Pre World War II Whisky… Available

April 14, 2016
Nick Taylor

Okay it’s 1937 and some interesting things are happening around the world. Of course, FDR is sworn in for his second term as president. The Spanish Civil War has just begun. Ireland passes a new constitution changing its name from The Irish Free State to simply Ireland. The Golden Gate Bridge is opened to public traffic. Hormel Foods Corporation introduces its newest product, Spam. The Second Sino-Japanese War begins (many mark this as the beginning of World War II). Bing Cosby’s “Sweet Leilani” spends 25 weeks as the U.S. Billboard number 1 song. Ernest Hemmingway publishes 10,000 copies of To Have and Have Not and Walt Disney Productions rolls out its first full-length cel animated film… Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Off in the Highlands of Scotland a stillman in a mystery distillery is taking the heart cut of a distillery run. That raw spirit is laid down to rest in an oak barrel, where it sleeps… and sleeps… and sleeps.


Fast forward to 1987 The Iran-Contra Affair is just wrapping up. Michael Eisner and Jacques Chirac agree to the construction of Disneyland Paris. The Dow Jones closes over 2,000 for the first time. The first naked-eye supernova is spotted since 1604, SN1987A. The Simpsons and Full House are aired for the first time. The global population cracks 5 billion. Michael Jackson releases his hit album “Bad” and The Legend of Zelda is released in the United States. Off in Scotland, Gordon & MacPhail bottles a whisky distilled in 1937.


Fast Forward to 2016 Chris Riesbeck calls Nick Taylor and tells him he has unearthed several sleeves of MacPhail’s 50 Year Old Highland Single Malt 50ml bottles. Nick Taylor savors a beautiful, ancient single malt produced and cared for by generations of scotch makers. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the scotch industry. It is not just my love for drinking time capsules of years past. I love the tradition and dedication inherent in producing whisky. Today I tasted a breath of 1937 and nearly 80 years of labor. I have great respect for people who create things they know will outlive them, and there is something truly special about drinking those creations.


The whisky itself is fascinating, and shockingly robust. Truthfully, the 40+ year-old scotches I’ve had are very hit or miss. It is extremely difficult to produce very old whisky that both retains its body and is not over-oaked. A succulent Granny Smith apple covered in caramel was my first impression. The pear and apple notes were prominent with butterscotch and caramel following. The palate was definitely tannic but shockingly not overly oaky considering how long it spent in a barrel. The finish was never ending with an interesting mix of vanilla and bitter dark chocolate. It is very strong given it is only 40% ABV. It is worth tasting this whisky just for the joy of having a whisky made in 1937. That said, it holds its own as a stunning whisky.

Would you like to taste a whisky from 1937? 50ml sample bottles of MacPhail’s Collection 1937 are available for sale for $99.99 here.