Luxe Scotch Whisky to Drink Now

Courtesy Glenlivet; Courtesy Port Ellen; Courtesy Glenmorangie

These three new-to-market—but very old—single malt Scotch whiskies are now available in limited quantities.

The Glenlivet Winchester Collection Vintage 1964

The Glenlivet launched this 50-year-old whisky not merely as a limited edition release, but as the first in an ongoing series of 50-year-old expressions named in honor of The Glenlivet’s master distiller Alan Winchester, too.

Eschewing the ex-sherry barrels more common of the time, the Vintage 1964 spent the last half-century slumbering in American oak, which left the structure of The Glenlivet’s signature toffee-banana flavor profile firmly in place, while also adding layers of depth with notes of rich chocolate, stewed fruits, and honey. The finish of woody tannins and coconut is everything we’d expectfrom American oak. As my notes from my tasting experience at the Highlands distillery concluded, it’s “Extreme Glenlivet.”

One hundred bottles of the Winchester Collection Vintage 1964 were available globally for $25,000 a bottle, but as this was released in the fall of 2014 many of them will have been snatched up by now. If you’re unable to locate one, take heart: The next release, in 2016, is scheduled to be a Vintage 1966, aged 50 years in a former sherry cask. I tried that one, too, and it’s an extremely dark, tar-and-char wonder with notes of raisins, prunes, and blackstrap molasses—an untamed beast, worthy of the wait.

Glenmorangie Pride 1978

Glenmorangie has always been a pioneer in cask finishing—the method of moving Scotch whisky from one cask to another previously used cask so that the new liquid absorbs flavors a container’s former contents left behind. For their regular line, Glenmorangie ages ten-year-old whisky in ex-bourbon barrels, then transfers them to sherry (Lasanta), port (Quinta Ruban), or Sauternes (Nectar D'Or) casks for two more years before bottling.

Their new Pride release, however, is a 34-year-old scotch that first sat in ex-bourbon barrels for 19 years, then soaked in a French Premier Grand Cru wine barrel for 15 years more. This is the second Pride release (the first was a 1981 scotch released in 2011) and it’s packaged in the same gorgeous canteen-shaped Baccarat decanter. The liquid has a hearty woody, baking spice backbone, lightened by juicy wine and baked fruit notes. It’s a serious, elegant, and enjoyable dram that’s worthy of contemplation, while still being drinkable, too. Only 700 bottles of Pride 1978 were released ($5,800).

Port Ellen 35 Year Old Distilled 1978

As most collectors know, the Port Ellen distillery on Islay closed in 1983 and has since been used for malting barley. The stocks of whisky produced at the distillery before it went silent, however, continue to age, and Port Ellen continues to release these expressions—always cult favorites among Scotch collections—in small increments.

As part of Diageo’s annual single malt Special Release series, this 35-year old Port Ellen (retailing for $3,300) is released at cask strength—a whopping 56.5% ABV. The nose is full of the smoke we expect from Islay, followed by a malty sweetness. After a few drops of water, it is all peaches and cream on the palate with a lingering bite of ginger spice.