glenlivet 1976 gordon macphail private collection 1565 featured

Glenlivet 1976, 2003 & 2004 (Gordon & MacPhail)

The launch of the oldest Scotch whisky in the world is nearing closer. It won’t be too long now before Gordon & MacPhail unveils a Glenlivet 80 Year Old from their exclusive Generations range. As a prelude the independent bottler launched a series of new Glenlivet expressions, three of which I’ll be reviewing today: a 2003, 2004 and 1976 vintage.

Not that long ago, but before the Glenlivet 80 Year Old was announced by Gordon & MacPhail, an article called ‘The Race to 100’ was published by Whisky Magazine’s Jason Thomson. In it a number of industry people discussed the possibility of ever bottling a century old single malt. So far, the companies that have come closest are The Macallan and Gordon & MacPhail.

Just last year The Macallan released a 78-year-old whisky, surpassing the 75-year-old Mortlach by Gordon & MacPhail that was released in 2015. It was part of the stunning Red Collection. And you’d think it is no coincidence that Gordon & MacPhail were so quick to reclaim the title of oldest Scotch whisky in the world. But the new 80-year-old Glenlivet was actually already bottled on February 5th 2020.

Obviously, there’s a lot of variables that go into getting a whisky to reach such a venerable age. Not in the least because there’s always the dangers of the whisky completely evaporating before it even reaches the required age. Also, the abv needs to be kept above 40% as well, which is no small task. A constant temperature in the warehouse is key to achieve both goals.

Luckily for Gordon & MacPhail their warehouse in Elgin seems to be absolutely perfect for length maturation. After the Scotch Whisky Research Institute recorded the environmental conditions in the Elgin warehouse, it was discovered that the interior maintained a stunning consistent temperature. According to Stuart Urquhart, operations director of Gordon & MacPhail, that’s partly because their warehouse is always full. As soon as a cask is send out to be bottled, new casks are brought in.

oldest scotch whisky glenlivet 80yo gordon macphail generation 340
The cask end of the world’s oldest Scotch whisky, an 80-year-old Glenlivet from Gordon & MacPhail.

But now that they’ve proven an 80-year-old whisky is achievable, does Stuart also believe they’ll ever bottle one that actually sits in the cask for 100 years? Well, yes, theoretically. “I think it is fair to say that it is theoretically possible to mature a whisky to 100 years old, if the conditions are perfect and the cask performs in a way that you expect it to”, he explained to Whisky Magazine.

The oldest whisky I’ve tried so far is a stunning 70 years old and, not surprisingly, also comes from the warehouses of Gordon & MacPhail. They’ve actually allowed me to taste many unbelievably old whiskies, such as the Mr George Centenary Edition and the Mr George Legacy, both from Glen Grant distillery. I think it’s fair to say they’ve spoiled me.

But Gordon & MacPhail take it even further with their new Glenlivet 80 Year Old, part of their Generations range. It was distilled on February 3rd 1940, under the watch of George Urquhart and his father John, and filled into cask 340. Now I won’t be reviewing that bombshell of a whisky today, but I do have a few other Glenlivet lined up.


glenlivet 2004 connoisseurs choice gordon macphail 800356 800358

Glenlivet 2004 16 Years (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, C#800671 + 800672)

Bottled as part of the company’s Connoisseurs Choice, this single malt whisky matured in a refill bourbon barrels with an outturn of 510 bottles.

Nose: Fresh notes of lime and golden reinette apple, as well as soft touches of honey, lychees and white pepper. Finally some melted butter. Very elegant.
Taste: A sweet, vanilla-y arrival with a somewhat creamy mouthfeel. Spices like white pepper and ginger root, but also some hops, are accompanied by kiwi and bitter lemon peel.
Finish: Herbal and somewhat bitter, but ending on gentle fruity notes. Medium in length.

Rating: 85

The nose stands out. It’s not exactly singular, but very well done. Overall a lovely, mature Glenlivet that doesn’t rely on the cask.


glenlivet 2003 connoisseurs choice gordon macphail 800671 800672

Glenlivet 2003 17 Years (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, C#800356 + 800358)

Bottled as part of the company’s Connoisseurs Choice, this single malt whisky matured in a refill bourbon barrels with an outturn of 510 bottles.

Nose: In a way very similar to the 2004, but with subtle differences. There’s sweet lemon peel and soft butter, as well as stewed apples and some drops of honey. Finally a touch of merengue and sweet vanilla custard.
Taste: Sweet and sugary at first, quickly followed by a touch of lager as well as some spices like nutmeg and pink peppercorn. But also a touch of coffee grounds, charred oak and herbal notes.
Finish: Plenty of vanilla, a drop of lemon juice and sweet apples.

Rating: 86

A bit more fuller-bodied than the 2004, but also sweeter. I’d say this comes down to preference, as they’re in the same league. I’m not a sweet tooth, but I like this one better.


glenlivet 1976 gordon macphail private collection 1565

Glenlivet 1976 45 Years (43.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, C# 1565)

Bottled as part of the company’s Private Collection, this single malt whisky matured in a refill American hogshead with an outturn of 124 bottles.

Nose: Again, we’re very much taking a stroll through an orchard. A bit shy but plenty of ripe apples and some quinces, followed by touches of bung cloth and a sliver of burnt toast. Finally just a whisper of lemon pith, pineapple and a bit of beeswax.
Taste: Okay, now we’re entering a new realm, only found in older releases such as this. Touches of licorice root and menthol, as well as tobacco leaves and leather. Plenty of sweeter notes too, like sugared cereals and white chocolate, but also apricots and stewed apples. A good amount of wax too.
Finish: Touches of chalk and pickled lemons. Long.

Rating: 90

I’d say it shares DNA with the younger vintages, but only proper ageing will get you a flavour profile like this one. Top notch.


Conclusion

Three whiskies from two very distinct eras. It’s no surprise the younger of the two share many similarities, especially considering they’ve been aged in the same cask types. It’s even less surprising the Glenlivet 1976 is the standout.

Samples provided by Gordon & MacPhail

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