Ah, Dry January. You’ve been a blast — a never-ending, mind-numbing, soul-destroying blast. From the January blues to dark days in the office, we’ve had plenty of cause to reach for our home bars during the first month of the decade. But we have restrained ourselves, prevailed without a hangover and will appreciate a good drink so much more as a result. A good drink — or a great drink, depending on your budget.
If your pockets are feeling particularly deep after a month of lime and sodas, why not splash out on a token bottle with which to ring in Wet February? We’ve rounded up ten of the best rare, vintage bottlings from the biggest brands — and will attempt to tempt you with some tasting notes. So take a look, sober soldiers — and ready your rocks glasses.
For a curiously herby bottling, Talisker 1956
Let’s kick off with something serious; a 1956 Talisker. As you can see, such old whiskies — this one was bottled sometime in the 1980s — will have unfortunately lost a lot of their spirit over time. But, what does remain in this £2,500 bottle will be spectacular. Think aromas of sherry and old leather, a taste of aniseed and seasonal herbs and a long, baked apple pie finish.
For intense dark fruits, Highland Park 1986
Bottled in 2005, this 1986 Highland Park looks younger than its £1,200 price tag belies. But don’t be swayed by a bottle without a yellowing, curling label — this is still a stellar vintage. Intense dark fruits will swirl from the bottle once opened, and it’ll go on to deliver a nutty, espresso-tinged punch to your palate. There’s a zesty finish, but it’s the smoky liquorice taste that’ll stay with you.
For a whisky bettered by age, Tomatin 1965
What’s that? A 1965 whisky for £450? 1965! What are you waiting for?! This wonderful find was aged for three decades in bourbon casks before bottling, and it has matured magnificently. You can expect Tomatin’s signature taste; that of classic fruit and honeyed spice — but with a layer of soft toffee and vanilla notes only age can bring.
For a busy blend of chocolate and orange, Bowmore 1996
A slightly younger offering, Bowmore’s 1996 is no less worth opening your wallet wide for. Released on its 20th anniversary back in 2016, this exclusive release has been fully matured in a single first-fill sherry cask. Hand-poured into these tasteful bottles, it has a rich, intoxicating character with notes of dark chocolate, raisins and orange zest.
For a fruity, floral classic, Glenfiddich 1976
Ah, a Glenfiddich vintage. Let’s see what the big boys can do. Predictably, the Glenfiddich 1976 is almost the perfect vintage whisky — just look at that label. And, with a fruity, floral blossomy aroma, notes of rich barley, orange zest and big oak on the palate — not to mention a long, peppery, spicy finish — it seems a steal at £2,250.
For deep, dark duskiness, Glenlivet 12-Year-Old
Bottled in the 1970s, this Glenlivet may say it’s 12-years-old on the label — but that was almost half a century ago. Today, the spirit has sat for decades maturing even further in the bottle. So, where the modern 12-year-old is well-balanced, with a creamy smooth taste on the tongue and a lingering tang of pineapple and marzipan, expect this to be deeper, darker, duskier and — well — infinitely better.
For an unexpected — but great — taste, Dalmore 1974
At 28-years-old, this Dalmore 1974 is one of the finest bottles on this list — but you pay the price at £2,750 a pop. That said, if your pockets are deep enough, it’s well worth the investment. When you crack it open, you’ll be hit with a maddeningly good blend of crushed black pepper, honeydew melon and malted pomegranate notes. Tempted yet?
For fudge, caramel cake — and a hint of cardamom — Macallan 1989
Another big-hitter, Macallan’s 1989 is a serious vintage whisky. Sniff it for leather, sherry, chocolate orange and peaches. Sip it for almonds, fudge, orange and caramel cake. And savour its long finish for a smooth, malty end. There’s also a very faint wisp of cardamom going on in there — we don’t know where from, but it only serves to add to the intrigue…
For simple sweetness, Auchentoshan 1966
Another strong vintage label, and another promising whisky inside the bottle. Auchentoshan may be tricky to say, but there’s always something pleasingly straightforward about its whiskies. Even after 31 years in the cask, this £1,350 bottling can be summed up in one word: sweet. Honey and mead notes swirl together on a sugary palate, before a Christmas cake finish settles on the tongue.
For smokiness and woody accords, Laphroaig 1981
Devilishly dark — and with a list-topping price of £6,000 per bottle — this Laphroaig 1981 is as deep and flavourful as it looks. Smoked fondue curls from the bottle, and is followed by woody accords of coffee, toast, leather and dark chocolate. It’s a real concentrate of a whisky; almost viscous in its thick taste. But is it worth it? You’re damn right it is.
Want something a little more modern? We discovered the young whiskies coming for Scotch’s crown…
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