PORTLAND, Or. June 3, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Duty free liquor shops have long offered expensive, rare bottlings of liquor. Indeed, in the hyper-competitive retail market for alcoholic spirits, travel retail – the industry euphemism for duty free stores – have long sought out unique and exclusive offerings of rare spirits.
A recent trip through Vancouver International Airport (YVR) did not disappoint. I inadvertently stumbled on what is Canada’s most expensive liquor, a 75-year-old bottle of Scotch from the Mortlach distillery, bottled by the Scottish specialty whisky company Gordon & MacPhail, from a single cask of ultra-aged whisky.
The bottling was the fourth in Gordon & MacPhail’s Generations Series, and the second time that one of the company’s specialty bottlings had been featured at YVR. Described by noted whisky critic Charles MacLean as “elegant as a grand dame . . . the Ingrid Bergman on malts,” it is the oldest Scotch whisky currently available. Only 100 bottles were released.
The series began on March 11, 2010, with a 70-year-old bottling of Mortlach Scotch whisky that had been distilled in 1938. The Mortlach distillery is a storied distillery in Scotland’s Speyside whisky district, which was founded around 1823. It was the first legal distillery in Dufftown, the heart of Speyside. At the time, this was the oldest bottle of whisky available on the market. The inaugural bottling sold out within two weeks.
The second release, on March 8, 2011, was a 70-year-old bottling of Glenlivet that had been distilled in 1940. The third release, on Sept. 20, 2012, was a second offering of the last 100 bottles of the 1940 Glenlivet. It coincided with the opening of the New World Duty Free at YVR. Both of the releases were drawn from the same cask – number 339. The offering was an YVR exclusive until it was released internationally on Nov. 1.
The Mortlach is not the most expensive bottle of Scotch whisky available. The Balvenie 50-year-old single malt retails for about $48,000, while the Macallan Lalique 62-year-old single malt retails for around $39,000. Neither offering is available in Canada.
Nor are these two bottlings the most expensive bottles of Scotch whisky ever sold. That distinction belongs to a special bottling of Isabella’s Islay whisky at $8.5 million. The decanter comes decorated with 8,500 diamonds and 300 rubies. For those looking to economize, there is an Isabella Special Edition that is stripped of most of its bling – a bargain at only $1 million.
The highest price ever paid at auction for a bottle of Scotch whisky was $630,000 for a single bottle of a 64-year-old Macallan malt whisky in a Perdue crystal decanter made by Lalique. The proceeds were earmarked for a charitable cause.
As to the 75-year-old bottle of Mortlach, this writer did get to review it. It was superb. I gave it a 99/100 rating. You can see the complete review at [popup url=”http://thewhiskywash.com/scotch-whisky/whisky-review-mortlach-gordon-macphail-bottling-15yo-75yo/” height=”1000″ width=”1000″ scrollbars=”1″]The Whisky Wash[/popup] website.
I was hoping that I would get a review bottle. I had to settle for a 10 ml sample instead, roughly 1/3 of an ounce. Still, I couldn’t really complain. The alternative was a one-ounce shot, if you could find a bar that served one, at roughly $4,000. I could have called it a business expense, but sadly I think it would have been flagged on my expense report.
As to the 75-year-old Mortlach at World Duty Free, it will set you back $42,780. At least there is no GST or provincial sales tax in duty free. Realistically, the average Scotch enthusiast will never get to sample a 75-year-old Scotch, much less buy a bottle, even if you think your children are ingrates and that four years of college are a vastly overrated and overpriced experience.
In a pinch, the 15-year-old Mortlach, also reviewed at The Whisky Wash website, about $90, will serve you amply well, and maybe even give you a bit of a hint of what an exceptional 75-year-old whisky is capable of delivering.
Joseph V. Micallef is an historian, best-selling author, keynote speaker and commentator on wine and spirits. Joe holds the Diploma in Wine and Spirits and the Professional Certificate in Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (London). Bottoms Up is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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