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Whisky Reviews

Anatomy of a Legend: Samaroli Glen Grant 1959 (40 years)



I got into scotch whisky a few years ago. Got out some time last year, when I realised I had a problem finding interesting bottlings at reasonable prices. I went knee deep into rum at the beginning of this year, and it opened my eyes to a diversity -- and an intensity -- of flavours hitherto unknown to me. Having tried some great rums, I could not help but wonder, how would a great whisky compare? So I whipped out my phone, scoured through the menu of The Auld Alliance, and found this Glen Grant at a decent price of US$110 per half-ounce. (In contrast, a half-ounce of 3rd edition Black Bowmore goes for four times as much.) The photograph that came with the sample was taken right before my order was poured, and gives a vague sense of the fill level of the bottle.

Nose: big; butterscotch; pandan chiffon cake; coconut shavings; ripe banana; banana cake; musty wood; full-grain leather; dirty notes you find a car mechanic’s workshop; the tar notes of an archetypal Caroni; savoury and earthy, redolent with aged soy sauce and the most tantalising Chinese herbal soup, the latter boiled with cordycep,ginseng and Cortex Ecommiae (a fungus, a root and a bark, respectively), plus of course, lots of pork bones; fresh tree bark in the morning dew; damp soil; anise; bitter almond; liquorice; gingerbread; Christmas spice mix; the base notes resemble a well-aged french brandy, rancio and all that -- grape bubblegum, the roasting of coffee beans and grass, beef jerky, and mint.

Palate: thick and mouth-coating, the mouthfeel belies the whisky’s ABV of 47.3%; a sweet yet extracting entry; caramel, toffee candy, liquorice, carried by a mildly nutty backbone -- macadamia nuts, perhaps; the sweet “green-ness” of an aged Port Mourant, with a hint of citrus; coriander coated with Nutella; Christmas spice mix; grape bubblegum; dried sultanas; fruity brewed coffee, perhaps of the Geisha varietal; ripe, slightly tangy banana; banana cake; milk chocolate of high cocoa content; vanilla; fresh stone fruits.

Finish: tropical fruits and cream; leather; green papaya; wheatgrass juice; liquorice; gingerbread; ginger candy; the aftertaste of sweetened nuts and jerkies lingers for a long time.

Conclusion: now we are talking. This is a big, big scotch. It is the only time I came across a whisky with room-filling aromas, something I immediately associate with a great rum. In fact, I had some difficulty convincing myself I wasn’t drinking a rum -- the notes are uncannily rum-like. Was the distillate in 1959 markedly different from that in the later years? Or was it just that particular sherry cask imparting much of the magic? I have no theories, because for whatever my scotch-tasting experience is worth, I have not come across anything like this.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 93/100


Image Courtesy of u/zoorado