In our current Visionary Masterpieces Auction, an offering from the personal treasures of Emmanuel Dron (renowned connoisseur, collector and co-owner of the famous whisky bar The Auld Alliance in Singapore), there are some stunning examples of old but young whiskies distilled in the 1980s, 1970s and even 1960s.
These examples catch the eye of whisky connoisseurs for several reasons, but most notably for the year in which they are distilled and their young age statements.
Whiskies distilled and bottled several decades ago are highly sought-after at auction because they were produced in what is now being recognised and referred to as the 'golden eras of whisky production'. These malts are widely acknowledged to display a different character than their modern counterparts, with idiosyncracies such as Clynelish's "waxy character" near impossible to replicate in today's whisky making process. This is because the traditional methods in which they were produced, and in some cases the ingredients, were notably different to that used today.
As with the rest of the world, the technology and processes in the whisky-making process have been perfected over the years to satisfy both demand and efficiency. These changes, small or large, will undoubtedly have had an effect on the original spirit character of distilleries. Irrespective of the year in which they are distilled, there are of course decent drams to be enjoyed, however, there will always be those of us that cry out to turn back time and reminisce on the spirits of a bygone era. Such whiskies are a rare snapshot of distilleries from over fifty years ago and offer a window into the past of Scotland’s distilling history for both drinkers and collectors.
It is often bottles from these eras with hefty age statements that dominate the headlines, as at this time distilleries had the foresight to start laying down casks for future generations of whisky lovers. However, many connoisseurs are in fact most captivated by young whiskies from these periods. Hard to come by, these young single malts offer a unique perspective on the distillery's character from this period with less time in cask. In a ScotchWhisky.com feature, rare whisky expert and writer Angus MacRaild writes about old young whiskies,
These bottlings represent a liquid archive of Scotland’s malts captured in youth, usually at indestructibly high-octane natural strengths. For drinkers, they are an unrivalled library of distillates in flux, of an industry in change; held in bottle to be discovered and dissected by Scotch enthusiasts decades later. There are few other bottlings like them in that respect.
Angus MacRaild, rare whisky expert and writer
Two old young whiskies that have caught our eye in the current auction are from two Speyside giants, The Macallan and Glenfarclas. Both bottled in 1978 by Averys of Bristol, these combine a great vintage with young age – one of the most fascinating combinations in whisky.
The Glenfarclas is a rare vatting of two 1969 vintage casks, a vintage which dates back to when Glenfarclas malted their own barley at the distillery. This liquid timecapsule therefore provides a true representation of what the iconic Speyside distillery can produce that its modern-day counterparts cannot. Another peculiarlity with this independent release is that it features the Glenfarclas name - this was released just one year prior to the distillery taking control of bottling for its brand.
The Macallan also dates back to 1969 and similarly is bottled at 8 years of age. We more often than not come across examples from this iconic distillery that come hand in hand with deep-red hues and fruity full bodied flavours, so for those experiencing a little sherry cask fatigue this will make for a fascinating experience interpreting The Macallan’s rich and oily distillate from the 1960s with limited cask influence.