Host's Guide Holiday 2012: Crowning Glories
The same year the whiskies that would eventually become the John Walker & Sons Diamond Jubilee blend were put into casks, Glen Grant distiller James Smith produced what would later be an equally historic spirit. On February 2, 1952, just four days before the princess who would become Queen Elizabeth II succeeded to the throne, George Urquhart—a second-generation joint managing director of Gordon & MacPhail, a respected family-owned independent bottler of single malts in Scotland since 1895—ordered first-fill sherry hogsheads numbered 465 and 466 filled and left to age under the family’s auspices. Sixty years later, on February 2, 2012, George’s sons Michael and David (third-generation managing directors of Gordon & MacPhail) had hogshead number 465 bottled to create Glen Grant 60 Years Old in honor of the queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In reference to the queen’s age at the time of bottling, only 85 bottles were produced.
Priced at $12,500, this 84.6-proof cask-strength single malt is presented in individually numbered and engraved decanters, each fitted with a silver collar and a diamond-shaped stopper and accompanied by a commemorative certificate. The decanter is housed in a wooden display case crafted from Scottish elm felled near Holyrood House, the queen’s official Scottish residence. The lining of the case and its protective cover are made of Harris Tweed.
"As for the whisky, it’s a lovely single malt with lots of creamy notes and pippin apples coming through in a light, fruity style," says Michael Urquhart. "This is what you get with Glen Grant. After all, the whole concept of what we’re doing is laying down whisky that is going to be bottled by future generations. So we’re delighted to launch this special bottling to commemorate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Hopefully, it’s a whisky that can stand up to her high standards."
Equally spectacular is the 2,012-bottle Queen’s Diamond Jubilee limited edition from The Macallan ($567), encompassing both whisky and art and likely to be sought by collectors of both. The 104-proof (52 percent alcohol by volume, denoting the year of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation) cask-strength whisky was specially selected by The Macallan’s whisky maker, Bob Dalgarno, for the months it was drawn from the distillery’s iconic sherry casks—February, the month of the queen’s accession to the throne, and June, the traditional month for jubilee celebrations.
Although no age statement appears on the bottle, this single malt, with its deep, burnished, copper pot-still color, was most likely distilled during the early 1990s. The bouquet is thick with charred oak, sweet heather, marzipan, and a hint of lemon. Even with such complexity, a splash of distilled water will release additional nuances of wet cedar, spicy citrus, and mint, all of which might otherwise be masked by the high proof. The elegantly discreet label is dominated by sculptor Arnold Machin’s ceramic portrait of the queen, framed by a sculpted Scottish-pewter surround inspired by a brooch presented to the queen upon her coronation.
With offerings such as these, celebrants are toasting Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee with far more elegant whiskies than were available in Queen Victoria’s day, when single malts did not have the finesse they now have and blended Scotch was still in its infancy. And for this, whisky lovers around the world should join the subjects of the Commonwealth in that most familiar of all toasts: "God save the Queen!"