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The Oldest Strathisla Whisky Ever Released Is About To Go On Sale

Famed Scottish independent whisky bottler and maker Gordon & MacPhail will release a rare bottling of ultra-aged whisky from the Milton Distillery. The expression, among the oldest released by Gordon & MacPhail and among the oldest Scotch whiskies ever released, is the latest edition to the company’s Private Collection range of ultra-aged rare whiskies.

You’ve probably never heard of the Milton Distillery. The distillery, known today as Strathisla, is the oldest continuously working Scotch whisky distillery in the Scottish Highlands. It is also one of the most picteresque. George Taylor and Alexander Milne originally founded it in 1786 as the Milltown Distillery.

The name was changed to Milton Distillery when William Longmore acquired it in 1830. The distillery eventually became one of the foundations of William Longmorn & Company Ltd. The name was changed to Strathisla in 1870.

The distillery was damaged extensively due to a fire in 1876 and an explosion in the malt house in 1879. The facility was rebuilt and modernized, and the name was changed back to Milton Distillery in 1890.

Jay Pomeroy, an English financier, acquired William Longmore in 1940. Later convicted of fraud and tax invasion, the British government seized the distillery, and in 1950 it was auctioned off. Chivas Brothers, who had been acquired by Seagram the year before, was the successful bidder. The name was changed back to Strathisla in 1951. It has been known by that name ever since.

In 2000, Chivas Brothers was acquired by French drinks conglomerate Pernod-Ricard as part of the breakup of Seagram’s beverage assets.

Strathisla has long been a core component of the Chivas Regal blended whisky. Much of the current production of 2.4 million liters is slated for Chivas.

A small quantity of whiskey is bottled as a single malt, including some expressions only available at the distillery’s gift store. There have been sporadic releases of bottlings aged between 10 and 18 years. The 12 YO expression is the most common and is generally available from specialist retailers.

Most of the available bottlings of Strathisla have been released by independent bottlers. Gordon & MacPhail has been the most active and has released around 40 different expressions.

The Gordon & MacPhail bottling was distilled on May 19, 1949. At the time, the distillery was still operating under the Milton name – hence the designation on the label.

It matured for more than 72 years in a first fill Oloroso Sherry puncheon, cask number 383. It was bottled on January 6, 2022. A total of 180 bottles were filled. The ABV is 48.6%, quite remarkable for a 72+-year-old Scotch whisky.

According to Ewen Mackintosh, Managing Director at Gordon & MacPhail:

Milton, or Strathisla as it is known today, has small copper stills with a distinctive shape that helps to give the spirit its rich, fruity and full-bodied character. Decades of experience led us to fill the spirit into a first-fill Sherry puncheon for long-term maturation.

Having carefully assessed its progress down the decades, we feel now is finally the right moment to reveal this landmark single malt to enthusiasts and collectors. In terms of rarity, this deserves true ‘icon status.’ A Gordon & MacPhail whisky of this age bearing the Milton name has never – and will never – be seen again.

Below are tasting notes on the Gordon & MacPhail, From Milton Distillery, 1949 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Private Collection, 72 YO, 48.6% ABV, 700 ml from a small sample generously provided by G & M.

The color is rich, dark gold. On the nose, it shows pronounced Sherry influences of dark dried fruit, especially fig, candied orange and lemon zest and the rancio notes of furniture wax and new leather typical of ultra-aged whiskies. There are additional vanilla notes, cinnamon, and a touch of nutmeg.

There are distinctive creamy caramel notes on the palate and flavors of baked apple and pear, candied citrus zest, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg spice. The dark dried fruit notes seem less pronounced on the palate than on the nose.

The finish is very long, with lingering notes of baked apple, some caramel and a bit of nutmeg. Think of an alcoholic apple turnover. There is also a very slight suggestion of smoke. It’s likely that in 1949 a small quantity of the malted barley would have been slightly peated, as was the custom in Speyside at the time.

This is an outstanding whisky. Strathisla is among my favorite whiskies, especially when it is matured in first-fill Sherry casks. The G & M 1949 expression is a brilliant demonstration of what complexity and sophistication Strathisla whiskies can reach when properly aged in suitable wood.

Famed whisky writer Charlie Maclean gave it a score of 9¾ out of 10, among the highest ratings he has ever given to a Scotch whisky.

The whisky is expected to carry a suggested retail price of $65,000.

It’s not cheap, but if you can afford a bottle, grab it. It’s unlikely you will ever see another one.

Sláinte

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