The last Balvenie single malt Scotch whisky from the 1950s, called Cask 151, has been bottled and launched in the UK market by the brand's owner, William Grant & Sons. But getting hold of a bottle will not be easy.
The whisky was laid down to mature in a single sherry cask on 26 January 1952. Over 50 years later, the cask was finally emptied on 6 September 2002 to allow the whisky to be bottled, and just 83 bottles of the 50-year-old malt were produced, making it the smallest ever release by The Balvenie.
The reason for the limited bottling is simple - a whisky this old is affected by a number of factors, not least the evaporation of the spirit through the wood of the barrel, what is commonly called the Angel's Share. This happens to all whiskies when they are laid down, and is the cause of the peculiar black mould which appears on the warehouses where the spirit is stored for ageing.
But with the 50-year-old whisky, the angel's share was far more than usual - some 77 per cent of the whisky in the cask had evaporated by the time it was finally opened, the equivalent of 173 bottles.
Not only is Cask 191 the smallest ever release of The Balvenie, it is also the first to be matured in sherry casks, making it a shame that so few drinkers will be able to find it. And for the select few who are able to get their hands on a bottle, it will not come cheap: the whisky is expected to retail for around £6,000 (€9,400) a bottle.
The whisky was bottled at cask strength and has not been chill-filtered or coloured in any way. However, the age of the whisky and the evaporation over the years means that the strength of the whisky has dropped from 63.5 per cent to 45.1 per cent.
The sherry cask is said to have given the whisky a variety of flavours, "from butterscotch to clover, honey, liquorice and chocolate", according to David Stewart, malt master at The Balvenie.
Each bottle of Cask 191 is individually dipped in wax in order to ensure that no more of the precious - not to say expensive - liquor goes the way of the angels. The bottles will also feature a hand-written label, signed personally by Stewart, and will be presented in a cherry wood box.
As well as the UK, the whisky will be available in selected outlets in France - where the market for single malt whisky is not inconsiderable - the US and travel retail.