Monday, September 22, 2014

The Glenlivet Winchester Collection Vintage 1964 and 1966 - and A Distillery Tour

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
The Glenlivet Winchester Collection - Vintage 1964

Welcome back to part 2 of my trip to Speyside with The Glenlivet!

So you're probably reeling with anticipation wondering what was this special whisky that I went all the way to Scotland to taste?

I had the privilege to be one of the first to taste The Glenlivet 1964 Vintage and the 1966 Vintage the first two releases of the The Winchester Collection, a series of 50 year old single malts named after master distiller Alan Winchester


The first to be released is the Vintage 1964.  This amazing single malt scotch was put down for maturation in 1964 by Captain Bill Smith, the last descendant from the founder of The Glenlivet, George Smith.  Aged in 100% American Oak ex-bourbon barrels, the Vintage 1964 is a gorgeous, intensified version of the iconic flavors found in The Glenlivet.

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Vintage 1964
The 1964 has a rich golden hue and has a nose of pear, lemon citrus, tropical fruits, green apple, mandarin orange, with a hint of vanilla.  On the palate the pear comes through first, followed by baking spices and toffee from the ex-bourbon casks.  Flavors of brûléed orange, cherry, and cocoa hit the mid-palate, and the dram finishes with a lovely anise flavor.  With just a few drops of water this exquisite whisky becomes incredibly lush and creamy, releasing flavors of pineapple, coconut, white peppercorn, and heathered honey.

Only 100 bottles of are available worldwide, and will be released in select markets.  The first of which, Bottle No. 1, will be available at Harrod's in London October 1 for a price of $25,000 and is sure to be a coveted bottle by collectors.

The rippling glass bottle was designed by the Scottish glass artists Nichola Burns and Brodie Nairn of Glasstorm, and is topped with a Rose-Gold and whiskey-colored Cairngorm Stone stopper made by silversmith Richard Fox.  The black walnut and white leather presentation cabinet, designed by John Galvin, comes with a hidden gilded key and upon opening the wood doors the bottle moves forward, begging to be tasted.

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Reserve Cask Room
Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Master Distiller Alan Winchester and Peter Prentice Lead a Tasting of the Vintage 1964

And what does the Winchester Collection mean for The Glenlivet?  "I hope that it will provide an extra dimension to the fine selection of whiskies that we already offer," explains Mr Winchester, "We are fortunate to have such a strong portfolio that reaches a wide range of customers, from the younger, more accessible whiskies, through to our exciting limited editions and Nàdurra range. With The Winchester Collection, we now have an exceptional rare and special 50 year old spirit that strengthens the diversity of our portfolio even further, whilst continuing to offer the flawless quality found within every bottle of The Glenlivet."

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
The Next Release: The Vintage 1966
Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Alan Winchester Opening The 1966 Cask
I also had the privilege to taste the next release, the Vintage 1966, aged in ex-sherry casks.  Mr Winchester opened the cask just for us, and pulled out a dark molasses looking whisky. On the nose this whisky was reminiscent of a black strap rum with flavors of molasses, toffee, orange peel, candied anise.  On the palate the Vintage 1966 was very tannic with flavors of coffee, bitter charred orange peel, charcoal, with a mint on the finish.  With a touch of water the whisky becomes brighter on the nose opening more orange aromas, and brings out flavors of orange marmalade, pink peppercorn, and baking spices.  I am interested to see how Mr Winchester decides to cut this particular barrel, I tasted it at cask strength and would love to taste it again as a finished product. 

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Vintage 1966
On first glance the Vintage 1966 is a radically different whisky than the vintage 1964 - it is different in color, maturation, and flavor.  It makes a lot of sense that the first release of the Winchester Collection would be a cannonical masterpiece of The Glenlivet portfolio.  The second release however, hints at the diversity in flavor that we will likely see in the entire collection. 

It has not been announced how many bottles will be part of The Winchester Collection or when they will be released, but it can be guaranteed that the set will showcase a diverse range of styles and flavors, highlighting the possibilities of The Glenlivet.  One thing is certain, for those who are lucky enough to collect the complete set of The Winchester Collection, it will be an impressive and extremely valuable collection of 50 year old vintages!

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Vintage 1964 and Vintage 1966
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We also did a tour of the distillery, getting a behind the scenes look at how The Glenlivet is made. 

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
The Stills at The Glenlivet
The Speyside scotch starts out as Scottish barley, which is soaked in water for a few days allowing it to germinate.  The grains are then heated and dried, a process known as malting that releases the usable part of the grain from the husk.  The malt is then ground through a malt-mill until it has a flour-like texture, at which point it is called grist.  The grist is then mixed with hot spring water that comes from Josie's Well, a converting the starches into sugars.  

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Josie's Well - Primary Water Source for The Glenlivet
The mash (wort) heads over to the wood fermentation tanks (washbacks) where yeast is added, and the sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  The mash takes on much of its flavor from the wood fermentation tanks, and wood tanks continue to be used despite the many splinters suffered by the poor guys who clean the tanks.  After two days the wort is converted to wash, a distiller's beer that is 8-9% alcohol.  
 
Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Wood Fermentation Tanks at The Glenlivet
The wash then heads over to the stills for distillation.  The stills used at The Glenlivet are George Smith's original design, and allow for maximum contact with the copper as the vapors pass through the goose neck of the still.  All Glenlivet whiskies are distilled twice, each time almost tripling the proof of the alcohol.  So the distiller's beer starts out at 9% alcohol, the low wine (the first distillation) is at 21% alcohol, and the final hearts are cut at 60-73% alcohol before sent to rest in either American Oak or European Oak barrels.  The heads and the tails are recycled, added to the next batch of low wine and re-distilled.  


Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Master Distiller Alan Winchester at the Spirit Safe
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After the distillery tour, we were headed back to the Meldrum House for a quick change before dinner.  30 minutes later a smartly-dressed group loaded up in cars, and we headed to our final destination of the evening, Fyvie Castle.  



Fyvie Castle is a 13th Century castle with rooms and passageways lined with displays of armour, rich tapestries, and paintings of barons and baronesses.  As we drove up the gravel path to the castle a bag piper greeted us, as did a server with a tray of glasses of Perrier Jouet.  We ascended the stone circular staircase and met in one of the Castle's gorgeous drawing rooms for a toast to the exceptional whisky we had tasted earlier.  

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Peter Prentice, Toasting to The Winchester Collection

I very much appreciated the kilts that were worn by the gentlemen of the castle, and Mr. Peter Prentice's festive plaid pants that were fitting to the occasion.  Upon seeing Sporrans and Sgian-Dubh knives, I knew we were in for a traditional Scottish feast!

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection

After a tour of some of the Castle's most notable rooms, we were guided into the lush dining room that was lined portraits of family members who once inhabited Fyvie Castle.  Even the ceiling was decorated with family crests and gilded initials.  

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Reading Room of The Library

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Drawing Room

Dinner was a gorgeous affair, a candle lit meal that started with a toast of The Glenlivet.  We were then treated with a two-ways salmon dish with a hot and cold cured salmon served with pickled onions, and crème fraîche.  This was followed by a presentation of the haggis, the Address To A Haggis by Robert Burns passionately read by Mr. Winchester.  Following the haggis, was a gorgeous cut of venison served with fresh root vegetables.

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
 

Gastronomista The Glenlivet Winchester Collection
Master Distiller Alan Winchester Sharing Stories of The Glenlivet

It was a treat to see an estate like this brought to life with such a gorgeous fête.  I've toured many historic homes and castles and watched many episodes of Downton Abbey, but it was a magical experience to be sitting at the table myself, dining under the portraits of those who once entertained in the same room. 

15 Year Old Single Cask 2014

We were then treated with a taste of The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition from the 2014 Spirit of Speyside aged 15 years.  This gorgeous whisky was another of my favorites from the trip, with light flavors of pear candy, pineapple, mandarin orange, mint, with a distinct bright yet creamy notes of vanilla and baking spices.  While this whisky had many of the same tasting notes as the Vintage 1964, it was lighter and much more ethereal.  

Dinner Aftermath

After dinner we moved into the music room, a gorgeous chapel like room that had an enormous organ built into the wall.  We were treated to coffee and a serenade by the keeper of Fyvie Castle, Robert Lovie. 


We listened to the romantic ballade while sipping a Glenlivet 37 year old whisky that had never been bottled, and no plans to be bottled.  Mr Winchester had pulled the whisky right out of the cask just for the evening, a rare treat that only few are able to enjoy.  This sherry cask whisky had strong flavors of coffee, bitter toffee, tannins, and banana bread.  When asked what the strength was of the cask, Mr. Winchester responded "No Idea", and with a giant grin, took another sip of his dram.


Want More?  Check out Part 1 of my trip to visit The Glenlivet>>


5 comments:

  1. A truly enjoyable read. What a treat your trip was. It was very interesting to read how different the '64 and '66 were. I'm guessing the two unique barrels made a large difference.

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  2. @Bryan Richards Thank you so much! It was very interesting how different the '64 was from the '66 - and it makes me really excited to know whats coming after that! I think it's a clear sign that the complete collection is going to have a wide variety of flavors and styles of whisky! Thanks for reading!

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  3. Ooh my sweetheart loves whisky. I definitely need to get him to try this!

    College Cheese | You Only College Once.

    facebook.com/collegecheese

    Love,

    Wendy

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  4. Where can one purchase this in the United States?

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  5. Do you have any idea how one can acquire a bottle of the "Vintage 1964" within the United States?

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