Vintage Scotch Whisky: it’s a liquid time capsule. While casks slumber for half a century or more in a Dunnage warehouse, the world outside continues to rotate, with it bringing historical moments of importance, pop culture and of course, changing palates.
At the House of Hazelwood, we take on the mantle as caretakers, watching over spirit for a lifetime - sometimes two – and bear witness this ever-evolving palate of style. Today, we’ll take a step back through time, to the 1960s with three characters from the Charles Gordon collection.
Vintage Scotch Whisky: The 1960s
In a world, starting to recover from the impact of the Second World War economically and socially, confidence was growing in the swinging 1960s. It was an era that birthed many culturally important moments: the first man on the moon, the rise of the mini skirt, Mods versus Rockers, the chilling assassinations of major political figures. This movement resulted in conservative habits relaxing among the Western population – and almost all industries followed suit.
Unsurprisingly, the 1960s is frequently hailed as a pivotal period for the Scotch Whisky industry. Thanks to new technology and techniques, production was at a peak – albeit not always efficient - fuelled by demand from the U.S and Japan. This, however, was a time where distilleries would begin to define a robust style and consistency that hadn’t been technically possible prior. Distillers were also guided by the international market – building stocks of style to suit transatlantic palates - more delicate, lighter styles of whisky.
New distilleries were built throughout Scotland, and those already in existence began to increase output. The sensational rise of the Single Malt wouldn’t land for another 10 to 20 years, so Blended Scotch continued to enjoy its spot as the whisky of choice.
Although conforming to style became good business sense, this didn’t deter all distillers from creative expression – a decision that would pay dividends through the flavour within House of Hazelwood today.
1963: A Singular Blend
A period of significant political prominence, this year yielded innovation, with the invention of the computer mouse and smiley face amongst others. Beatlemania was at an all-time high.
This year also marked the innovation of what would become A Singular Blend. A Vintage Blended Scotch Whisky with a truly unique proposition in which, both Malt and Grain components were produced at the very same Highland distillery, in the same year.
Released last autumn, this expression is unprecedented in age and provenance – and an exceptionally rare nod to an era of Scotch Whisky that has long been extinct in modern whisky production.
Following the distillation, the blend has lain in American Oak for over half a century, enhancing the signature distillery character within. Each drop reveals layers of complexity only achievable with such a long slumber – butterscotch, saddlery workshops, waxy fruit – a curious balance of sweet and sour.
Of course, there could only ever be one way to present this Single Cask release of just 74 bottles- as the distiller intended – at a natural cask strength of 45.6% ABV, free from added colour.
1965: Blended at Birth
The mid-sixties would bring a welcome reprieve around the world, with greater global stability following the inauguration of US President Johnson.
The year saw the creation of Blended at Birth, a single cask 1965 Vintage Blended Scotch Whisky, produced by a blending technique now prohibited by Scotch Whisky Law.
The now-banned technique involved the marriage of Malt and Grain new make spirit, before it legally aged to become whisky, in which it was blended before being added to cask. The blended new make would then sleep for over half a century in ex-bourbon American Oak.
1968: The Cask Trials
In a year that globally would be regarded as significant in turmoil and unrest, quietly in a corner of Scotland, distillers were witness to the inception of The Cask Trials, a Sherry Cask Single Grain Scotch Whisky.
This whisky would become the epitome of the coveted “sherry bomb”, with an unlikely marriage of Girvan Grain and a single sherry butt made from European Oak. The spirit would lie in cask for 53 years and take on a complexity that would yield a flavour profile almost unrecognisable as a grain whisky.
The resulting dark mahogany spirit would offer an intensely rich and decadent drop, with an almost resinous mouth-feel quality. Unsurprisingly, for such a long maturation in a sherry cask, the character of dried fruit is prominent, followed by an outstanding balance of roasted coffee and Muscavado toffee.
Offered at a natural cask strength of 49.2% ABV, free from added colour and chill filtration, every drop of this expression is as authentic as the distiller intended.
Looking Back on the 1960s
These three exceptional whiskies, outstanding in provenance and flavour, were born in a decade of great change. Thanks to demand in the 80s and 90s, obtaining a vintage from the 1960s is becoming increasingly difficult – and very few whiskies remain that have slumbered through such a significant historical period.
The unique character profiles of these Vintage Scotch Whiskies will never be seen again, in part due to the whisky maker’s ingenuity, and due to the technological advances made from the 1960s onwards. It really is liquid history is a bottle.
Shop our range of Vintage Scotch Whisky now – and secure your bottle, before they’re gone forever.