Strathisla 15, 40% – Gordon & MacPhail

While you can’t really see it in the title, this is some old shit. I got this in a recent sample swap and on that label, much like this title, it didn’t really say what it was.

My first thought was “why on earth did I ask for a 15 year old Strathisla at 40%”. And then it turned out to be a bottling from somewhere in the eighties. So at it’s youngest this is distillate from the 1970s, but it could very well be from the late 1960s.

If you’ve never had Strathisla from that era, let me tell you it’s something else. They knew how to pick their sherry casks, and while Strathisla is now a fairly timid, gentle dram, these old ones are sherry beasts. They pack some intensity and complexity.

So, expectations properly adjusted, let’s dive in!

Image from Lion’s Whisky, Venice (IT)

There’s a lot of complexity in the sherry on the nose, which is only added to by the whisky that initially stays in the background. It’s quite typical with dried fruits and baking spices, but there’s a heavy whisky background to it. Whisky with shoe polish notes, and leather, and steeped barley.

After about 15 minutes (I got a phone call) there are scents of chocolate covered raisins, some earthy notes in the background, and hay.

With this only being 40%, it’s very gentle. There is some dryness from the oak, with a slightly coarse texture. Dry sherry notes with fruits and spices. Peaches and plums, with cinnamon and nutmeg. There’s more oak than I’d expect after 15 years, which makes me expect that this is from the more spicy European oak.

A slightly fatty, or maybe syrupy mouthfeel follows, even though the dryness stays too. The leathery notes show as well, with some wax coats.

The finish shows more focus on the fruit than on the spices, but keeps being driven by the sherry. It’s not overly long, although the dry sensation stays a while longer than most of the flavors.

This is exactly what old Strathisla does so well. Absolutely glorious. There are older bottlings available that go far more into the domain of the sherry casks used, but this one is very well balanced between the spirit and the cask. I love the complexity with heavy leathery notes, sweet fruity flavors and some spices as well.

It’s available in Venice for € 470


Strathisla 15, 40%, Gordon & MacPhail

More info would be:

  • Bottled for ‘Importado Da Co. Import Pinerolo Torino
  • Bottling Serie: Finest Highland Malt Whisky – Acquavite di Cereali

Because obviously this is from Italian import, like so much from the seventies and eighties is.


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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