You have to respect a whiskey that has reached middle age – or above. And as for me, there is no mandatory retirement age for whiskey of this caliber. When eligible for an AARP card, you usually drink something incredibly special – something that deserves more than thirty minutes of your time. After all, it took decades for these terms to reach the bottle, and they deserve better than to be ingested in a hurry and without much thought.
That’s how I felt at least after recently trying three Scotches that were older than my 39 years: Talisker 43 Xpedition Oak, The Singleton 54: Paragon of Time No. 2, and Gordon & MacPhail’s Generations 80 Years Old – all of which were excellent in remarkably different ways.
And as with many things that take extraordinary time and care to create, each and every one of these terms will cost you dearly — unless you are lucky enough to sit on wealth at the Bezos level. And if you are, I encourage you to seek out these bottlings. Their assignments are extremely limited – and if you wait too long, you may end up paying more through secondary markets. Or worse, you may not be able to find them at all. So consider this a “whiskey investment advice” from your Scottish-loving Asian aunt.
Talisker 43 year old Xpedition eg
MSRP: $ 4,000 for 750 ml | Global allocation: 1,830 bottles | ABV: 49.7%
In true Isle of Skye fashion, Talisker 43 is salted and salted without being overwhelming. And one of its more alluring qualities is its mild saccharine finish that lingers longer than any veteran whiskey drinker would expect. And in my mind, it’s about that finish – such a finish is not easy to achieve. (And quite frankly, it’s not like you can completely control what a whiskey finish is going to be like.) Besides that, there’s a funny little story behind Talisker 43’s taste profile: This particular expression is due in part to the sticks used. Adventurer James Aiken took on a transatlantic transport of 3,264 kilometers and carried wooden poles on deck. When he returned to Scotland, the aforementioned rods – which were sprayed with seawater and exposed to the elements – were incorporated into the barrels used in Talisker 43’s final maturation. And it made all the difference. “This whiskey is a sublime single malt that captures the pinnacle of the main aromas of Talisker: spicy, sweet, waxy and creamy, with a hint of sea salt spray, the morning after a storm,” said Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s senior global brand ambassador . “The maturation of the four decades has given this fat dram a full flavor, yet a softness, resulting in a rounded and elegant experience.”
The Singleton Paragon of Time No. 2: 54 years old
MSRP: $ 40,100 for 750 ml | Global allocation: 235 bottles | ABV: 44.1%
I’m not ashamed to say that out of the three expressions on this page, The Singleton 54 is by far my favorite of the party: First, there are ten million things going on in your palate. You see, with something that is more than half a century old, you tend to expect something “boring” or a little more subdued by time. Or you can get something that is overwhelmingly your own. What you get, however, is the opposite: This 54-year-old is alive – as a woman who did not let this crumbling world mess with her verve. It’s light. It’s fresh. It is very “alive” in taste. And it reminds me of wet grass and lush greenery – like the scent of Scotland after a heavy downpour. It is important to note that I tried this (and the other terms) more than once, every few weeks, as God intended. And one thing that resonates with me about this latest release of Paragon of Time is how it changes in your mouth as you sip. And it changes the second time you have it – makes you notice the other subtle nuances. Over time, the “pure green” taste gives way to a quiet sweetness that is almost undetectable – but also rich. The balance is incredible. So much so that a drop of water is not needed to open it.
Gordon & MacPhail Generations 80 years from Glenlivet Distillery
MSRP: Registration and application via Gordon & MacPhail required for pricing | Global allocation: 250 700 ml. bottles | ABV: 44.9%
If SNL’s Stefon was a whiskey reviewer, he would recite his classic line: This Scotch has everything! And it really does. Although this 80-year-old masterpiece is a classic Sherry bomb, it’s kaleidoscopic in taste, especially when you sip it: You have very dark cocoa nibs, coffee grinder, dried citrus peels, stone fruit and an overall dark forest flavor. Gordon & MacPhail’s Generations 80 Year, I should note, is a multi-course meal and is best eaten alone in the company of a fireplace and some warm (or deep) thoughts. This is not the kind of whiskey I would pair with anything because its taste evolves like any well-made whiskey does. It’s the kind of dram that makes you think. But more on its history: In February 1940, George Urquhart placed distillate from Glenlivet in an oak barrel specially made for Gordon & MacPhail. And the contents of that dish (No. 340) were bottled in February 2020. Designer and architect Sir David Adjaye OBE designed the stunning modern Glencairn crystal carafe — while the huband-and-wife team behind Wardour Workshops, Arabella and Dom Parish, created a ” pavilion “of oak to house it. Carafe No. 1 will be auctioned off at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on October 7 (with an estimated HKD 800,000 to HKD 2,000,000). The winning bidder will also meet Adjaye during a whiskey tasting for four in London – led by Gordon & MacPhail’s director of prestige, Stephen Rankin. In addition, the winning bidder will also receive the framed barrel head of dish # 340 and the only signed lithograph of Adjaye’s concept studies. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Trees for Life, an organization dedicated to rebuilding the Scottish Highlands – specifically the Caledonian Forest.