[Tasting Session] Whisky Shop - The Last Drop 22/06/16

I was lucky enough to be one of the very few customers invited last week for a special tasting session of two amazing and rather rare blends from a company called The Last Drop. And even better, the tasting was conducted by Beanie Espey, Sales and Marketing Director of the company, but also daughter of James Espey, one of the two founders of the The Last Drop Distillers Limited.

The Last Drop was created in 2008 thanks to the passion and experience of two men, Tom Jago and James Espey. These "spirits pioneers" spent their entire careers in the spirits industry, developing products which have now become leading brands across the globe (Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Chivas Regal 18,  The Classic Malts, Malibu or Baileys Irish Cream) Reaching the point when most people would have decided to call it a day and retire, they thought it was time for a new beginning. Their philosophy for this new enterprise was very simple: looking for rare casks, casks which had more than likely been forgotten, but in which slept a unique liquid, which would have used time to its own advantage to be something more than just 'aged spirit', to become "the kind of experience, on the eye, the nose and the palate, that comes to most people once in a lifetime". And this is, in my mind, what makes the company so credible: a small company, led by experienced people, who do not really have anything to prove, who know what they are looking for and take their time to ensure they find it. Since 2008, they have only brought to the market 6 different releases, all extremely limited, all filled with the last drops of some truly remarkable nectars. 
Two of these six releases were presented to us during the tasting: the 48 Year Old Blended Scotch and the 50 Year Old "Double Matured" Blended Scotch. The measures with were given were halves and came from miniatures. Beanie told us they -understandingly- rarely open full bottles for tastings and that when it comes to bottling, they always keep a small proportion of the spirit to go into miniatures. Everything they bottle, is cask-strength, unchilled filtered and natural colour, in other words, you have in the bottle (and ultimately in your glass!) what came out of the cask, unaltered, after several decades of maturation.

The 48 Year Old Blended Scotch - 592 bottles (£2,600)

The 48 Year Old is the Last Drop's 4th release. It is a blended whisky -mix of malts and grains distilled in 1965 and earlier- which was transferred to a first-fill ex-bourbon cask in the late 80s and left for another couple of decades before being unearthed by The Last Drop. It is bottled at 48.6%. Both whiskies had been poured some time before we got to sample them and no water was added to either of them.

Nose: sweet with almond, honey and bourbon notes. After a few minutes nosing it, it became more floral with hints of lavender, and spicier with some clove.

Palate: The palate was spicier than the nose but still sweet with notes of pear. A very smooth dram. The 48.6% ABV was not obvious.

Finish: Long and warm with hints of dark chocolate

A very smooth dram with a very inviting nose, exquisite flavours and such a moreish finish...

The 50 Year Old "Double Matured" Blended Scotch - 898 bottles (£3,000)

The 50 Year Old Double Matured is the 6th and latest release. It is also a blended whisky. It was originally designed as a premium blend and spent 30 years in ex-bourbon casks. If most of it was bottled at the end of the 30 years, a small proportion was kept, just enough to fill 7 Oloroso sherry hogsheads which were kept in a Lowland warehouse for a further 20 years! Despite the Angels taking their fair share, The Last Drop managed to transfer these 7 sherry casks into 898 bottles with a very impressive 51.8% ABV.

Nose: Sweet, fruity and spicy. Much more alive than you might expect after 50 years of wood interaction.

Palate: Fruity first with cherry and raisins followed by spicier notes. In my mind, more complex than the 48 Year Old, but once again nothing dull about this dram.

Finish: Warm, sweet and spicy, and long-lasting, so long in fact that I could still taste it when I arrived back home 40 minutes later. 

A very impressive dram, packed-full of busy flavours. In my mind the 50 is the kind of dram I could sit with for an hour, setting off on a flavour quest, exploring the nose, delving into 50 years of bourbon and sherry oak interaction. And I think that this is also what appeals to me with The Last Drop releases. They are much more than just alcoholic beverages. They are spirits with a spirit, and what you pour into a glass is a little bit of history, the last remaining drops of a whisky industry which no longer exists, production methods and a "savoir-faire" which have been altered since. Somebody said on the night that The Last Drop company is a bit like the Indiana Jones of the whisky world and thinking about it, I would agree. They are always searching for the Holly Grail of the spirits world, rejecting many unworthy candidates for lack of perfection (like a 100 year old Cognac I believe!)

So if I had to choose between both (and had the money to afford it!)?
I really enjoyed the 48 for its smoothness. To me, it is a very easy drinking whisky with lots of flavour, just maybe too easy drinking... As I mentioned above, I found the 50 much more complex, and a dram I would need time to fully enjoy, time to get on a full journey of discovery. In other words, I cannot really make my mind up. I really enjoyed both for different reasons, but what you ultimately get from any of The Last Drop bottles, no matter the flavour profile, is the knowledge that what you are drinking is extremely special, and that once it is gone, it is gone. There will never be any more released, you have just enjoyed the very Last Drop!   

Thank you very much to Craig and the team at the Whisky Shop Manchester for inviting me to such a memorable whisky experience and to Beanie Espey and Solène Tailland from The Last Drop, for their help and explanation and for guiding us through these fantastic whiskies.


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