Whisky Season 2012 Update: The MVP
Today we're very proud to announce another cask for this year’s Whisky Season. This is truly one of the finest casks we've EVER had a chance to sample during our journeys through Scotland, but it also represents so much more than that. This cask, for both David and I, represents a microcosm of the entire experience we've had as Scotch lovers and buyers. We spoken many times here about the struggles we face as a retail store trying to do business in Scotland. You know, as we do, that we're in a whisky boom and never has Single Malt been more popular in more places than it is today. This struggle is basically between our love for the whisky we taste and the price that we think the whisky is worth.
It's not as if there's a shortage of whisky in general, but there is definitely a shortage of GREAT whisky. When we arrived at the little Edradour distillery outside of Pitlochry situated in the heart of Scotland, we were certain that we'd be sampling some incredible whisky. This was the home of the legendary Signatory bottler of Single Malt and we'd had incredible success in the last campaign with an exquisite cask of Signatory Ladyburn at a thoroughly reasonable price. As we pushed our way through a crowd of tourists (all clearly upset that we were visiting with Valinch in hand) in the first warehouse on the top rack we spotted it, "Glenlochy?" I exclaimed. "I've literally never tasted Glenlochy." Our guide, Des McCagherty (who we affectionately call the Scottish Liam Neeson, but apparently is of Irish descent, so I guess we should just call him Liam Neeson), casually noted that it was completely off limits, but we might have a wee taste on the way out. It sat next to a treble lot of Bowmore 1974, which was also notably not for sale. Approximately two hours later, having tasted at least eight casks that we loved, we decided to call it a day.
On our way out of the warehouse, I stopped Des to remind him that he'd promised us a taste of the Glenlochy and could we perhaps dip into the '74 Bowmore just for fun? Starting with the Bowmore, we realized immediately why these casks were off limits. They were not being held for any reason other than they'd been committed to another source which was apparently located in Switzerland. While noting that I was indeed Swiss, I'd have to contact this person and convince them otherwise. This was some of the best whisky in the warehouse. This was some of the best whisky in Scotland! And then the fateful moment came, as the Valinch slipped from the cask into our glasses, the Glenlochy touched our lips. A look of horror crossed David's face. When I see this look, I know exactly what will follow. Fist pumps. The only description that comes close involves a sports analogy; say scoring the winning goal or hitting a grand slam. That said we'd not done a thing, except tasted this whisky that was apparently not for sale. Nonetheless, we felt like we'd hit the jack pot. This was BETTER than last year’s Ladyburn! As we sat in the Edradour tasting room with Andrew Symington and Des McCagherty discussing the potential casks that we'd like to purchase for the store, I may have mentioned one too many times how much we'd like the Glenlochy and the Bowmore, because Andrew finally relented and noted that he wasn't sure the committed parties would be able to come up with the money for these casks. Cue the feeling of overwhelming joy! As we drove away, David & I were brimming with excitement.
When we returned home we immediately requested pricing on the 10 casks that we'd fallen in love with. To our incredible disappointment, the pricing structure that we'd known to be extremely favorable at Signatory had simply evaporated. We considered long and hard what this whisky was really worth. 1974 Bowmore 38 Year Old for $1400 retail? I mean it's good, but this was not 1964! Depressed and demoralized, we pushed and pushed to get pricing down with absolutely no success. As you've seen, a few of the casks were already competitively priced and we jumped on those, but our baby the Glenlochy was completely out of reach. We decided that we'd just been priced out of the market and that no matter how much we loved this whisky we could not justify buying something if the price wasn't right.
After several weeks, I phoned David one morning and casually said, "I miss our Glenlochy." We decided to push the envelope and make an offer. After multiple meetings between our importer and our distributor, they finally realized that this was an open and shut deal and relinquished whatever ridiculous margin they'd been tacking on in the first place. A 30% reduction in price will do! I cannot tell you how special this case is and while it is certainly far from inexpensive it will feel like an incredible value when you actually get that glass in your hands. I never thought I'd ever quote our former Secretary of Defense and I hesitate to compare Single Malt to national defense in any way, but this outrageous statement is actually incredibly meaningful in this context, "There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know, we don't know." I would categorize our Glenlochy cask as an unknown unknown. Now you know.
I've maybe glossed over a mention Glenlochy in the Malt Yearbook or one of Michael Jackson's books, but it has never had a form or context for me. It is not been on our radar because it is absolutely one of the rarest single malts on the market today. Purchased by DCL (the company that would become Diageo) in 1953, Glenlochy is one of these distilleries that met its demise during the whisky slump of the early '80s. It had only one wash still and one spirits still. That is to say, they made very little whisky. This is the only bottle of Glenlochy currently available in the US market. It also happens to be the sister cask to the incredibly acclaimed 31 year old Glenlochy that was recently rated 92 points by Serge Valentine of Whiskyfun.com. I cannot express how outrageously complex this whisky is. The range of flavors is unfathomable. This thing is absolutely packed up. It’s like unraveling a giant ball of yarn. We start on the almond, nougat, exotic wood, all savory and powerful. Subtlety shifting into the herbal and fruit aromas, this nose is like a chameleon, at once beautifully exotic and powerfully brooding. On the palate, fabulously rich in texture, the whisky is like a ball of plasma oscillating through multiple states of being. It leaves you smiling and exhausted. Seriously, this is one of a kind.