Craigellachie gives away 51-year-old whisky

Bacardi's Speyside distillery launches its oldest whisky to date for free

Whisky is made to be drunk – that's what the people at Craigellachie agree on. Usually a Scotch whisky of this calibre is packed in an exclusive crystal decanter, sold for an exorbitantly high price and then sat on a shelf unopened for another 51 years. But not for the Speyside distillery Craigellachie! Their 51-year-old single malt is – according to their opinion – too good not to be shared and drunk.

Ballot

For this they have chosen something very special. The 51 bottles of their 51-year-old Craigellachie single malt will be offered for free. Over the next 12 months, four events will take place in four different countries (Great Britain, Australia, South Africa and the USA) and the bottles will be opened and tasted. The first stop on this unusual tour is London: from 26 to 28 November 2018. This unique experience is completely free of charge and initially includes a tasting of Craigellachie 13 and 17 before a dram of 51-year-old Craigellachie will be enjoyed. In order for the whole thing to be fair, a lottery will be drawn. Everyone can register for free on the Speyside distillery website, and with a little luck this dream will come true. 150 tickets will be raffled off for the first event in London's Bar 51.

51 years in a Bourbon cask

The single malt was distilled on 22 December 1962, at a time when the two stills of Craigellachie were still fired with coal. After 51 years of maturation in a refill Bourbon oak cask, the 51 bottles were bottled in 2014 at 40.3% abv. The whisky is described as having notes of ripe orchard fruits and waxed lemons, creamy vanilla and sweet cereals. Stephanie Macleod, malt master for Craigellachie, said: "This whisky, which started life in 1962 as an aggressive beast, has developed a softer side over five decades, but still retains the distinct umami, muscular note that Craigellachie is known for."

Drinking instead of collecting

Georgie Bell, global malts ambassador for Craigellachie owner Bacardi, said: "We wanted to do the unthinkable. We wanted to make a typically collectable Scotch more accessible. We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to try this incredible whisky, because how often does a whisky of this age and calibre actually get tasted?" She is not wrong, because in recent years spectacular prices have been achieved for single malt Scotch whisky, with 50-year-old bottlings such as Macallan, Johnnie Walker and The Dalmore costing between £25,000 and £50,000. These bottles may then potentially sit on somebody's mantelpiece or shelf for another 50 years and collect dust. "But whisky isn't made for that," Bell said.