The following originally appeared on Guid Scotch Drink on May 18, 2012:
What does one do for an encore after tasting a single cask of 1953 Glenfarclas? How about tasting some 1957 Strathisla? Then taking the weekend to reflect on an extraordinary whisky week!
Part of the Pernod-Ricard stable, the oldest operating distillery in the Highlands (it dates from 1786 when it was known as Milltown), Strathisla, is found just outside of Keith on the road to Elgin, in Speyside. While the distillery releases a standard 12 Year Old, the majority of stocks go to the Chivas Regal blend. This beautiful yet little known distillery produces almost 2.5 million litres annually (that's slightly more than Lagavulin, about the same as Highland Park, and slightly less than Laphroaig -- and we've all heard of them!).
I've enjoyed several 30-something and 40-something Year Old Strathislas over the last few years. Both Duncan Taylor and Gordon and MacPhail have bottled some absolute gems. This particular Strathisla 50 Year Old comes from Gordon and MacPhail, distilled in 1957 and bottled in 2007 at 43% Alc. Now sold out, it was available for the insanely reasonable price of £194! If you're feeling frisky, here it is for £383.
C: Sanguine copper
N: The wood is immediate but it's exuberant rather than tired (turmeric, coconut, aniseed, and ground pepper) then cooked fruits (red currant crumble, apple pie, and plum pudding) and freshly oiled leather
P: Quite oily with toasted fennel seeds, black licorice, cinnamon, and chili oil up front, apricot jam and thick-cut orange marmalade through the middle then drying on the end with dark chocolate, ground pepper, and espresso (what a journey!)
F: Sadly all too short and mostly up front, but there's fennel, coffee beans, salted dark chocolate, and nutty toffee
In conclusion: YES! Up to the standard of those I've tasted previously. What a sensational dram for sitting and warming and sipping and thinking (and maybe sharing). The wood is present but not overpowering which I find incredible for a whisky that's been sitting in wood for fifty years! The fruit and licorice components are delicious and tell such a lovely story throughout the tasting. Try old Strathisla the next time you see it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Sincere thanks to my Seattle whisky friend, Red Russak, for the sample. A 26 Year Old, single cask, cask strength Port Ellen was Red's reward.