Saturday started out nice and early with the Gordon & MacPhail masterclass at 11.15am. Yeah, “AM” as in, in the morning. It feels pretty hardcore to me to be drinking at that time of day, but as they say “it’s 5pm somewhere” so why not! And as it turned out, it was WELL worth it.
The session was hosted by G&M’s Joint Managing Director Michael Urquhart who I was happy to find out is very engaging and funny. I was a little worried after the somewhat stilted performance in the Glenlivet 70-year-old introduction video but I forgive him for that, it’s a corporate video after all and they’re supposed to be dull! (Just teasing, Michael.)
I’ve been to quite a few whisky events now, and have had some really good stuff, but this masterclass was probably my favourite to date. I’m a huge fan of many Speyside whiskies – I’d probably put Speyside as my favourite region when it comes to Scotch – so I’d been looking forward to this a lot. I’d also visited the famous shop in Elgin just a few months before and drooled over some of the amazing bottlings they have there, so G&M in particular held a special bit of interest for me.
The first dram of the day was the Benromach 10. Benromach, of course, is the Speyside distillery owned and operated by G&M since 1993. The Benromach 10 was launched in 2009 and personally I think it’s really good. Matured in sherry and bourbon casks and then finished in Oloroso sherry casks, it’s fruity with nuts and chocolate notes.
Glen Grant 1996 was next. A light whisky bottled at 40%, it was also quite fruity and creamy. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the distillery when I was there last year but I have to go sometime – they have a secret safe built into a waterfall!
Mortlach 21 was GREAT. Hazelnut and spice with a looong finish, this sherry-cask matured spirit was delicious. The Linkwood 25 reminded me quite a bit of the Dalmore 18 that I have at home, which has a kind of leathery mustiness that I like when I’m in the right mood! The Benromach 30 finished off the main set in fine style – from their old stock of course, it’s matured in 1st fill and refill sherry casks. It’s really viscous and has a noticeable tropical fruit component; really interesting. I believe it won an award in the Whisky Bible this year, and it’s well-deserved.
And so we came to the surprise #6! Michael had us guess a possible distillery and age as we nosed and sipped a small taste of it; most people guessed it to be around 21 years old. Then the big reveal: “Ladies and gentlemen, the spirit you are enjoying was first distilled on February 3rd, 1940…” Yes – this was the G&M Generations Glenlivet 70-year-old from the awkward corporate video above! Audible gasps were heard around the room and we all dove back into our glasses to savour this incredible opportunity. Selling for £12,000 a bottle at World Of Whiskies at Heathrow (“special offer”!), this is not something you get to try every day, especially not at a masterclass that cost just $28 to attend! So how was it? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly it was very good. I didn’t detect any unbalancing oak influence; it was vibrant and fresh (I’d guessed it to be around 25 years old myself). It wasn’t heavy, and had classic dried fruit and a nutty richness to it. Really remarkable for such an old spirit, and a real privilege to try something older than both of my parents.
I found Michael at the grand tasting that night and thanked him again for the experience he provided us. Truly memorable, and when I made it back to the room after the session I found my wife had won a Glenfarclas bar mat at her own masterclass. A productive hour for us both!