Malt of the month for September.

40 year old whiskies are exceptionally rare, can be incredibly complex and should always be treated with respect.
Opening a bottle is a great privilege and roadtesting the Glenlochy 1979 in a traditional setting is a double delight.

Whiskies this age can lose up to half their volume to evaporation and few casks survive maturation of over three decades well enough to create truly great scotch. So I approached the task ahead with as much trepidation as anticipation.

The setting was perfect – the Clachaig Inn, a drovers inn deep in Glencoe, Scotland since the 16th century A bar awash with over 400 whiskies and a supporting cast of ales and ciders. A day in the hills had both energised and exhausted me and now I was ready to rejuvenate my soul with a serving of vintage liquid sunshine.

The bottle was a Glenlochy 1979 (bottled in 2015) It’s a Highland single malt scotch from the lost Glenlochy distillery in Fort William, bottled at 46% ABV by Gordon and MacPhail.

The Glenlochy Distillery began production at Inverlochy on the north-eastern side of Fort William in 1901. It even had its own railway siding connecting with the newly opened Fort William railway line. It closed in 1983 although a number of distillery buildings are still standing having been converted to private accommodation. This bottle is from the Gordon & MacPhail Rare Old series.

There is a really intimate pleasure in cracking open a bottle of aged malt whisky. Almost a nervousness . A 40 year old is a rare treat indeed for most of us.

The pristine wax cracked with a twist of the wrist and slight turn of the cap.

Whisky is such a personal experience that I’ll simply start by saying simply that the Glenlochy lovely. The scent of a whisky can be intoxicating – fiery, sweet, smooth, smoky, fruity, peaty, sometimes all at the same time – and is worth pausing over before diving in. This bottle promised complexity and clarity and the golden glass delivered fully.

Tasting notes

The Nose: sweet vanilla, toffee apple, oak and a hint of fruits.
The Palate: light sugar, tropical fruit with notes of oak and treacle.
Mid-Palate: smooth and delicate.
The Finish: salt chocolate, lingering just long enough to leave you wanting more.

With ice, the experience changes, as you would expect. The most immediately noticeable difference is in the liquid itself. This is a non chill-filtered whisky. Below 46% ABV it’s a characteristic of non chill-filtered whiskies that they can cloud with the addition of water, as explained in our note on chill filtration and cloudiness. As all whiskies are so individual, the 46% is not a hard and fast number, but rather an indicator.
Check out the science here.

The Nose: sweet, fruity, light oak, toffee apple,
The Palate: mild, sweet, tropical fruits, unlocked complexity, a pinch of sea salt.
Mid-Palate: refreshing.
The Finish: fast and fruity, with a tiny hint of saltiness

Roadtested at the Clachaig Inn, Glencoe, Scotland.

What else is 1979 famous for?

Ridley Scott terrified cinema-goers with Alien, Sony launched the Walkman, Russia invaded Afghanistan, Rod Stewart started asking people if they thought he was sexy, the Cold War carried on, the Trade Unions tried to break Britain with their ‘winter of discontent’, the Iranian Hostage Crisis began, Sid Vicious OD’ed, Three Mile Island nearly went full-on nuclear disaster movie, and James McAvoy was born just down the road.

On a personal note, my Triumph Bonneville T140V was one year old, the Clash released London Calling, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy hit the shelves, Paris and Amsterdam were still peppered with interesting disillusioned GI’s who hadn’t gone home after their tours in Vietnam and Germany, and I was still a long-haired hippy while everyone else was ripping up their jeans to become a punk.