How to Buy a 200-Year-Old Scotch

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Whiskey is a drink for people that respect tradition. Even newer distilleries in parts of the world (like Japan or India) not as synonymous with the brown liquor as places like Kentucky, or Ireland, look and often produce a spirit that tastes like they’ve been around for centuries. But maybe no place on the planet has the history with whiskey quite like Scotland does, to the point that we simply refer to its national product as "Scotch."

Scotland has been producing whisky since at least the late-15th century, when Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey was commissioned by King James IV to make about ‘eight bols of malt.” In the 500+ years since the booze first flowed from the island, many distilleries have come and gone, leaving, at best, distant memories. That’s where The Lost Distillery Company steps in. 

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In the grand scheme of whisky obsessives, the process in which the people behind the Lost Distillery undertake to replicate whisky that time forgot is nothing less than painstaking. An archive team led by a professor from the University of Glasgow rigorously researches and focuses on a set of ten components that influenced the taste and smell of whiskys that haven’t been available for over century in some cases. The list takes into account everything from whether the local water was soft or hard, the yeast, the wood the whisky was stored in, and even the shape and size of the still. It isn’t the liquor version of DNA cloning like in Jurassic Park; instead, The Lost Distillery people are whisky detectives who know a lot about chemistry, tinkering and playing around until they get what they consider as close to an exact replica as they can get without building a time machine and picking up a bottle of Gerston from 1815.

We’re currently undergoing a phase where heritage is a big deal. We want cars that recall Detroit’s past and American workwear companies collaborating with contemporary Japanese designers. Whisky fits into that desire: It’s authentic, it’s crafted, and it’s what you sip slowly over great conversations and when toasting good times. But the problem normally is that the updated version of many of these things, be it work boots or a bourbon, can’t usually hold a candle to the original. Is that the case with whisky replicated by The Lost Distillery?

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That, unfortunately, is nearly impossible to say, since you’re going to have a difficult time tracking down anybody that can tell you what the whisky from the Stratheden Distillery (closed in 1926) tastes like. Ultimately, you’re going to have to buy the bottles because you trust the distillers know what they’re doing, that the trip they’re taking you on is accurate, and most importantly that the whisky is great.

Thankfully, at a little over $60 a bottle, The Lost Distillery serves up old school Scotch that is a worthy history lesson. The Stratheden in particular is a smoother blend than you might get from the island these days, less smokey, with more of a butterscotch coating that stays on your tongue. That’s really the similar effect you get from the bottles of malt whisky The Lost Distillery offers. The bottle produced to mimic the Northern Scotland Jericho Distillery, aged in sherry casks, evokes little smoke, but probably not too surprisingly, tastes of more wood and berries when you take a sip. 

Ultimately, it all boils down to history, and whisky is all about that. It is a historic spirit, both in the stories behind how it is made, but also the stories it creates. All four bottles offered up by The Lost Distillery are worth seeking out and trying. The price isn’t too steep, and they are all enjoyable to drink. You can look at the bottles and read the stories of the long-gone people and places that made the original bottles, a little lesson to go with your drinking; but making your own stories to go with these revived spirits is really up to you. 

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