There is little in the world that can compete with the pleasure of nostalgia when a vintage Scotch whisky is uncorked. Upon taking in those first aromas, our olfactory senses are set alight with the memories of a time gone past.
Those who are curious are rewarded bountifully, with aged and rare flavours coming to the fore: old parchment paper, forest floors, deep, dark, and juicy fruits. These unusual and sometimes rancio flavours allude to the decisions made decades before.
As thoughts wander to this time, the imagination conjures visions of maltsters sweeping the floors in hope of germination, distillers painstakingly monitoring spirit safes – maximising production - and sherry bodegas packing up their latest casks, setting them on a journey across the water, sealing their slumbering fate in warehouses scattered across Scotland.
Join us as we take leap back in time and witness the fervent whisky boom of the 1970s through the eyes of three exceptional House of Hazelwood expressions.
The 1970s and The World
As the swinging sixties came to an end, mods and rockers swapped their psychedelic art, music, and culture for something altogether more…groovy.
The 1970s would play host to the emergence of new music genres including disco, funk, soul and punk rock. Vinyl needles would tease the dulcet tones of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and The Eagles from phonograph records, while others would opt for something considerably more up-tempo in their musical repertoire - in the form of Elton John or The Bee Gees to name but a few.
Creativity was at an all time high with special effects coming to the surface, with cinematic blockbusters such as the original Star Wars trilogy, Alien, Jaws amongst many others that would go on to become timeless classics…as well as the not so classic, in the form of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
Mini dresses, tailored suits and leather jackets were swapped for flares and ponchos of the tie-dye variety – a stark, extroverted contrast to the ominous and bloody political undercurrent fuelling the Cold War and the Vietnam War.
Innovation surfaced as a global aspiration, and this decade gave birth to modern computing – an evolution of an invention that would revolutionise how the world would work in the years to come. It was this appetite for innovation that would then lead to one of the largest periods of overproduction in the Scotch whisky industry.
The 1970s and Whisky Production
The 1970s was a period of great confidence for the whisky industry, often dubbed as a “golden era” for whisky production. It was here, that Single Malt category began to grow in popularity, with brands investing heavily in their marketing and the development of tourism-based outlets, like distillery visitor centres.
Considerably more optimistic than the years previous, the late 1960s had spurred on a voracious hunger to expand following the prohibition in the US, the Great Depression and the Second World War – and the greater economic stability presented in the 1970s built a confidence that helped to fade painful economic memories and confine the trying times of the previous two decades to the history books.
This new found ambition spurred on a great deal of innovation, with whisky producers focusing on expanding their physical assets. Distilleries were pushed to capacity limit, and investment placed into new equipment within the still houses, with changes in methods of heating stills, increasing capacity, and an industry-wide movement from worm tubs to condensers. Continuing a theme of maximising efficiency, capital was placed into the construction of warehouses and extending bottling hall resources, fuelling a huge surge in the recruitment of workers across the industry, almost doubling the size of the workforce.
Vintage Scotch – A Seventies Selection
In a time of enormous whisky production, where the majority of spirit was destined for mainstream shelves, Charles and Sandy Gordon of the House of Hazelwood took an atypical approach for the time, long-sighted in their plans for the future of their private family stocks.
It was during this time new make spirit was acquired and laid down, intended to mature into these exceptional expressions selected for your enjoyment.
The Next Chapter
Aged 50 Years, The Next Chapter is a testament to the power of new beginnings. This blended Scotch whisky at the beginning of the decade in 1972, before spending over three decades in a combination of European and American oak casks.
The whisky at this point was at near perfection, and rather controversially, instead of bottling, the whisky maker opted instead to port the whisky into a secondary finish for a further fifteen years, slumbering within active ex-bourbon barrels.
The resulting liquid yielded a new vigour – demonstrating the complexity and depth of a well-aged-whisky in a new light: toffee sweetness, Seville oranges and floral blossom all detectable to the discerning palate.
The Old Confectioner’s
A tribute to the wooden countertops, cotton aprons and stacked jars of sweets, The Old Confectioner’s, a 44-Year-Old Blended Malt, emulates the wonders brought to the big screen in the 1970s in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Of course, an extensive maturation in refill sherry butts could create nothing less than something Wonka himself would dub “scrumdidilyumptious”, promising evocative notes of candied fruit, treacle toffee, liquorice, and leather. A golden ticket to a world of pure indulgence, you could say.
Spirit of Scotland
Laid down in the 1970s, this expression, titled the Spirit of Scotland, would have been distilled at the peak of the golden age in whisky production.
A proportion of the spirit would be bottled in 1994 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the oldest recorded reference to Scotch Whisky – an industry wide celebration which would see distilleries across the country bottle their very best under the banner, “Spirit of Scotland”.
However, for the remainder of this very special liquid, after the initial blending, would return to cask for a secondary maturation, giving way to a fully unified blend offering a taste of the tropical through a hint of smoke, oodles of lemon pie and home baking.
Looking Back on the 1970s
The 1970s undoubtedly produced an abundance of whisky which today is highly sought after. However, this great production boom would bring with it a myriad of challenges, and as the 1980s approached, a portentous event was looming on the horizon – a threat that no one would see coming…
Shop our range of vintage Scotch – and take home your own piece of liquid history, or before our next instalment exploring the 1980s, take a trip back and uncover the boons of 1960s vintage Scotch whisky.