Craigellachie Bar 51 – Sydney

Your chance to try the world’s most uncollectable whisky

The latest release from Speyside’s Craigellachie Distillery has been a long time in the making. 51 years to be exact. But the best thing about this release is that it won’t cost you a fortune to taste it. In fact, it won’t cost you anything at all, because instead of packing this up in a crystal decanter and only making it available to the seriously well-heeled, Craigellachie have decided to break the mould and give this whisky away for free. 

Craigellachie 51

That’s right, instead of positioning this as another dust-collecting trophy bottle, Craigellachie have created what’s been dubbed ‘the world’s most uncollectible whisky’, a bottle that can’t be purchased, but one that available for whisky fans to try through Criagellachie’s Bar 51 tasting events.

The Bar 51 series kicked off in the UK late last year and after stops in London and New York it has finally made its way to Australia for its last stop in Sydney and a few days ago we were treated to a special preview tasting at Sydney’s Firedoor restaurant.

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The whisky

The Craigellachie 51 year old was distilled way back in 1962 when the distillery was operating a single pair of coal-fired stills and when they also floor-malted their own barley. The distillery was rebuilt between 1964-65, introducing four steam-heated stills, at which time they also ceased floor malting. So aside from this being an incredibly well-aged whisky, the production method of the liquid is rather different to that of the spirit flowing from the stills today. As such, in tasting this 51 year old, you really are consuming a little bit of genuine whisky history.

If you’re half paying attending at this point you might note that 1962 + 51 years doesn’t quite equal 2019 and you’d be exactly right. The refill bourbon hogshead that held this whisky was ‘discovered’ slumbering in their warehouses back in 2014, at which point it was transferred in bulk to glass at 40.8% ABV. Over the next few years whilst the team decided exactly what to do with it, the proof continued to decline until it was eventually bottled in 2018 at the natural strength of 40.3% ABV.

Everyone will have their own experience and thoughts on this majestic old malt, but here are mine.

On the nose it was still vibrant, fresh and fruity despite half a century in oak. Oily, tropical fruits, peaches, honey and waxed leather. The nose continued to open up and evolve, revealing more fleshy fruit, tobacco and other stately notes as the night went on. 

On the palate the first thing I noticed was the amazing texture. At 40.3% this is pretty much the same strength as any readily-available blend on the market, but the Criagellachie 51 year old carried immense weight, density and grippy oiliness to it. As a result, the palate delivered lots of waxy fruit notes, summer fruit fan, buttery pastry and surprisingly gentle oak on the finish.

A complex dram that would no doubt continue to evolve for as long as you could resist drinking it and an absolute pleasure to try.

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Other true stand-outs for me included the Craigellachie 23 year old and a very special bottle from their Exceptional Cask series, another 23 year old Craigellachie that had been extra-matured for 10 years in ex-Rioja red wine casks. Normally a whisky that had spent 10 years in a red wine cask would scare me a little (tannin overload!), but this was amazingly integrated and just delicious stuff with sweet toffee apples, red berries and dark dried fruit galore! Look out for this one if you happen to be traveling through international airports as it’s exclusive to travel retail.

Your chance to try the Craigellachie 51 year old

Craigellachie’s Bar 51 is officially coming to Australia next month (October) and everyone is able – and heartily encouraged – to be part of the action. To be one of the 80 Australians who will have the pleasure of trying the Craigellachie 51 year old at Sydney’s The Duke of Clarence, head on over to craigellachie.com and enter the free ballot. Each prize consists of two tickets where you and your guest will be treated to Craigellachie’s core range of whiskies (13, 17 and 23 year olds), along with the 51 year old.

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Bar 51 pops up in Sydney for three nights only (23-25 October) and entries close on Friday 11 October, so hop to it, visit craigellachie.com and enter today. It couldn’t be easier! 

A special thanks to Bacardi Australia and Firedoor for an evening of hospitality and delicious food and whisky. All images supplied. 

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