Two Very Old Macallans, Tomatin 50 & More New Whisky

Christmas is nearly upon us, but there’s still time to buy a whisky gift or two if you hurry—our gift guide makes recommendations both large and small.

If whisky-related accoutrements aren’t enough, however, there are many new whiskies coming out that will provide delicious excitement—that is, if you can afford them. This week, there are four whiskies aged for at least a half-century, and several others with advanced double-digit ages as well. The prices on these bottles vary widely, although, of course, none are inexpensive. (If you’re wondering why whiskies of similar ages can be priced so differently, you’re not alone. We explored the dynamics of luxury whisky pricing, and found a whole world of variables.)

Two super-aged bottles from Macallan lead the pack. The Macallan 52 year old clocks in a whopping $53,500, while its younger sibling, the Fine & Rare Vintage 1978, is 40 years old and costs quite a bit less—$11,750. Naturally, both whiskies are available in very limited amounts.

Meanwhile, Tomatin 50 year old is a mere £10,000 (around $12,639)—just a touch more expensive than that 40 year old Macallan, but with 25% more years on it. Only 70 bottles of the Tomatin are available worldwide.

But the prices on two very old whiskies from independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail merit the most attention—for their reasonableness. G&M’s Glenlivet 64 year old, distilled in 1954, costs slightly less than Tomatin 50 at £9,950 (about $12,576), while Caol Ila 50 year old, distilled in 1968, looks like the bargain of the bunch at £7,500 (about $9,479). Both whiskies are currently available abroad in limited amounts, with some bottles coming to the U.S. next summer. If you’re in the market for half-century-old whisky, these offer the best bang for your buck by far.

Several other new scotches are much lower on the price ladder. Tullibardine is rolling out its fourth limited edition of The Murray single malt, this one finished in marsala casks. It’s 46% ABV and costs $80.

Meanwhile, independent bottler Single Cask Nation has three new single malts: a 10 year old Craigellachie ($140), a 13 year old Macduff ($145), and an 18 year old whisky from an Orkney distillery ($200). The cask-strength whiskies are available in limited amounts.

Barrell Craft Spirits also has a new single cask offering, a 13 year old 100% rye whisky from Canada ($110). In addition, the company is releasing Batch 017 of Barrell Bourbon ($90).

Balcones has unveiled two limited-edition versions of its Brimstone corn whiskey: one finished in a PX sherry cask, and the other made with heavily roasted corn that replicates the flavor of a past limited-edition release called Brimstone Resurrection. Both whiskeys are $80 and for sale at the distillery only.

Finally, Jura Distillery has announced two new whiskies. Just over 1,400 bottles of Jura Rare Vintage 1988 are available outside the U.S. for £650, while Jura 28 year old will be sold annually in limited amounts at global travel retail outlets for £399.

Read on for full details.

Macallan 52 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Speyside
Age: 52 years old
Proof: 48% ABV
Price: $53,500
Release: December 2018
Availability: 250 bottles; 42 for the U.S.

Need to know:

A first-of-its-kind bottling for Macallan, this whisky was matured in first-fill sherry-seasoned European oak casks for 52 years. It’s packaged in a solid oak box inlaid with matte gold.

Macallan Fine & Rare 1978 Vintage

Style: Single malt
Origin: Speyside
Age: 40 years old
Proof: 59.2% ABV
Price: $11,750
Release: December 2018
Availability: 243 bottles, including 5 for the U.S.

Need to know:

Following up on the release of Fine & Rare 1977 Vintage in January of this year, Macallan is releasing a successive vintage. This one is priced a few thousand dollars less than the previous release. The whisky was matured in a second-fill, remade American oak hogshead.

Whisky Advocate says:

The prices on these Macallans are eye-popping—especially the 52 year old. At $53,500, it’s considerably more expensive than Black Bowmore 50 year old ($25,000) and Balvenie 50 year old ($38,000). And relatively speaking, it’s not that much less expensive than the 72 year old Macallan that was released six months ago for $65,000. Meanwhile, this latest release of a Fine & Rare vintage is actually priced under the previous bottling. Macallan surely has its reasons for these pricing choices, but they aren’t clear to me.

How do distilleries decide the prices for old and rare whiskies? We looked into the question.

1/24/19: Post updated to add the number of bottles of Macallan 52 year old available in the U.S.

Tomatin 50 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Highlands
Age: 50 years old
Proof: 45.3% ABV
Price: £10,000 (around $12,639)
Release: December 2018
Availability: 70 bottles

Need to know:

The oldest whisky Tomatin has ever released, this single malt was distilled on November 24, 1967 and finished in a first-fill oloroso sherry cask. It’s packaged in a handblown Glencairn crystal decanter within a wooden box lined in Italian leather and comes with an individually numbered book signed by distillery manager Graham Eunson.

Whisky Advocate says:

Just two years younger than the Macallan 52 year old described above, this Highlands single malt is significantly less expensive. Of course, at £10,000, it’s not cheap—but when you’re looking at a half-century of maturation, it’s a relative bargain.

Gordon & MacPhail 1954 Glenlivet 64 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: 64 years old
Proof: 41% ABV
Price: £9,950 (about $12,576)
Release: December 2018; summer 2019 in the U.S.
Availability: 222 bottles

Need to know:

Aged for 64 years, this whisky is bottled at cask strength—but that strength has dropped so much over the years thanks to the angels’ share that it is a barely-legal 41% ABV.

Gordon & MacPhail 1968 Caol Ila 50 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Islay)
Age: 50 years old
Proof: 52.5% ABV
Price: £7,500 (about $9,479)
Release: December 2018; summer 2019 in the U.S.
Availability: 199 decanters

Need to know:

The oldest Caol Ila ever released, this whisky was matured in a refill sherry hogshead and bottled at cask strength.

Whisky Advocate says:

Take a look at the prices for the Macallan 52 year old and Tomatin 50 year old above. Now look at these, which are considerably lower even for the whisky that’s much older: Exhibit A for why you should be buying whisky from independent bottlers. These two particular whiskies are currently for sale in the UK and abroad, but some bottles will be available in the U.S. in mid-2019.

Tullibardine The Murray Marsala Cask Finish

Style: Single malt
Origin: Highlands
Age: Not stated
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $80
Release: December 2018
Availability: Limited edition

Need to know:

The fourth release in Tullibardine’s Marquess Collection—named for Sir William Murray, the second Marquess of Tullibardine who participated in the Jacobite uprising—this whisky was distilled in 2006 and aged in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, then finished for a year in marsala wine casks.

Whisky Advocate says:

The Marquess Collection includes cask-strength 2004 and 2005 vintage releases, as well as The Murray Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cask Finish. The original release of The Murray scored 85 points in the Whisky Advocate Buying guide.

Single Cask Nation Craigellachie 10 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Speyside
Age: 10 years old
Proof: 67.3% ABV
Price: $140
Release: December 2018
Availability: 288 bottles

Need to know:

Distilled in May 2008 and bottled in May 2018, this whisky matured in an ex-bourbon hogshead.

Single Cask Nation Macduff 13 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Highlands
Age: 13 years old
Proof: 57.2% ABV
Price: $145
Release: December 2018
Availability: 126 bottles

Need to know:

This single malt was distilled in August 2003 and bottled in May 2018, after maturing in an oloroso sherry butt. Its age statement reads 13 years old, but it’s actually 14—there was a delay between label approval and actual bottling. Macduff Distillery’s most well-known whisky is The Deveron.

Single Cask Nation Stones of Stenness 18 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Islands
Age: 18 years old
Proof: 54.8% ABV
Price: $200
Release: December 2018
Availability: 186 bottles

Need to know:

Distilled in November 1999 and bottled in May 2018, this ex-bourbon barrel-matured whisky comes from an Orkney distillery. There are only two distilleries on Orkney—Highland Park and Scapa—so a sip or two should help you identify exactly which one provided the whisky for this bottling.

Whisky Advocate says:

Single Cask Nation is an independent bottler (IB) that started off as a members-only organization and now sells its whiskies at retail. (Members—who can join for free—still get certain perks.) The U.S.-based company differs a bit from traditional Scottish IBs in that it bottles a wide range of whiskies—not just single malt or grain scotch, but American and world whiskies too, often bottling oddities like light whiskey, a style that’s usually dismissed by serious whisky drinkers. The company’s picks are worth trying, especially if you’re eager for more novelty in your whisky regimen (one of the many benefits drinking IB whisky offers).

Barrell Single Barrel Canadian Rye

Style: Rye
Origin: Canada
Age: 13 years old
Proof: Varies (61%-72.5% ABV)
Price: $110
Release: December 2018
Availability: Limited edition

Need to know:

The newest addition to Barrell’s single-barrel line of whiskies, this Canadian rye was made from 100% rye and aged for 13 years in ex-bourbon barrels. The company bottled 30 barrels, so the proof varies.

Barrell Bourbon (Batch 017)

Style: Bourbon
Origin: Multiple (Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee)
Age: Not stated
Proof: 56.25% ABV
Price: $90
Release: December 2018
Availability: Limited edition

Need to know:

This batch combines 4 month old, 10 year old, 14 year old, and 15 year old bourbons distilled in Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky. The company says this particular batch is “an homage to a style of bourbon we love…the classic 10-year-old: high proof and balanced, oak driven but complex.”

Whisky Advocate says:

Another American IB, Barrell aims to blend and bottle unique whiskies, with no two batches or barrels alike. In general, the company succeeds, and the whiskies’ scores speak for themselves.

Balcones Brimstone PX Sherry Cask Finish

Style: Corn whiskey
Origin: Texas
Age: Not stated
Proof: 62.2% ABV
Price: $80
Release: December 2018
Availability: Limited edition; for sale at the distillery only

Need to know:

This whiskey started off as regular Balcones Brimstone, a heavily smoked corn whiskey, but was then transferred into a Pedro Ximénez sherry cask for a finishing period.

Balcones Brimstone Redux

Style: Corn whiskey
Origin: Texas
Age: Not stated
Proof: 64.9% ABV
Price: $80
Release: December 2018
Availability: Limited edition; for sale at the distillery only

Need to know:

This whiskey is a recreation of sorts of Balcones Brimstone Resurrection, a whiskey that was created five years ago by accident when the corn mash burnt onto the bottom of the still. That process can’t be intentionally repeated (unless you want to scrape a boatload of burnt corn out of the inside of a still—no thanks), but the corn used for this new whiskey was roasted to a much higher degree than normal to replicate some of those extreme smoke flavors.

Whisky Advocate says:

Brimstone is distilled from blue corn, and the whiskey itself is smoked with Texas scrub oak using a proprietary process. The standard version of Brimstone scored 88 points in the Buying Guide. These two whiskeys are available in very limited amounts and for sale only at Balcones Distillery.

Jura Rare Vintage 1988

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Islands)
Age: 30 years old
Proof: 53.5% ABV
Price: £650 (around $822)
Release: December 2018
Availability: 1,406 bottles for the world; not available in the U.S.

Need to know:

Initially matured in ex-bourbon casks, this whisky was then finished in tawny port pipes. It’s bottled at cask strength, with no chill filtration or added color.

Jura 28 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Islands)
Age: 28 years old
Proof: 47% ABV
Price: £399 (around $504)
Release: December 2018
Availability: Global travel retail

Need to know:

Aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished in amoroso sherry butts, this single malt is bottled with no chill filtration or added color. It will be available annually in limited amounts at global travel retail stores.

Whisky Advocate says:

It has been a busy couple of years for Jura. In 2016, Gregg Glass—formerly whiskymaker at Compass Box—joined Jura’s parent company, Whyte & Mackay, as blender and whiskymaker, overseeing Jura and other whiskies. Meanwhile, about a year ago, the distillery relaunched its entire whisky range with new expressions and new packaging. These two new releases—which will not be for sale in the U.S.—represent another layer in Jura’s makeover. And note the prices: they’re pretty modest for the whiskies’ ages, which is a smart move for a brand that’s in flux.

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