking the smoky waxiness so prevalent in the earlier G&M casks, which might be either because the casks were, indeed, different or because not all three casks vatted for this expression were all the same, although being three consecutive casks, that is unlikely. Note that the label gives only the first three digits of the last cask (stating 367 instead of 3672).
Gordon and MacPhail Bruichladdich 1964, 29 Years Old, Casks 3670, 3671, 3672, Distilled November 25, 1964, Bottled October 1993 (50.6% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Deep bronze, very slow and thin legs peeling off a sturdy necklace.
Nose: Gentle oak, with a very Woody Sherry and a hint a vanilla custard. Dried fruit (namely apricot leather and dried apricots), wood spices with dusty cinnamon, clove and nutmeg and a very light whiff of smoke.
Pallet: rich and spicy with a hit of black pepper and cinnamon followed by a wash of sweetness more of a fruity kind than of honey, with the dried fruit playing their part and some red fruit. At the end of the tasting, you get the bitterness of the wood.
Linger: dry with spice and fruit a little more of the red fruit than in the nose with some spice down the gullet. The tannins keep the inside of your cheeks tingling for a long time, with the slightest hint of smoke lingering.
This is a fabulous example of the older style of whisky curated in good wood. Much of the old Bruichladdich whisky was placed in very mediocre wood by the previous owners, some of which was salvaged through finishing, but none of the whisky was as glorious as this one.
This would be a textbook example of “old whisky”, that’s not quite as extreme as the Gordon and MacPhail 1950s sherry casks that had the smoked waxiness to them.
Thanks to three special people whose generosity made tasting this gem possible!