Last Drop 1971 Blended Scotch Whisky: Is This The World’s Most Exclusive Whisky?
by Ken Gargett
After distinguished careers in the spirits industry, and beyond, James Espey and Tom Jago felt that they had a little more to offer. They were determined, if you will excuse the pun, to squeeze the very last drop out of their talents.
Espey was involved with J&B, Chivas Regal, and other star spirits, while Jago, after a period with the Royal Navy, spent 60 years in the spirits industry and was crucial to the development of products such as Bailey’s Irish Cream and classics like Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
Sadly, Jago passed away at the age of 93 in October 2018. But not before the two of them established Last Drop Distillers in 2008, now run by their respective daughters, Beanie and Rebecca.
Last Drop: what’s it about?
The idea is to source rare and first-class spirits, usually with considerable age, and offer them to interested consumers. This is a very similar concept to what the team at Equipo Navazos has done with sherry. Some of Last Drop’s products – and in the company’s decade of operations, there have only been 13 releases – are extremely limited and seriously expensive.
The first release in 2009 was a 1960 blended Scotch whisky. A blend of more than 80 different components, it was made to be released as a 12 year old. While most of it met that fate, three casks were not used and sat ignored and unloved until the Last Drop team arrived.
Those casks provided enough whisky for 1,347 bottles. A quick search reveals that a couple of retailers around the world do stock a bottle or two, with the price between $3,400 and $3,900.
There has been a slow trickle since then.
The second release was a 1950 cognac (478 bottles). Then came a 50-year-old blended Scotch whisky (388 bottles); a 48-year-old blended Scotch whisky (592 bottles); a 1967 Glen Garioch single-malt whisky (118 bottles priced between AUD$8,000 and AUD$9,000 according to a search across the internet of stockists, of which there were two); a 1961 Dumbarton single-grain whisky (32 bottles, and good luck finding one of them); a 1972 Lochside single-grain whisky (106 bottles); a 1947 Hors d’Age Cognac (186 bottles); the 1971, which we will focus on, being the tenth release; a Centenario Duo of Tawny Ports, 1870 and 1970 (770 sets – so far, the only release that is a move away from pure spirits); a 1968 Glenrothes malt whisky (from two different casks, so 168 bottles from one and 141 bottles from the other); and the latest, the 1982 Buffalo Trace bourbon (44 bottles).
It is worth noting that a number of these include a 50 ml sampler so you can try your prize without having to open the bottle.
The 1971 Last Drop blended Scotch whisky, from a year that the team likes to remind us was when Disney World first opened in Orlando and the Apollo 14 astronauts were practicing their chip shots on the surface of the moon, offers more opportunity than most as 1,352 bottles were released. The price, a search reveals, sits anywhere between AUD$4,000 and more than twice that.
Is Last Drop 1971 worth it?
The eternal question receives the eternal answer: entirely up to the individual. It is all relative, but what is not in question is that this is a whisky of great rarity and certainly brilliant quality.
It was originally blended back in 1983 for release to the American market as a very fine 12-year-old blend. Not all was required, and the remainder was transferred to eleven ex-Oloroso sherry butts to sit undisturbed for a further nine years.
A tiny quantity was removed for bottling as a 21-year-old blend and the remainder was placed in nine “ex-American oak barrels.” One assumes that what they mean is that they are ex-bourbon, as obviously a barrel, once American oak, will remain American oak. No matter.
Twenty-four years later, Last Drop liberated them and bottled the contents for its program. And if you are quick, you can join the party.
So, how good is Last Drop 1971 blended Scotch whisky?
Some great spirits are surely meant to be drunk – sipped reverently – on bended knee. This is one of them. Raisins, sultanas, glacé fruit; it is still amazingly fresh and vibrant, yet incredibly complex.
The hallmark of this spirit is, however, its great length. The length has more in common with one of the wonderful old Rutherglen muscats. It is mindbogglingly long and the intensity never wavers for an instant.
More flavors unfold on the palate: stone fruits, figs, orange rind, even florals. The texture does offer some fire and power. This is decadence in a glass.
The others? Sadly, at this stage, I am unable to comment specifically, but if you get the chance, don’t miss them. And please do let us know.
For more information, please visit www.lastdropdistillers.com/the-last-drop-1971-blended-scotch-whisky.
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Also published on Medium.