The venue was one that you could describe as heaven. When you walk into WhiskyBrother Bar in Morningside, Johannesburg, you feel like a suicide bomber who has arrived in paradise and is about to enjoy the rewards of his ultimate earthly sacrifice.
The specialised bar, which has been open for about eight months, has more than 1 000 brands of whisky, from regular single malts to R6 000-a-tot rare varieties.
The occasion was the South African launch of the The Last Drop whisky brand. Brewed by UK-based Last Drop Distillers, the brand consists of extremely rare spirits. Founders James Espey and Tom Jago are veteran distillers who decided that, instead of retiring, they would pool their experience and expertise to create something new. So they set about hunting for rare spirits and bottling them as exclusive products.
“We are hunters. We hunt until we find something very special,” said Espey at the launch this week.
In The Last Drop family are ports, rums and cognacs. But the signature products are The Last Drop blended whiskies, of which very limited editions are released.
This week, the 1971 edition was being unleashed on South Africans. With only 1 352 bottles released last year, there are only 200 left in the world. Of these, three are at the WhiskyBrother bottle store in Johannesburg. This lowly newspaperman got a chance to nose and sip the beautiful liquid at the launch.
Once the last drops of those 200 have been consumed, there will not be another like it. The “hunters” will move on to the next find.
Retailing at R49 900, one would have thought the father of the brand would be protective and prescriptive over how it is consumed. Not Espey, who insists that he would not judge anyone who drowned the gem in coke or lemonade.
“Taste is personal,” he said, much to the chagrin of some purists at the tasting.
So how does The Last Drop 1971 taste? Espey describes it as “balanced, not sweet, not peaty”. You can put all sorts of superlatives and refined words to it, but the one that jumped into my mind upon sipping was ‘stunning’.
Espey and Jago have been instrumental in the creation of elite blends such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Chivas Regal 18-year-old, so they are great believers in blended whisky.
“The heart of whisky is the blend,” Espey said, a sentiment that would send single malt adherents into
But who are we to talk? This man is the founder of the Keepers of the Quaich, the elite club of whisky connoisseurs. You can join only by invitation and if you earned an OBE for services to the whisky industry.
Now I must get in touch with that guy who sent me an email asking for my banking details so he can deposit my late distant uncle’s fortunes into it. There’s a purchase to be made.