100 Years Old and Forever Young

The recent discovery of a bottle of Glenfarclas Single Malt Scotch Whisky from 1920 brought up an interesting discussion with a whisky loving friend. "It's almost a hundred years old," he said. My response was, "not really, the bottle is 100 years old but the whisky is probably 10 or 14 years old.

 The Glenfarclas bottle dating from 1920 (photo: Glenfarclas Distillery

The Glenfarclas bottle dating from 1920 (photo: Glenfarclas Distillery

As with wine, alcoholic spirits age in barrel but, unlike wine, once bottled, they are pretty much frozen in time. You can't age a whisky at home (or a whiskey for that matter - in Scotland they don't use the "e" but many other countries do) because the spirit doesn't mature once it's removed from the barrel. That's not to say there is no change however - I've found that several bottles in my collection have tasted a less than their prime when I go back for a nostalgic dram, because over time, corks can dry out and alcohol can evaporate from bottles. 

Thus, a 12 year old bottle of Glenlivet or a 15 year old bottle of Glenfarclas (my favorite) will stay at 12 or 15 for as long as you own the bottle. For the folks in Ballindolloch, where Glenfarclas is located, the particular joy of finding the old bottle is the sense of history it provides, a link spanning three generations of distillery managers and still masters. And the story is a great one - the bottle contains a whisky probably distilled in 1906 or 1908 and bottled in 1920. It was presented as a gift to the manager of another distillery when in closed in 1920 and it stayed in his family, wrapped in a tea towel, for all these years until the family contacted William Grant & Sons, the company that owns Glenfarclas, last month.

The bottle was checked for authenticity by John Grant, the grandson of the distillery's founder, who confirmed that the "Glenfarclas-Glenlivet" as the property was known at the time is indeed genuine. In a press release, the distillery said, “A number of features on the bottle meant he had absolutely no doubt about it’s authenticity. In an age when a number of bottles purportedly from that time are turning out to be counterfeit, this one is definitely the real deal.”

While the spirit hasn't aged, the Glenfarclas style may have changed a bit so the spirit in the bottle may be different from what is on the market now. So far, the distillery has not revealed if they'll syphon off a bit from the bottle to "test." They do plan to use the bottle in a display at the distillery and in special events, a living part of the spirit of the Highlands. I think I'll celebrate tonight with a wee dram of another 15 year old Glenfarclas, one I can readily find on the shelf of my whisky merchant.

The Fires of Wine Country

This has been a heartbreaking season - in the Southeastern US where I live, four hurricanes in less than six weeks have caused widespread damage along the Gulf Coast, South Florida and Puerto Rico. And now, California's top wine regions are on fire.

California is often the victim of forest fires when dry weather and high winds dramatically increase the risk of conflagration. This year's fires are particularly difficult because they are destroying not only wilderness areas but heavily populated areas as well. The news changes by the hour but as I write this on Tuesday afternoon, 15 people are reported dead and more than 150 are missing in the fires that have destroyed more than 1500 structures, and more than 25000 acres (10,000 hectares). A Wednesday update puts the number of dead at 21, the number of structures (homes and businesses) destroyed at more than 2,000 and the number of affected acres at 125,000 (50,000 hectares). 

We know for sure that two wineries have been completely destroyed - Signorello Estate and Paradise Ridge Winery. Because so many people were forced to evacuate, often with only half an hour's notice, and because the fires are still burning, blocking many parts of Napa and Sonoma counties, there hasn't been a full assessment yet of the damage. We'll have bad news trickling in for days I expect.

To give you an idea of what is happening, here are two photos: on the top is the Jackson Family's Mount Veeder Vineyard a couple of weeks ago, and below that, how it looked last night.

 Photo Credit: Jackson Family wines

Photo Credit: Jackson Family wines

 Photo Credit: Jackson Family Wines

Photo Credit: Jackson Family Wines

As the news is breaking quickly in California, here are two recent reports that I recommend checking out: 

Click here to read a story in the Tuesday of The Drinks Business

And click here for the latest from Wine Spectator

I've spoken with many friends in the area; my friends are safe, but not a one of them has been untouched by the fires and many of them have close colleagues and acquaintances who have lost their homes in the blazes. It will be a long time recuperating from this disaster I'm afraid.

Tasting with the Bloggers

Tasting with the Bloggers

This year's annual Winebloggers Conference will be in Santa Rosa, California November 9-12. I've joined the program to give two seminars to attendees, focusing on two rising star DO's (Denominations of Origin) in Spain: Cariñena and Rías Baixas. If you write about wine now or hope to write about wine, this conference is a great opportunity. Details are in today's blog post.

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In the Realm of the Sensory

In the Realm of the Sensory

Can the nose be trained? Can you harness your tastebuds? Absolutely! While we note them as separate elements in tasting, by both physiology and vocabulary, aroma and flavor are inextricably linked. For the most part, without aroma there is no flavor. Here's a look at how our senses work together to enhance our wine appreciation, and a preview of an exciting master class in the art and science of olfaction that is perfect for every wine lover, from novice sipper to supreme sommelier.

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