Should I drink this 60-year-old scotch?
September 2, 2009 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Should I drink this 60-year-old scotch?

Via Mr. Libraryhead:

A co-worker received a bunch of unopened bottles of very old scotch. He did a little googling and is fairly sure the bottles are from the 40s or 50s. He knows I like scotch and asked me to try it and give my opinion, but I'm out of my depth on this one.

I know when scotch gets very old (>100 years in the bottle), it is seldom drunk. I don't know if that is due to the quality dropping off, or if it just is worth more to collectors. Judging by the levels, there has definitely been some evaporation, and so it's safe to assume oxygen has gotten in. Scotch isn't supposed to age in the bottle, but does that mean none at all or just very slowly?

Here's a sample of two of the bottles.

Should I drink this?
posted by libraryhead to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by jerseygirl at 5:48 AM on September 2, 2009

Hell yeah, that's what it's for. Wait for an occasion though (or make one up soon). I don't think you have to fear any bacteria growing in it due to the relatively high alcohol content.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:48 AM on September 2, 2009

Find out first whether they can be sold for silly sums of money. It would be sad to open and drink a $1000 bottle of Scotch if you could sell it and buy yourself a case of Lagavulin 16 with the proceeds.
posted by zadcat at 5:53 AM on September 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

Scotch ages in a barrel, not a bottle. Only its collectors value has changed, not so much its quality.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:58 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Search for 'King's Ransom' in this review. It doesn't look, comparing to the advert illustration, like yours has actually evaporated. And you are right that it does not age in the bottle, so time since it came out of the bottle theoretically makes no difference.

I wouldn't drink it, but only because it doesn't sound very good and the bottle looks cooler with something in it.
posted by Cuppatea at 5:58 AM on September 2, 2009

Finding a bunch of 60 y/o Scotch is reason enough to celebrate by drinking it. Sure you could sell it but how often do you have the opportunity to sample old Scotch?
posted by JJ86 at 6:00 AM on September 2, 2009

since it came out of the barrel. D'oh.
posted by Cuppatea at 6:01 AM on September 2, 2009

JJ86: age refers to the time it spent in barrels, not since it was bottled. It's a blend with no age listed, which means it's probably closer to the lowest legal ageing, 3 years. That's not a 60-year-old, it's a toddler.

Okay I'll stop now :-) let us know if you do drink them!
posted by Cuppatea at 6:04 AM on September 2, 2009

2nd selling it to somebody who doesn't know any better (or just collects old bottles of scotch) and using the proceeds to buy your liquor of choice. I had a similar encounter when I inherited the contents of a deceased relative's wet bar. There were a couple of unopened bottles of decent-to-high-end booze that were 25 to 30 years old. Like yours, evaporation had occurred. They were terrible, to the point of undrinkable; most of them went down the drain. If there are collectors somewhere that you can sell to, I would do that--its pretty unlikely that your scotch will taste anything close to good and opening it to try a sample ruins the collector value.
posted by jtfowl0 at 6:11 AM on September 2, 2009

If you don't, I will.

I had some 30 year old scotch back in 1979 and woke up in detox so yes, it must be good.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:18 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another vote to sell it if you can.

First, as Pollomacho says, whisky doesn't mature in the bottle like wine. It only matures in the barrel, though interaction with the wood.

Second, remember that these are blended whiskies, not single malts. Basically the flavour in Scotch comes from the malt whisky (made from grain that's started to germinate). A blended whisky mixes that with grain whisky, which is almost tasteless, to produce a blander taste.

So it seems unlikely to me that these are going to taste particularly nice. They may well have more value to a collector for their rarity.

However, I've no idea what their value is. If it turns out they're not worth much, may as well have a party and drink 'em up.

Finally, this last bit is just my personal opinion, and many would disagree. But I've tasted a few really old whiskies, and even when they're matured in the barrel, it seems to me after about 20 years whiskies don't really get noticably better. The 40 year olds and so on are more like status symbols and collectors items than supremely delicious drinks. If you stumble across one, better to offload it to some rich sucker and pocket the profits.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:52 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes. Yes you should.

Need someone to drink it with? What time should I be there? I'll bring the cigars.
posted by PsuDab93 at 7:26 AM on September 2, 2009

Another vote to sell it if it’s worth anything substantial.

As others have said, it’s blended, which is not generally what you want. Additionally, the current legal definitions of Scotch whisky were not in place when these bottles were produced. I don’t know if there were any standards back then.

Though Scotch doesn’t age in the bottle in the same way wine does, or in the same way it ages in the barrel, it can be effected by exposure to air. The quality of that effect is unpredictable, though it always allows some small part of the alcohol to evaporate (in the barrel, it’s called the “angel’s portion”). This could make the whisky taste better to you, or worse, though the difference is likely to be subtle, in any case.

I’ve heard it said that, once you get a bottle down to the last quarter, it’s best to finish it in the next year, as the large volume of air allows so much evaporation. The whisky loses some of it's kick!
posted by SirNovember at 8:00 AM on September 2, 2009

Was this you?

posted by bastionofsanity at 8:15 AM on September 2, 2009

Another vote for 'sell if possible'. Blended whisky is hit & miss at the best of times & I doubt 60 years of hanging around is going to help anyone but the collector.
posted by i_cola at 8:57 AM on September 2, 2009

This makes me wish I liked scotch more. (Drinking some ancient scotch with her husband to be the night before my best friend's wedding proved that even the good stuff is wasted on me).
posted by at 9:50 AM on September 2, 2009

Thanks for the feedback. As he received a few of each bottles, we've decided to do a tasting in the office of them tomorrow. I'll post the results.

@bastionofsanity: Nope. As my co-worker only got these bottles last week, I can't see how it was him either.

-Mr. Libraryhead
posted by libraryhead at 9:54 AM on September 2, 2009

Sell if you can get a decent price. It's a blend that most likely won't taste all that great anyway. Whoever buys it will be paying more for the bottle than the contents. Use the money you get to buy a nice single malt.
posted by momentofmagnus at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2009

This should be on MetaTalk, because it's obviously a reason for a meetup.
posted by Mngo at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

It might not be in great shape. Test it extensively, and report back after the hangover subsides.
posted by theora55 at 1:35 PM on September 2, 2009


So, we opened up the King's Ransom in the office just now. The cork was soaked and completely disintegrated. Immediately after opening it tasted a bit fiery, but after airing for a few minutes, it was pretty good. Not the best single cask/malt I've had, but pretty good nonetheless. Several of us even had seconds.

-Mr. Libraryhead
posted by libraryhead at 11:24 AM on September 3, 2009

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