Strathisla is a distillery which has inched its way into the collective consciousness of most whisky drinkers over the last decade due to its easy-drinking and relatively sweet nature. It is also seen as the spiritual home of Chivas Regal due to its importance as a signature whisky within the various blends under the Chivas range.
While it is readily available as a single malt, the whiskies within the core range have been met with a tinge of scepticism as they tend to be compared with the legendary distillery appointed bottlings from Gordon & MacPhail.
One of these bottlings is the subject of our review today, but before we proceed, let’s first delve into the history of this illustrious and picturesque distillery.
Strathisla distillery was established in 1786 by Alexander Milne and George Taylor under the name of Milltown, although this was later changed to Milton. The distillery remained under their ownership until 1823, when it was purchased by MacDonald Ingram & Co.
Ownership of the distillery was then transferred to William Longmere 7 years later and remained under the purview of the Longmere family until 1880, when William Longmere retired and passed on the distillery operations to his son-in-law, John Geddes-Brown. It was around the same time that the company William Longmere & Co. was formed and the distillery’s ownership was transferred to the newly created company.
Interesting fact: The distillery name was officially changed from Milton to Strathisla in 1870. Milton was also the name of an illicit family farm distillery which existed in the Speyside area, but it changed its name to Miltonduff in 1824 when the Duff family obtained a license to distill whisky. The distillery name reverted to Milton in 1890 and remained as such until 1951, when it was once again changed to Strathisla.
During the 1940s, Jay Pomeroy (also known as George) acquired shares in William Longmere & Co., but was jailed due to illegal business trandactions. This led to the distillery going bankrupt in 1949 and it was then purchased in a compulsory auction by Chivas Brothers for a sum of £71,000 (or £2,307,500 after adjusting for inflation).
Under the ownership of Chivas Brothers, Strathisla gained in importance and became an integral part of the Chivas Regal range of blends. The distillery was also expanded and the number of stills was increased from two to four.
The distillery was also known for its experimentation and a heavily peated whisky by the name of Craigduff was produced on site for a short period of time, although it was eventually stopped.
There has been some contention among historians regarding the production of Craigduff, with some arguing that it was produced at Strathisla while others argue that it was in fact produced at Glen Keith.
The distillery remained under the control of Chivas Brothers (and by extension, Allied Domecq) until 2001, when its parent company Allied Domecq was taken over by a consortium consisting of both Pernod Ricard and Diageo.
While Diageo inherited some of the brands within the portfolio, Pernod Ricard inherited the Chivas Brothers portfolio and this included Strathisla.
In terms of equipment, the distillery sports a 5 ton traditional mash tun with a copper canopy, ten washbacks (seven made from Oregon pine and three made from Siberian larch) with a fermentation time of 54 hours, and two pairs of stills. The wash stills are of the lantern variety and possess descending lyne arms while the spirit stills are equipped with boiling balls and possess slightly ascending lyne arms.
The distillery is capable of producing up to 2.45 million litres of spirit on an annual basis and while a small amount is stored on site in two racked and one dunnage warehouse, the vast majority of the production is transferred to Glen Keith via a pipe which connects both distilleries, where is it either filled into barrels and matured on-site or loaded onto a tanker to be matured elsewhere.
The distillery also had an active visitor centre and welcomes up to 20000 visitors on an annual basis. As it is seen to be one of the most picturesque and beautiful distilleries in Scotland, its appeal is definitely undeniable.
The subject of today’s review is an expression of Strathisla-Glenlivet, which was distilled in 1967 and matured in a single sherry cask (#6112) for 40 years before being bottled at 50% abv by independent bottler, Gordon & MacPhail, as a part of their distillery label range.
So, let’s jump right into the review!
Strathisla-Glenlivet 1967 40 Years Old (Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, Cask #6112, 50% abv)
Colour: Deep gold
Nose: Initial entry presents a perfumed, sweet and sophisticated nose which possesses a certain meaty note that is somewhat reminiscent of a Mortlach. The nose is rather rounded, with rich red fruits such as peaches and nectarines as well as a handful of raisins. There is a fair bit of acetone present, although it lends a certain elegance to the proceedings. Hints of rancio develop late on. (23/25)
Palate: Initial entry is rich, lush and perfumed and stays true to the nose, with sweet red fruits and a fair bit of sherry. The acetone takes on an almost medicinal character and it is complemented by a melange of spices (cinnamon, cloves and black pepper in particular). The savoury meatiness underpins all of the other elements and the rancio is more apparent on the palate than on the nose. (24/25)
Finish: Medium to long on the finish, with the savoury meatiness taking centrestage as the sweetness fades. Slightly chalky towards the end along with a lingering spiciness. (22/25)
Balance: An exceptionally well-balanced and tremendous representation of the sweet, savoury, spicy and meaty aspects that one can find in older expressions of Strathisla and other sherry-matured Speysiders from years gone by. The mouthfeel is mostly oily and helps to keep things supple and vibrant. (24/25)
When I was presented with a glass of this at The Auld Alliance last year, I must admit that I had spent a good half hour just nosing it and it reminded me of peaches which had been poached in acetone. While that may not sound rather appetising or enticing, believe me when I say that this expression provides one of the best nosing experiences that I have ever come across thus far.
This expression can be purchased by the half dram or dram at The Auld Alliance and I would highly recommend that readers head down to give it a try while it is still available. You will surely be in for a treat!
Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.
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