You may remember back in February that I wrote about Reserve 101's acquisition of a bottle of Glenmorangie 1963, a 25-year whiskey forgotten in the corner of a warehouse for many years until it was discovered and bottled. That bottle, though it retailed for $550 a shot, sold out in 66 days, inspiring Reserve 101 owners Mike Raymond and Steve Long to seek out another rare bottle from Glenmorangie's collection.
On Monday, it arrived: The Pride 1978 is Glenmorangie's oldest current expression, aged for 34 years. Reserve 101's acquisition is the first bottle of Pride 1978 to make it to America. First aged for 19 years in used bourbon casks made from American white oak, the single malt is then transferred to Bordeaux Classe' Grand Cru casks for 15 more years of aging (which also marks the longest "extra maturation" period of any Glenmorangie spirit). Raymond and Glenmorangie Global Master Brand Ambassador David Blackmore were generous enough to let us sample both the Pride 1978 and, for basis of comparison, the Glenmorangie 25.
Fortuitously enough, I had some Glenmorangie 18 at a friend's on Saturday night, so it was fresh in my mind as a further basis for comparison. Both the 18- and 25-year are extra-matured in a fashion similar to the Pride: The 18-year spends 15 years in American white oak, and then 30 percent of it is transferred to Oloroso sherry casks while the remaining 70 percent continues to age in white oak. The 25-year spends the first 20 years of its life in American white oak, before half of it is finished for the final five years in Oloroso sherry casks, and the other half in Burgundy wine casks.
The 18-year contains flavors of raisins and dates in the nose, with a smoky, "roasted" finish that isn't the product of peat smoking, but rather the tannins from the wood. By comparison, the 25-year's finish in wine casks rounds off the smokier, woodier notes and gives it a much softer finish and a richer, creamier nose. Many of the fruit hints were still there, black currants in addition to the raisins and dates, but with more pronounced vanilla notes, some of which evoke nothing so much as a high-quality bourbon. It was a delicious and rich Scotch.
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And yet, it had nothing on the Pride 1978.
The first thing I thought when I took a whiff of the Pride 1978 was intense. Although the flavor hadn't fully opened up yet, it was clear just how deep and rich it would be. Hints of many fruits were in the nose, as was an even richier and creamier flavor than the 25. The tasting notes from Blackmore described notes of cedar, toffee, and fudge, with just a hint of marzipan, and I could certainly detect a complex variety of sweets in the nose.
The notes from Blackmore describe baked apples and other caramelized fruits in the body, and that part in particular I did notice-- the slightly cooked sweetness was a definite highlight of the body, and it offered multiple suggestions of such over a sip. When I added a couple of drops of water, I noticed the flavor open up significantly, now tasting a wide variety of berries in addition to the vanilla notes and fruit tannins. On a second sip, I noticed spicier, peppery notes on the front end, similar to a rye-heavy bourbon recipe, before finishing as smoothly as ever.
Now, to be clear, the Pride is the most expensive whiskey available at Reserve 101. If you balked at the $550 price tag of the 1963, you probably won't want to pay the $750 for a 1.5-ounce pour of the Pride 1978. If you do, though, you'll get a remarkable Scotch; rich, complex, well-balanced, and full of flavor. I don't mean to sound like a salesman, but it is absolutely the most complex whiskey I've ever tasted. If you love Scotch and can afford the pour, you will not be disappointed.