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Respect your Elders: G&M’s Glenlivet 70yo

Glenlivet 70 Year OldSince last Tuesday’s big bang in the whisky universe, in between essay deadlines, I have been mulling over the significance of a second 70yo release from one of the world’s most illustrious whisky companies. It would appear that much of the forum-fever has dissipated, which suggests to me that the whisky industry is gradually perfecting its techniques of benumbing us to their five-figure asking prices and allows me conveniently to factor it out of my own reckonings as ‘read’. It is a lot of money, neverthless I should imagine that the vast majority of bottles will have long gone by now. Move on, basically.

I would instead like to commend Gordon & MacPhail for electing to charge anything so arbitrary as Pounds Stirling for a bottling which gives us unique reason to pause in our frenetic progress through life. Disposable furniture, buildings, art, football managers – they surround and jostle us, slackening our grip on conceptions of permanence. Peering once more in at the shop window of the whisky industry we come across younger and younger whiskies, raced through the distillery, into bottles and down our throats. As William Henry Davies lamented, ‘We have no time to stand and stare’.

Davies died in the very same year that the folk at the The Glenlivet distillery were putting this particular spirit into its Sherry butt. In all the time it spent in there, the global culture would accelerate still further. Dunkirk, D-Day, Indian independence, the accession of Elizabeth II, CND, feminism, the computer, the internet – all of this was going on while a few hundred litres of Speyside whisky were getting comfy in oak and supping on the air of north east Scotland.

I’m presently reading Gavin D. Smith’s The Whisky Men and have thus far learnt an immense amount about the dynamic change experienced by the whisky industry which has been carrying on around this cask. Peat, direct-fired stills, and the longer distillation regimes have gradually faded from distilling policy, yet the ‘old ways’ were contained in Cask # 339. This whisky carries the genetics of The Glenlivet and manifests the evolution of Scotch whisky generally. It is inconceivable that the flavour and character should not differ from the spirit produced at the highly-computerised plant we find today. Nevertheless, every bottle of 12yo hitting the shelves now in 2011 will embody all of the developments made since this unexpected study in the intricacies and mysteries of whisky-making ran off the still. Flirting with economics and markets very briefly, I very much doubt that the manager of the distillery in 1940 would have ever entertained the fancy that at some point in the future the contents of this cask, as a single malt, would receive the attention it has done. 

The Glenlivet 70yo by Gordon & MacPhail is the Scotch equivalent of the ‘missing link’ and whether you approve of the asking price and resulting exclusivity or not, at least reflect on the positive ramifications for whisky’s heritage, character and confidence. A different world inhabits those blown-crystal decanters, and I applaud the faith and patience of those individuals to realise whisky’s full potential and the skills of our forebears.

The Glenlivet

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March 16, 2011 um 3:43 pm
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  1. Chris Hoban

    An excellent post. I enjoyed the fact that while I wrestled with the economics of this release, you took a more philisophical and historical view of The Glenlivet 70.

    Good work mate

    #1 Comment vom 04. April 2011 um 11:26 am

  2. saxon

    Thanks a lot, Chris. It just made the most sense to me! Plus it hurts much much less when you abstract it into whisky folklore, although I am genuinely proud that such a thing is possible. As a said, cause to pause.

    #2 Comment vom 05. April 2011 um 4:33 pm

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