Updated: Jan 22
1976 Glenlivet 24 yr. - First Cask (sherry cask) - 46%
Context: At the turn of the millennium, Madison's was one of three Westwood bars remaining that catered primarily to UCLA students. These bars were the subject of constant ire for wealthier residents of the village who much preferred movie stars walking the red carpet at the Fox or Mann's Bruin to college kids stumbling home in various states of disrepair. The holy trinity of Westwood dives - Madison's, Maloney's (O'Hara's), and Westwood Brewing Company - operated with loose definitions of best practice (i.e. proper IDing or over-serving or safe capacity or basic sanitation) necessary evils combating village laws that prohibited pool tables, happy hour deals, and dancing. O'Hara's hung on the longest, closing in February 2016.
My memory owes those spots something - especially Madison's. I wasn't a UCLA student. I was a 21 year old bartender who couldn't afford to live in Santa Monica where I worked. I learned to drink alone there (not always in unhealthy ways). And I did it with spirits - not beer or mixed drinks. Glenlivet 12, sometimes a rock or two, sometimes not. Glenlivet had a lot going for it. It was available at all three of the bars. I could pronounce it. My consumption slowed compared to the alternatives - beer, mixed drink, shot. It was imported with an age statement, just in case someone didn't realize I was way too sophisticated to be ordering something off the Thirsty Thursday menu. And I didn't hate the way it tasted.
By the time they dropped the age statement on Nadurra and released Founder's Reserve, I'd mostly lost my taste for the OBs. But I've never been able to shake a sentimental soft spot for the brand. Lately, I've been a big fan of both the younger, punchy high proof sherried IBS as well as some of these 19+ year, sub-100 proof, sherried bottles. I've also worked through a couple 1970s dusty 12 years that were delicate, complex, and interesting.
The independent bottler here, First Cask, was a label run by Direct Wines Ltd for members of the First Cask Whisky Circle. A look at past releases suggests they focus on older spirits (18+ yr.), that are from a single cask and bottled at 46%
Nose: Bright on the nose with clementines and lemon. Baked chestnut. Sandalwood. Cardamom. Nuanced and lovely.
Flavor: Vanilla. Apples. Oranges. More floral driven citrus. Baking spices slowly transition into more wood driven spice.
Palate Structure: Soft, slow opening on the palate. Layered. A low heat finish, soft again, but with good sustain.
Alcohol Integration: Plays under proof without a reduction in flavor. Body is a little light.
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Score: 7 (Highly Recommend) First Cask bottlings like this seem to command in the 300-500 pound range which definitely seems high for what I sampled. The flip-side is it's been 11 months since I tasted my last Glenlivet, and this ounce was well worth the trip down memory lane.
10 - Reevaluate The Budget
9 - Stash Two (If Able)
8 - Stash One (At The Right Price)
7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers
6 - Solid - Above Average
5 - Acceptable For The Situation
4 - Not Vocally Complaining
3 - Wish I Was Drinking Something Else
2 - Nothing Nice To Say
1 - Drain Pour