Gordon and MacPhail, a name now steeped in history and with a reputation for foresight and quality that spreads throughout the core of the industry and beyond. When blends were king and the words “Single Malt” were spoken by a reverent few, Gordon and MacPhail were quietly laying down stocks with the idea that soon enough, the output of a single distillery would be considered the pinnacle of sophistication for whisky drinkers. What was considered an eccentric idea at the time has now become an example of exceptional vision, a vision that has helped many distilleries through difficult times.
This unending faith in the quality and longevity of Scotch whisky is now paying great dividends, leaving this family owned company with some of the most enviable casks in existence. In March 2010 Gordon and MacPhail launched its Generations series and shared with the world a prime example of what has made their company different for so many years; the oldest whisky yet released. This 70 year old gem from the Mortlach distillery belied its age with a delicate grace and richly fruity personality. This was to be followed just a year later by a similarly remarkable Glenlivet whisky of the same age. The second batch – of the same bottling – has recently been launched in Canada, giving us a prime excuse to revisit and review this rather special whisky.
After our recent review the very modern, well-presented Glenlivert Nadurra it seemed like a good idea (yes yes, any excuse) to dig out something from the distillery’s earlier years. After-all, despite what marketers might wish you to believe, whisky has changed a great deal over the last 40 or so years. While 1973 was already late enough to have seen the end of Glenlivet’s floor maltings (1966) and the conversion from coal to gas firing (1972), the stills remained direct fired until 1985 and yeast types and barley varieties would certainly have been very different from those commonly found today.
I have spoken in the past about my affection for Berry Bros & Rudd, and while I have tasted many very good casks bottled under their name I can’t deny that examples distilled in the early 70s have an extra allure to them. In this department the good gents of BBR have been rather busy recently having released both this Glenlivet, its sister cask #10822, and a pair of similarly enticing 1974 Glen Grant whiskies (of which the Berry Brother’s Glen Grant 37 year old has already received a very favourable review on the blog a couple of months back.) If anything, I am hoping for even greater things this time around as, at its best, early 70s Glenlivet can be an underrated marvel of fruity elegance.
The name Glenlivet is undoubtably one of the most recognisable of any brand in the world of Scotch, and a quick search online will yield a whole raft of reasons why. Be it the early date of licensing, the request of kings, or the reputation of quality that led so many distilleries to label their own Whisky with the name of this early pioneer, word of The Glenlivet’s quality travelled far beyond the rolling landscape of Speyside and solidified its future position as the second best-selling Scotch Whisky brand in the world. Indeed walk into almost any half-decent pub or bar, and it’s likely you will see a bottle of Glenlivet whisky on the gantry, making it one of the most commonly enjoyed whiskies by casual whisky drinkers and budding enthusiasts alike.
So then to us, the whisky geeks, the closed distillery worshiping, note scribbling fraternity of whisky lovers who frequently, to our shame, overlook the commonly encountered in favour of ever alluring obscurity, what does this grand old distillery have to draw us back? Well, a fair amount as it happens, and with Glenlivet Nadurra we find perhaps the most available example. Firstly, as you may well know, the name Nadurra means “natural” and those in charge of The Glenlivet should be applauded for offering a truly “craft orientated” bottling from a distillery more often associated with large volumes and consistency of character. It is un-coloured, non-chill filtered and bottled at its vatted strength; enough to pique the interest of many a jaded whisky cynic, particularly with it’s accessible price tag.