Feature: The Last Drop
The concept of ‘work’ is a funny one; it is a necessity for most and funds what we really want to do in our spare time. For some however, the line between ‘work’ and ‘play’ becomes more than a little blurred and they find themselves earning their keep doing something they are so passionate about it hardly seems like work at all. My encounters with people in the drinks industry have led me to conclude that this is a business that hosts more than its fair share of such individuals and one such chap goes by the name of Tom Jago.
Tom grew up in Cornwall and set out on his working life in advertising. It wasn’t long before he was snapped up by the drinks company Gilbey’s (later to become Diageo) and the remainder of his career reads like a who’s who of the big name drinks companies. Finishing up at Seagram’s in 1998, Tom spent much of his illustrious career developing new products; something it turns out he is rather good at. Perhaps his biggest successes, and certainly most well known, was in the creation of Baileys and Malibu. Who would have thought that a chap from Cornwall would be responsible for an Irish Cream and a Caribbean coconut rum! When asked which product he would most liked to have invented he cites Babycham. It’s an interesting choice and not one I would have expected from someone who has such a passion for, how can I say this politely, ‘quality’ spirits. His explanation however makes perfect sense as this was perhaps the first product designed to appeal and cater for the female market at a time when most brands had forgotten that only half the population were male! Tom isn’t just a guy with a good palate, he’s also a shrewd businessman who knows the market.
If Tom’s professional career was dominated by success in the mass market arena, he has taken an altogether different tack during his retirement. Tom and his colleagues James Espey and Peter Fleck went about searching for hidden away casks of something a little bit special that they could bottle and market themselves. What they discovered was a truly unique small parcel of three sherry casks containing just 1,347 bottles of Scotch whisky. Originally blended from approximately 70 different malts and a dozen or so grain whisky’s as a 12 year old in 1972, it was 50yrs old by the time Tom and co came to bottle it. Launched in 2008 under the name of “The Last Drop” for approx £1,200 per bottle, this is a whisky that has since developed an iconic status for being one of the most wondrous ever released. My tasting notes won’t do it justice by I can vouch for the accuracy of these notes by the venerable Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible;
Aroma – “Positively Jurassic yet such is the balance between the sweeter honeycomb and still fertile oak, you can barely bring your nose from the glass. The oak is as old as an ancient shore-line tree worn smooth by a million waves. The notes are 99.9% bourbony….”
Taste – “Oh my gosh…. this blended Scotch has transmogrified into the finest bourbon you can imagine…… The intensity of the liquorice and honey is sublime, as are the lime an kumquat notes; the thinned out Demerara notes ensure just the right degree of sweetness…. outright perfection….”
Finish – “Miraculously there is not a single hint of bitterness though a firmness has developed which again points towards a significant grain contribution. Though the complexity may have lessened, there is no let up in overall quality. A touch drier, a hint of spice, a delicious layer of sweetened vanilla….”
Balance – “A freak whisky at it’s very best”
Suffice to say, this whisky is genuinely incredible and it was a privilege to sample such an astonishingly wondrous product. Some may consider shelling out £1,200 on a single bottle of whisky a tad vulgar, and indeed Tom himself admits that some may find it so. Personally, if I had the money I’d buy two. Or maybe three!
But the story doesn’t end there! One of the problems of releasing such a limited supply of whisky is that one day it will surely all be gone. Tom isn’t a man to risk having nothing to do and so after what I can only imagine was the trip of a lifetime scouring the storerooms of distilleries in Cognac, Tom and co. came across another small parcel that was worthy of being branded The Last Drop. The cognac had spent 60yrs in barrels before being discovered and such was the extent of the evaporation during this time that it needed to be bottled quickly for fear that it would drop below the legal minimum of 40% abv to be classed as a cognac. Like the whisky, it is a most exquisite product and its taste is the stuff of dreams. Again, I shall refer to the wise words of Jim Murray for a thorough set of tasting notes, and am delighted to be able to personally vouch for their accuracy.
Aroma – “The unmistakable signs of great yet controlled age. Fruits are in abundance, a paste of pears and figs patrolling the sweeter borders, underpinned by a drier theme of crushed grape pips. The oak is omnipresent but never for a moment opaque and at times wanders around the glass thrusting gently, almost teasingly, into the fruitier aspects.”
Taste – “There is a bite, a nip, a scratching of the tastebuds which sits attractively with the rounder, lightly oiled fruits which caress. Soon the oak makes a spicy entry, always light and seasoning the drier notes rather than attempting to take up the foreground.”
Finish – “As dry as one might expect from a Cognac of such obvious antiquity and every bit as sophisticated and balanced as one might have the audacity to pray for. The oaky coca on the finale is as inevitable as it is charming.”
Balance – “Only one spirit I have come across sports such an abundance of ripe fruit.”