Town distillery unveils oldest and rarest whisky ever

Whisky writer Dave Broom and Glen Scotia manager Iain McAlister.
Whisky writer Dave Broom and Glen Scotia manager Iain McAlister.

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Campbeltown distillery Glen Scotia has unveiled its oldest and rarest limited-edition whisky to date.

The distillery, which was founded in 1832, is releasing a 46-year-old single malt with only 150 individually numbered bottles available worldwide.

Refined through years of patience, the aged expression has been slowly maturing for over four decades, under the careful custodianship of various distillery teams from the 1970s until today.

It is a timely release, with Glen Scotia being crowned ‘best in class’ at the World Spirits Competition 2021 and then Scottish Distillery of the Year at the Scottish Whisky Awards in December last year.

Known as the ‘Victorian whisky capital of the world’, Campbeltown is renowned for producing show-stopping whisky and Glen Scotia’s 46-year-old celebrates the craftsmanship of its team of a different era while paying homage to a precious time in the distillery’s history.

In the winter of 1974, former Glen Scotia distillery manager Mike Smith and his team finished their last production of the year amidst a four-year programme of investment and renovation that spelled opportunity and a great sense of optimism for the town.

However, these final years also marked the end of a special chapter, defined by the team’s tradition, care, craftsmanship and an old way of doing things.

It was these final casks that have lain quietly maturing under the care of various distillery managers until today.

The liquid of the 46-year-old was originally laid down in refill bourbon casks and gently matured for 36 years before being re-casked in first-fill bourbon casks in 2011.

It has then been finished for four years in Oloroso sherry butts, giving it an elegant, and velvet-like finish.

The tropical fruits, subtle maritime nuances and creamy notes encapsulate Glen Scotia’s signature distillery character.

The whisky is presented in a handmade oak display case; inside, an oak tile rests beneath the bottle, holding a plaque with the individual bottle number, tasting notes, and the single malt’s story.

With an estimated retail price of £6,750 per 70cl bottle, the release is set to draw attention from global collectors and whisky enthusiasts looking for a slice of Glen Scotia’s artistry in whisky-making.

To mark its release, Glen Scotia has partnered with distinguished whisky writer Dave Broom to uncover the tale of this rare dram in a short new film, shot at the distillery’s dunnage with distillery manager and master distiller Iain McAlister.

Mr Broom said: ‘It is intriguing to think that this 46-year-old liquid was nominated to be kept back time and time again by various hands, passing through the care of generations of different distillery managers until today.

‘Therefore, it is such a remarkable liquid; more than just age, it is a time capsule that tells you about how Campbeltown and Glen Scotia have changed over the years.

‘The whisky has the tropical fruit funkiness which only comes from long ageing in refill casks – evidence of that original intention of using it while young, filled with those Glen Scotia oils and salinity.

‘The subtle, sweet, toffee elements mid-palate reflect the change in direction when mature, elegant single malts were desired, while the rich sultana like fruit harks back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when sherry casks were the preferred choice for Campbeltown’s whiskies.

‘Whisky is about understanding and managing change. This dram speaks of the past, but also of the future, and the respect which today’s custodians of Glen Scotia have for the whiskies in their care.’

Mr McAlister added: ‘It is wonderful to contemplate that we have inherited these last remnants from those who have helped shape Glen Scotia’s journey and been part of our history.

‘The release of the Glen Scotia 46-year-old is a toast and a thank you to the craft of all those who have come before us.

‘It is an honour to pick up the mantle for the distillery and be able to unveil these rare few bottles, which are so full of the classic Glen Scotia and Campbeltown character.

‘As we celebrate a particularly notable year in Glen Scotia’s history, with multiple recent award wins, it feels only right that we release some of our most treasured liquid this year.’