If you're a single-malt snob who happens to have a wallet with a lazy four grand in it, you might want to test your allegiance by taking the Last Drop challenge. The latest release from the purveyors of rare casks in tiny amounts is a blended Scotch of 48 years that will challenge preconceptions of what that oft-slighted category can be.
While blended Scotch whisky (a marriage of pot-stilled single malts and column-stilled grain whiskies) typically occupies a younger and cheaper niche of the market, this one-off release of extremely low number (592 bottles) defies such categorization. The Last Drop 1965 48 Years Old also easily holds its own next to exquisite single malts of comparable age.
The youngest portions of this whisky were distilled a half-century ago. And while it's easy to trot out all the historical references (it was made during the heydays of muscle cars and miniskirts and The Beatles were still churning out hits), you don't pluck down $3,999.99 for a bottleful of nostalgia. And that what The Last Drop, a company formed in 2008 by industry veterans James Espey, Tom Jago and Peter Fleck, understands. Their short lineup of hyper-aged expressions (which also includes a 1950s Cognac) have all been inspired finds, worthy of release and not just creaky oldsters with intriguing age statements.
And true to the name, when the last drop of each release is drunk, there will be no more.
The company is fairly mum on the origins of this blend except to say that: some of the malt distilleries represented in the blend are long since silent; the blend was transferred into first-fill Bourbon casks 27 years ago; and those casks were further matured in a traditional warehouse in the Highlands.
Presumably a chunk of the price goes to finance the posh packaging. A handmade case of forest-green leather, lined in cream-colored suede, holds your prize. A drawer keeps a leather-bound booklet with the certificate of authenticity and pages for recording your tasting notes. On the other hand, there is (bonus!) a gift-with-purchase of sorts: a 50-milliliter replica bottle lies alongside the 750-milliliter, wax-sealed main bottle. One is to savor, one to store. We look at it as a reserve tank of sorts. However, that would belie the last drop notion...if only for a little while.
The Last Drop 1965 48 Years Old (97.2 proof, or 48.6 percent alcohol by volume; $3,999.99 for a 750 ml package)
APPEARANCE: Bronze and lemon color; rolls down in thick droplets.
NOSE: Graham cracker and cinnamon show up first, before Christmas spices and citrus fruit take over, with a follow-through of mulled wine (cider and cloves).
PALATE: Becomes so sweet in the mouth that for a moment you forget the spice of the bouquet. It's rich with honey at the start, and then rich fruits go on parade, bringing orange, pears, peaches and plums. When the spice pendulum swings back it melds with the fruit to give the sense of a very nuanced Calvedos with subtle barrel flavors.
FINISH: The ending smacks of something we love to find in super-aged whisky: tangerine. There's also a wisp of Stilton cheese, and oddly some vinaigrette.
CIGAR PAIRING: Bolivar Corona Gigante (Cuba, 7 inches by 47 ring gauge, £21.23, 93 points, Cigar Aficionado, June 2015) Sweet dried-fruit notes and dense almond paste combine for a rich cappuccino finish. Interesting and delicious. Not surprisingly, a scant 10-milliliter sample was offered of this whisky. So the onus was on us to choose but one cigar for the pairing—and to choose wisely. We picked the Bolivar based on its fruit and nut components and were a bit disappointed. Yes, The Last Drop lit up the sweetness (pears and peaches) in the Bolivar, but the cigar conferred some tart notes on the whisky, which served only to amp up the whisky's cheese flavors. Sometimes the magic doesn't work. Rats!