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The Vintage Years

Richard Carleton Hacker

Yamazaki 1984 Whisky
In October 2009, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Yamazaki single-malt whisky (named after the Yamazaki Valley in which this Japanese distillery is located), 2,500 individually numbered bottles of 86-proof Yamazaki 1984 commemorative whisky were released. Only 300 of these bottles were sent to the United States. Matured since 1984 in a combination of Japanese, American, and Spanish oak casks, this deep, dark single malt is thick with burnt berry, chocolate, anise, and plum. ($650)

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1973 Whisky
From one of the largest cellars of aging single malts in Scotland, three of the most exemplary casks from 1973—one ex-sherry butt and two refilled American oak hogsheads—were selected by master distiller Alan Winchester to produce this onetime offering. Green apple, black olive, and citrus predominate. Only 240 bottles of this 36-year-old single malt are available for the United States, each individually numbered. ($1,250)

Knappogue Castle 1994 Master Distiller’s Private Selection Whiskey
Only 1,000 bottles of this Irish whiskey exist, and each has been hand-numbered and signed by Mark Andrews III, son of the distillery’s founder. Triple-distilled one batch at a time in copper pot stills in February 1994, aged in bourbon casks selected by the master distiller, and bottled in December 2009, this delicate, slightly honeyed whiskey is perfect for warming a chilly afternoon. ($99)

The Dalmore 1981 Finesse Amoroso Whisky
After spending 26 years aging in American oak bourbon barrels, this thickly floral whisky was transferred to amoroso-sherry casks from Spain’s famous Gonzalez Byass bodega for additional “finesse,” or finishing. The result is a bouquet of honeyed pear and milk chocolate with overtones of mandarin orange, cherry, and caramelized apricot. Of the 484 bottles produced, only 200 are available for the American market. ($1,300)

The Glenrothes 1994 Whisky
This is the latest of the company’s light, floral vintage single malts to be imported to the United States; the 1994 has a bit more spice than previous offerings. This 15-year-old expression was one of the last created by recently retired malt master John Ramsay, who describes its “soft ripe fruits, toffee, and lemon citrus” in his tasting notes on the label. ($80)

The Last Drop Finest Aged Cognac
After being distilled in a wood-fired copper alembic still in 1950 then aged in French oak for 60 years, the casks of this rare eau-de-vie were recently discovered outside the city of Cognac. Most of it had evaporated, but there was just enough to fill 478 bottles. Each has been sealed with wax and placed in a velvet-lined case, accompanied by a 50 ml miniature for those who want to taste what is in the bottle without breaking the seal. ($2,700)

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