Booze | May 4, 2020 12:25 pm

The Story Behind the Oldest Whisky Ever Bottled, Now Up for Auction

This 75-year old Scotch is dubbed the "Ingrid Bergman of single malts"

Mortlach
This 75-year old Scotch is up for auction
Sotheby's

Scotch fans, you can have your 25-year old age statements. Somebody’s tripled that.

Comprised of over 130 lots, “Distilled | Whisky + Moutai + More” is the largest online sale for spirits ever presented by Sotheby’s Hong Kong. Although the auction (acquired from a private collector) features a nice range of spirits from The Macallan, Ardbeg, Springbank and Glenfiddich, it makes its mark in a few different ways, including bottlings by famed Japanese distilleries like Karuizawa and the Chinese spirit Kweichow Moutai.

The highlight, however, is the oldest whisky ever bottled: The Mortlach 75-Year-Old Gordon & Macphail Generations (1 BT70). While the liquid itself hails from Mortlach, a nearly 200-year old Speyside Scotch now owned by drinks giant Diageo, this bottling was put together by Gordon & MacPhail, known as “one of the oldest and most revered independent bottlers in Scotch Whisky’s history.” One of their trademarks is maturing spirit from distilleries (many of them no longer around) in its own casks to create a unique liquid library. The company previously set an auction record for the oldest age-statement whisky ever with their 70 Year Old Mortlach. 


Related: “The Perfect Collection of Whisky” Will Break an Auction Record


So, what does a 75-year old whisky taste like? We asked Jonny Fowle, Spirits Specialist for Sotheby’s Wine, to shed some light on the ancient spirit.

“I’ve never had the joy of trying this whisky, but it is said to be surprisingly vibrant for a whisky of that age with a lot of rich toffee and sweet fruit flavor alongside some developed characteristics of cured meat and spice,” says Fowle, adding, “[Scotch expert] Charlie MacLean once described this whisky as the ‘Ingrid Bergman of single malts,’ but I’m not entirely sure what he meant.”

The Whisky Wash was able to purchase a press sample back in 2016 on a whisky auction site. As their review at the time noted: “Mortlach has long been famous for a particularly complicated (often referred to as ‘byzantine’) distillation process. Distilled an average of 2.81 times, the spirit produces a particularly aromatic and flavorful Scotch whisky that is capable of long aging. At times referred as ‘The Beast of Dufftown,’ it is a bold, rich, and powerful spirit, often described as ‘thick’ …  There is a pronounced oily viscosity [in the 75-Year Old] that we would expect from a sherry cask aged Mortlach. Sweeter notes emerge on the mid-palate and toward the end, with a distinctive peach and nectarine flavor, followed by some slight bitter almond and peach pit notes.” It also retains a slightly smoky flavor, an interesting twist as the brand went unpeated in the late ‘60s.

A few other notes on this particular bottling: The whisky was released in 2015, so it was distilled in 1940. “This was an extremely difficult time for distillers and a very unusual time for any whisky in Speyside to be distilled at all,” says Fowle. “During this period all but a handful of distilleries had been shut down or converted to support the war effort, either by producing crude oil or by using the warehousing space to manufacture uniforms for British soldiers. For any of these casks still to exist and be bottled in the modern era is nothing short of a phenomenon.”

The decanter is numbered with 75 multi-level cuts and comes with two crystal glasses and a leather travel bag.

The Distilled auction runs through May 5. A current bid for the Mortlach 75 is at around $15,500.

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