In a world where everything is instant and replaceable, it’s rather hard to imagine that anything could be the last of its kind. Regardless of how much someone is willing to pay, some things cannot be replicated, making the remaining article not just unspeakably rare but rendering it genuinely unique, an overused word if there ever was one.
This realization recently came to Stephen Rankin, a fourth-generation member of the family behind Gordon & MacPhail, Scotch whiskey merchants based in rural Scotland. Though now arguably the most respected independent bottler of Scotch in the trade, Gordon & MacPhail has humble origins; the business was founded as a grocer’s shop in 1895. To commemorate those 125 years since, the family has been hand-selecting casks for bottling from their private stocks, which each represent some of the last-ever remaining of their style.
In doing so, Rankin found himself inspecting cask 20323, a refill sherry cask of spirit from Miltonduff, a distillery just a few miles away from the family’s base in Elgin, Scotland and one that Rankin’s ancestors have been sourcing whiskey from for generations. In fact, that cask is more accurately described as “Mosstowie,” the name used for the spirit produced at Miltonduff on a unique set of copper stills (known as Lomond stills) which were used to produce whiskey at Miltonduff for a mere 17 years from 1964. Lomond stills are a peculiar creation; they were invented in the 1950s when a small number of traditional pot stills were modified to integrate features more akin to continuous stills which are used to produce grain whiskey for blends. Very few Lomond stills were installed but fewer yet remain; those at Miltonduff were removed in 1981.
The short lifespan of those stills at Miltonduff means that an impossibly small amount of Mosstowie was produced. As much of the output was used for blending, Mosstowie is one of the rarest and most elusive Scotch whiskies ever crafted. Cask 20323 was filled with some of the last spirit that flowed from those stills, having been casked in the autumn of 1979 and stowed away in the Gordon & MacPhail warehouse in Elgin for maturation until the family deemed it ready for sharing. Forty years later, that time has finally come.
As the family’s last-ever cask of Mosstowie, and possibly even the last anywhere in existence, which has yielded a mere 164 bottles, the 1979 Mosstowie marks a milestone moment for the family, as Rankin told us over a dram of the rather special whiskey in question: “This cask is quite simply all we have left of Mosstowie; a style of whiskey that can never be replicated, making this whiskey we have in our hands quite literally irreplaceable.”
Our Tasting Notes of the 1979 Mosstowie
Nose: Fresh and floral with a gentle sweetness coming through with time; stewed fruits emerge with the addition of a small amount of water to open up the dram.
Palate: Notes typically of a refill sherry cask are there, including a discernible nuttiness, but the sherry influence is distinctively subtle; chocolate flavors lead the palate, as does a slight pepperiness.
Finish: Rather long and full but fresh, fragrant and drying as it gently fades.