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A helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon for the ultimate Scotch tasting

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Quality booze and the Grand Canyon—talk about the great outdoors.

The Ultimate Whisky Experience deserves the ultimate opening act. So on Wednesday afternoon, before the third annual Nth Ultimate Whisky Experience at the Wynn, founder Mahesh Patel whisked 20 hardcore whiskey enthusiasts away to the Grand Canyon’s western rim for a once-in-a-lifetime tasting.

After we sampled Glenfiddich 12-, 15- and 18-year varieties at the Strip headquarters of Maverick Helicopter, we were sent on a 45-minute helicopter ride to the nearby natural wonder. It was there that Glenfiddich brand ambassadors Ian Millar and Mitch Bechard unveiled the trio of spirits our troupe had traveled to taste.

As a Scotsman is apt to do, the unequivocally affable Millar waxed about the history of the distillery and how founder William Grant, looking down from heaven above, couldn’t have imagined a grander stage for a tasting of this nature.

The sampling began with a 30-year that was simply sublime with nary a bit of heat. Essentially a refinement of the more common 18-year, it was a prime example of the quality that has made the Glenfiddich distillery famous. Next, the 40-year was strangely potpourri-esque and unlike any of the evening’s other offerings. Without the bottle, one would be challenged to identify it as a Glenfiddich product.

But the pièce de résistance was the 50-year, with origins dating back even further. The bottle for our tasting was actually a 1991 bottling of a mixture of casks from 1937 to 1939. Millar warned that this whiskey would carry a hint more smoke than any other Glenfiddich, and to explain it, he recounted the spirit’s story.

Glenfiddich has traditionally used charcoal for roasting its malt; however, in the late 1930s with Hitler marching through Europe, charcoal was rationed in support of the war effort, requiring the use of peat instead. The lingering smoke left on the tongue from a dram of the 50-year was a reminder of the world’s tumultuous history, and sipping it alongside a natural representation of the Earth’s history was a memorable, humbling experience.

Finding the Glenfiddich 50-year can be difficult—it’s been known to sell for upwards of $16,000 a bottle—but if you want to try the whiskey yourself, it’s available at the Cosmopolitan’s Talon Room for a cool $1,500 a dram. It may not be cheap, but one-of-a-kind experiences rarely are.

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Jim Begley

Jim Begley is an avid food lover who began writing about his Las Vegas dining adventures to defray his obscene ...

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