The Glenlivet's Cellar Collection a '72 this year

One of the most anticipated releases in the Scotch whisky world comes any time The Glenlivet unveils its Cellar Collection. The just-released 1972 case strength single malt doesn't disappoint.

Master distiller Jim Cryle, marking his 40th year in the industry, is personally responsible for selecting the annual release. The 2006 Cellar Collection is a vatting of just 10 cases from a single day's distillation, Aug. 24, 1972.

Just 800 bottles of the 2006 release will be made available to selected U.S. markets this spring, at a per-bottle price of $700, according to The Glenlivet's PR people. However, who knows what each bottle will go for on the competitive open market.

Each bottle is individually numbered and presented in a wooden box, as seen here. Once selected by Cryle, the casks were left to rest in the Cellar Collection Warehouse, one of The Glenlivet's oldest storage structures at the distillery.

"It is truly an exquisite single malt that has responded to patience and dedication with a complexity, quality and heritage that simply cannot be matched," Cryle said.

Of course, that is what one would expect to hear from the man who selected the distillation and is responsible for the distillery's reputation. In this case, though, he's not exaggerating.

In a sampling of the Cellar Collection, I found the whisky slightly sharp at first, but that quickly changed with the introduction of one ice cube in the tasting glass, a method I often use. Dropping the temperature and letting a bit of the melt help open the whisky made it utterly top-notch.

From its clear deep-amber color to its nuanced nose with notes of apricots and prunes giving way to a touch of citrus and heather, the '72 was a pleaser. The traditional Scotch whisky smokiness is subdued, allowing the rich, velvety taste to linger in the mouth and finish long and smooth.

If the $700 price tag seems a bit high for The Glenlivet, it's not. Last year's Cellar Collection, a 1964 distillation, went for $2,000 a bottle with the same 800-bottle limit for U.S. distribution out of a total run of about 1,800.

I sampled that one when Cryle visited Manhattan for a private tasting event. Never having experienced anything in that stratospheric price range before, I expected a socko experience, but it was just the opposite. There is a certain delicate layering and complexity of flavors missing in other Scotches, even those of the expensive sort, that coats the mouth.

The 1964 is a warm, satisfying distillation, wonderfully smooth with a balance of floral and plum notes and a long, spicy finish. It was excellent by itself, sublime with a crumble of Stilton from the nearby cheese board. Each sip revealed another nuance of quality. Worth $2,000? If someone else is buying, sure thing.

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