Scotch fans will be excited to hear that Reserve 101, the downtown Houston bar with the largest selection of whiskey in town, just obtained a rare treat: On Saturday, the bar officially received a bottle of Glenmorangie 1963, one of only 50 in the world. Reserve 101 is the only bar in the entire state of Texas that will receive a bottle-- and possibly one of the only bars anywhere, as many of the bottles have already been sold to private collectors.
Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie's Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation, was on hand to introduce the bottle.
"When I'm talking about whiskey, I don't like to just talk about the scientific product facts. I like to talk about some of the human stories and the anecdotes that surround it," Dr. Lumsden opened his remarks, and went to describe how the 1963 was made and discovered. As he explained, the Scotch was distilled in 1963, and is believed to be the first ever wood-finished Scotch. In 1985, the whiskey was transferred to sherry casks to age for two more years, before being bottled in 1987. A case of fifty-three bottles sat in a warehouse corner in Scotland for many years, unnoticed, until Dr. Lumsden discovered them. "I found 53 bottles of a dark whiskey, and opened one up and tasted it, and lo and behold, I was fairly certain it was the 1963 vintage." Dr. Lumsden contacted a retired Glenmorangie employee who was familiar with the company's older procedures for coding bottles to verify it. "It was important for me to authenticate the product, absolutely... so the 53 bottles quickly became 50," he said, with a bit of laughter.
"If I hadn't stepped in, these might have just been emptied into a vat and put into a blend," Dr. Lumsden explained.
While we were unable to taste the 1963, Dr. Lumsden described the flavor profile to us. "This has spent two years in sherry casks, and you can see how dark it is, how much the sherry influences it. It's very rich, an unashamedly old-fashioned type of whiskey... there's a subtle smokiness in there, and lovely Christmas-type flavors of raisins, dates, and warm spices. It's a beautiful, old-fashioned whiskey."
We were allowed to taste one of Dr. Lumsden's personal creations, the Glenmorangie Signet. Dr. Lumsden described the Signet as being inspired by his love of coffee aromas, and that he wanted to create a scotch with not only a similarly rich aroma, but a flavor to match. To that end, the process of creating the Signet involved roasting the barley, rather than drying it over a peat fire, as is the traditional method. Dr. Lumsden remarked that the chocolate malt is the dominant flavor in the Signet, and this is reflected in the deep color and richness.
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Reserve 101 is selling the 1963 at $550 for a 1.5-ounce shot, so casual Scotch drinkers need not apply. Owner Mike Raymond said that this price is reflective of the bottle price, and not indicative of an excessive markup. In fact, he said the price surprised him, given the rarity and quality of the whiskey: "When they told me how much a bottle was, I was like, 'Is that it'? And it was not a cheap purchase--I had to talk Steve into it a little bit."
Raymond explained that the Glenmorangie 1963 is emblematic of what he looks for when he and Long are seeking to add to Reserve 101's collection: "It's truly unique...it hits every mark of a special whiskey we want in here: it's a marquee whiskey, it's vintage-- we can't go back to 1963-- and it's rare-- there's only 50 bottles in the world."
The Glenmorangie 1963 is available now at Reserve 101. Raymond says he has no idea how long the whiskey will last, but the bottle holds about 18 shots.