Glenlivet 1949-1980s, 40% – Gordon & MacPhail ‘George & J.G. Smith’s’

A while ago I got a surprise sample with an order from Best of Wines in Bussum. Apparently they had gotten some open bottles when buying a collection and this was one of them. If memory serves, that is.

Of course, a shop can’t do much with open bottles, especially during Covid when tastings are not really a thing.

The ‘George & J.G. Smith’s’ series of Glenlivet bottlings by Gordon & MacPhail is at least sort-of legendary. I’ve hadn’t had much chance to try them, but when I started this whisky hobby (or mania) about 20 years ago, this was on the top shelf of De Whiskykoning, and was way out of my league and budget back then. It did keep eyeballing me, though.

But now I did have the chance to try one of these ridiculously old Glenlivets! Let’s find out if it is as good as I figured it was back then, and as good as people on Whiskybase seem to find it!

Image from Whiskybase

Well, this is properly old, with lots of gentle notes of oak, parrafin, some honey and a bit of fruit. There’s a trace of barley, but after 40-ish years in oak, there’s not a lot left. Old mango, prunes and peach for fruit.

The palate is very consistent, showing everything from the nose. There’s an addition of milk chocolate to make it just a bit sweeter. The balance has shifted a bit towards the mango and prune, in syrupy form.

Very old indeed! A very classical style of lots of fruit, with mango, peaches, plums, tangerine. Some oak and a whiff of barley behind it all. Waxy parrafin and honey too.

Yes. Yes, this is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Even the bottling strength is not really an issue, in the current era of 46% and higher.

This whisky shows so many different things. It shows that Glenlivet used to be much more interesting than it is now. It shows that sometimes it is important to have ridiculously old whisky, just so you can put things in perspective. By things, I mean production methods, maturation parameters, and so on.

In short, this is stellar stuff.

Interestingly, this whisky was distilled in the same year that our house was built. The whisky shows less wear and tear…


Still available, starting at € 2500

And thanks a million to Best of Wines for the sample!


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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