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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

July 25, 2022


Strathisla and Milton
by Gordon & MacPhail

Slowly getting into the spirit of this wee website's 20th Anniversary, which will happen on Thursday.

It is incredible what Gordon & MacPhail are still having as far as old casks are concerned. Remember, it's their fillings, they tend not to buy ready-made whiskies, they fill their own woods. Also, as Michael Jackson once wrote, 'they kept malts alive after the industry turned its attention almost entirely to blends.'

We sometimes believe they're a rather old-fashioned company, but in truth, these days, what's truly old-fashioned is short-term, quick bucks, b******t marketing and aimless brand-creating/building/pumping-up, which are all facets of the very same coin: trying to make quick money instead of creating value. You could argue that that comes from the fact that G&M are a family business, where the fathers, mothers grandfathers and grandmothers are thinking about the next generations whenever they have a decision to make.


I believe you would be right, I'm in that position too (not with Whiskyfun, mind you) and I don't think you could actually do business more dynamically than that.

Good, after that two-penny introduction (I'm asking for your forgiveness), let's have a look at what we have on the tasting table today: a Milton 1949.

Milton, also sometimes Milltown, is the older name for Strathisla Distillery, which was christened 'Strathisla' only in 1951. So, anything distilled and filled before 1951 would have been from 'Milton' or 'Milltown', even if the name of the make had been Strathisla long before. So, I find it cool and charming, if perhaps a little coquettish, that G&M would have named this new 1949 'Milton Distillery', instead of Strathisla.

Side note: we've tried quite a few old Strathislas by G&M before (either under their own labels or under the distillers'). In my opinion, the various pre-war ones were not quite on par with the Macallans or Glen Grants, not to mention the Linkwoods, Mortlachs or Glenlivets, but the 1948-1961/1981 for Diana and Charles was excellent while another 1949, bottled in 2006, had been rather superb too. It is not impossible that Strathisla needed a few more watts than just 40% or 43%, both strengths that other distilleries would have easily dealt with, especially Glen Grant and Macallan. By the way, the various 100° proof expressions of Strathisla, especially the 15 yo, had often ranked very high on little WF.
(Interesting advert in London's Guide to Leading Hotels (circa 1880). Note the use of the wording 'whiskey')

But enough lousy literature, let's try the new wonder (the price is only that of a new Tesla Model Y, after all). But first a wee sparring partner that we've found at G&M's too, for the sake of consistency.


Strathisla 13 yo 2008/2021 (57.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice for Van Wees 100th Anniversary, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #17603109, 334 bottles)

Strathisla 13 yo 2008/2021 (57.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice for Van Wees 100th Anniversary, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #17603109, 334 bottles) Four stars
We've noticed, while visiting 'seasoning' bodegas in Jerez, that G&M keep asking for bungs in the staves and not in the tops. Still no palletisation, apparently, hurray. Colour: full gold. Nose: old barrique, rubber, coconut, walnut wine, balsamico, vanilla… It's still a little rough when unreduced, but let's see… With water: a little ginger and leather at first, then more cakes, honeys, raisins, some meatiness, dried beef, jerky, a good few drops of old wine vinegar from Jerez… Mouth (neat): much better on the palate when unreduced, here on roasted nuts of all kinds, plus toffee and what we call 'Carambar'. Roasted pecans, peanuts, demerara sugar, raisins, Mars bars and Twixes… Rather creamy and syrupy mouth feel, almost like honey. By the way, there are also notes of chestnut honey. With water: sweet beers, meads, caramel… Finish: long and pretty spicy. These first fill hogsheads are very 'first fill' indeed, they would have harboured seasoning sherry for only one or two years before they're filled with whisky. Ginger, chocolate and pumpernickel in the aftertaste. Comments: big boy. Perhaps a bottle to cellar for twenty years? We would see if it ever reaches the high level of some of G&M's 15s 100 proof.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Milton Distillery 72 yo 1949/2022 (48.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #383, 180 bottles)

Milton Distillery 72 yo 1949/2022 (48.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #383, 180 bottles) Five stars
Always an utter joy to taste some whisky that's (much) older than you. A puncheon typically shelters approx. 500 litres while this one comes with an outturn of 125 litres, which suggests that exactly ¾ of the content has gone to many generations of angels. Unless the Directors have kept some in demijohns for their own needs, which is exactly what I would have done myself (right, right). Anyway, let's try the oldest whisky from 'the oldest working Distillery in the Highlands' (1786), although the fine people at Glenturret may disagree here. Colour: pure gold. Nose: once again, this was to be expected. The nose is magnificent, incredibly fresh, and rather on many herbs and teas, complemented with a little beeswax and shoe polish, as well as wee pink bananas at the market. There is also a rather profound minerality that I was not expecting in this context. As for those herbs and teas, we'll mention the usual chamomile, mint leaves, woodruff and then whiffs of elderflowers. There is also a little natural vanilla, sesame oil and grated zests, but those would remain in the background. All in all, I wouldn't have said 'first fill sherry' this far and we're pretty far from 'brother Longmorn' of similar ages in that respect, but maybe was it a fino or a manzanilla? Or one of those amontillado-y finos from Montilla that they're making out of PX rather than palomino? We've just tried a magnificent old bottle of that at Château Whiskyfun. Mouth: always the same stress with these very old whiskies, will they have become too oaky? In truth it is oaky indeed, but as I have noticed in the past with other very old ones from G&M's, that oakiness got converted into lovely piney notes, propolis, banana skins, essential oils, thyme, nutmeg, peppery cinnamon… There is an awesome fruity-ish bitterness too, and as expected, many things mentholy. Cough syrups, creams and cordials, and certainly some high-cuvée of Chartreuse. The monks are always right, as long as they behave. Nutshell: fantastic piney/mentholy freshness. Finish: oh, some raisins and a touch of marmalade! All the rest remains on fresh mint and related molecules. Comments: what's difficult indeed here is to forget about the house's old Glen Grants, Longmorns or even Glenlivets while trying this Strathisla that, stylistically, does not play in exactly the same yard, as we say. But it rather does as far as overall quality's concerned.

SGP:571 - 92 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Strathisla we've tasted so far







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