It was called the Rumble in the Jungle. Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman – the greatest boxing match of the 20th century – took place on October 30, 1974. And while blows were being exchanged in Zaire, in Scotland, history of another sort was being made. One that would not be known until 2017. At the Glenmorangie distillery in Tain, Scotland, two casks – one ex-bourbon, the other ex-Oloroso sherry – were being filled with whisky on that very same day. Four decades later, that spirit has re-emerged. And it’s a historic knockout.
After 41 years in the barrels, the two parcels of spirit have now been decanted as the Glenmorangie Pride 1974. It is touted as the most prized single malt ever released by the Highlands distillery, exceeding even the superlatives bestowed on its two previous Pride releases, 1978 and 1981. A deep mahogany, the whisky starts with a scent of salty air mingled with spice. Delicate notes of honey and chocolate then emerge. Drops of water cause the bouquet to explode with complex vapours – part sourdough bread, part cedar. On the tongue, the spirit is harmonious and precise, and surprisingly soft for such a mature dram. The flavours then keep tumbling out of the ether – baked apples, methol and sweet cream, tailing off into a long finish with hints of caffe latte.
This is the stuff minstrels would sing praises of. Bearing a piano instead of a lute, jazz virtuoso Aaron Diehl has done just that. On a Steinway & Sons piano, Diehl has composed a piece of music to embody the Pride 1974’s rare beauty. Titled Echoes of the Glen of Tranquillity, the instrumental piece draws inspiration from the Glenmorangie distillery and its surroundings – cycling through tranquil windswept melodies to dramatic, fiery flourishes.
Listen to the piece with a dram from one of the 503 crystal decanters of Pride 1974 in your hand. This is history in your hand. A triumph for master blender Dr Bill Lumsden, the taste of this victory is sweet.