Cigar Aficionado

Straight From The Barrel: The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1964 Limited Edition

The Glenlivet master distiller Jim Cryle has scored another hit with its fifth release of the company's series of Cellar Collection whiskies, this time with a 40-year-old quaff laid down in the same year the Beatles scored their first hit in the United States.

Unlike the 1959 vintage released last year, The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1964 Limited Edition will be sold in select liquor stores this year at a set price of $2,000 a bottle. Of the 1,824 bottles rendered by the batch of 14 casks, 800 will be available in the United States. The previous year's edition (100 bottles in the U.S.) was auctioned for charity and raised $106,000. The top price paid for a bottle of the whisky, which was estimated to be worth between $500 and $700, was $6,000.

This year's edition marries whiskies aged in barrels formerly used for Sherry and Bourbon. The result is a sublime meeting of the two. The nose speaks of Sherry, but hints at the vanilla with nuts and some oakiness, consistent with Bourbon. The spice of Sherry transforms on the palate into licorice, and the Bourbon characteristics become bread dough. But then come fruits and flowers that hadn't shown on the nose. The fruit is sweet but never cloying, something like sloe or currant. The flowers are pure heather without the typical perfume of many Speysides. The finish will keep you waiting for minutes to take your next sip as full barrage of tastes overcome you.

The full effect is one that brings together the smoothness of the region with the complexity that comes with age. Or as Cryle himself puts it: "It's mature, rich and sexy, the Sean Connery of malt whisky."

This taste was distilled two years before Cryle first worked in the Scotch whisky industry and 27 years before he would take over at The Glenlivet as master distiller in 1991. Cryle, who came from a background as a chemist at the North Scotland College of Agriculture, nevertheless confessed to some alchemy in the creation of the 1964 edition. "There are mysteries of maturation," he said, "things that we don't understand."

As such, these Cellar Collection releases, which Cryle oversees, are the product not so much of advanced planning, but constant monitoring to pick the most opportune time to bottle the casks. At that age Scotch is in danger of going bad from over aging and losing too much alcohol content to be classified as whisky (less than 40 percent, or 80 proof). Happily, neither occurred. The single malt is presented at cask strength of 44.7 percent (85.4 proof) and is not chill filtered.

Other releases in the Cellar Collection include: The Glenlivet French Oak Finish 1983, The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1967 and The Glenlivet American Oak Finish 30-Year-Old. Glenlivet also sells an 18-year-old single malt, a 21-year-old dubbed Archive, and two 12-year-olds, one with a French oak finish.