Coming of Age
On July 10, 1969, at a Scottish distillery in Speyside, a cask of single-malt whisky—No. 11485—was laid down. More than 3,000 miles away, at Mount Sinai Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a baby boy (yours truly) was born. I grew up to be a spirits writer, while No. 11485 grew up to be an exceptional spirit—the Glenrothes 1969 Extraordinary Cask, one of the rarest and most valuable whiskies in the world. After all these years, fate finally brought us together.
Glenrothes has been producing whisky since 1879, and is best known today for being one of the very few brands to bottle its whisky by vintage rather than by age statement. Vintages from the 1960s and ’70s are especially prized among connoisseurs and collectors and are nearly impossible to come by. The distillery’s stock from that era is supposedly depleted (or just about), which makes the 1969 release that much more special.
This particular spirit is, indeed, extraordinary, and not just for its unusually long maturation period. Despite spending more than four decades in oak, the Extraordinary Cask doesn’t flash its provenance with big woody notes or massive spice. Its color is a bright gold rather than the dark amber of many extra-aged whiskies, and the aroma is quite gentle, with notes of heather, herbs, and a touch of anise. It’s a bit reminiscent of an herbal tea. On the palate, notes of honey and menthol evolve into cinnamon and ginger spice, which lead to a bready though not overly dry finish. It’s an understated whisky, very refined and delicate, that carries itself with class.
While sipping a dram of 1969 Extraordinary Cask, I couldn’t help but reflect on how we’ve both held up over the decades, and regrettably, I must admit that No. 11485 has aged significantly better than I have. Then again, if my youth were defined by a long oaken slumber rather than a string of all-nighters, I should think that I would be in pretty great shape too.
This is the second installment in what promises to be an ongoing series of Extraordinary Cask releases from Glenrothes. The first, distilled in 1970, was part of a 179-bottle release in 2012, where each bottle sold for $5,000. The 1969 vintage is priced at $7,000 and is limited to 133 bottles worldwide, thanks to natural evaporation.