Founded in 1875, shuttered in 1986, and reopened in 2008, Glenglassaugh has gradually released limited stocks of pre-1986 barrels in tandem with their aged new distillate. (A 50 year old expression aged in a PX sherry cask hit the market around two years ago.) Their latest limited release boasts an eye-popping 46 year age statement and comes from a single ex-bourbon cask selected by Master Blender Rachel Barrie.
Interestingly, this is a U.S.-only release, distilled in 1975 and ultimately bottled at 41.7% abv. (One wonders how much longer it could stand until the cask dropped below the 40% legal threshold.) Perhaps as catching as the age statement is the suggested retail price: A cool $4,800 for an individually numbered, wax-sealed bottle.
For now, Glenglassaugh is keeping quiet on how many other, similar casks they hold in reserve, simply calling this release “one of the oldest and rarest expressions” among their stock.
Still, it’s not every day a whisky like this slides across the desk, so let’s dive in. How kind were nearly five decades to this Highland single malt?
I was bombarded with rich tropical fruit before I even mean to smell the whiskey; it’s that evident pouring from the sample bottle. Nosing closer, papaya and mango are dominant, with a light undercurrent of mint. There’s just a hint of baking spice, as if someone dusted the aforementioned fruit with cloves. A bit of oak and the presence of the bourbon cask are there, but while there are notes of wood, it doesn’t risk cutting into or overpowering the rich fruit.
This is a fruit bonanza on the tongue, fresh-cut tropical fruits followed ever so slowly by Pink Lady apples. A noticeable salinity does work in keeping those flavors from tipping over into saccharine. Those sweet, vibrant flavors transition into floral and minty, like fresh mulled mint at the bottom of a julep. Revisiting for a second sip, this welcomingly drinks bolder than its 83.4 proof implies, allowing the flavors to sit well and evenly across the tongue.
The finish is at once light, decadent, and cooling, and I can’t help but compare the sensation to eating sherbet with — again — a sprig of fresh mint as garnish. The sweet fruit and mint play together nicely until a ripe papaya resonates at the very end, sitting lightly on the palate and inviting you in for another sip. That salinity might stick around just a tad too long for some, but that’s light criticism on a pour that basically sticks the landing.
At the end, I sat with my nose nearly fully jammed into the now-empty Glencairn, trying to pick apart more aromas and dissect exactly which fruits were coming across in quick succession.
With a whisky this balanced and complex, it’s likely an impossible task. A nearly-flawless expression, and one I feel confident giving one of my highest scores to date.
A / $4800 / glenglassaugh.com