I picked up this old bottling at auction (distilled the year of my birth!) Let's see how it compares to the current bottling.
The colour is a pale gold. On the nose a light caramel with a wisp of wood smoke. Vanilla extract. Tobacco ash. Candy apple. Poached pear. Fruity with a nice layering of oak and tobacco. Water adds forest floor and more wood smoke. Classic Canadian.
On the palate the caramel is more predominate with red apple skins, baking spices and a touch of mint. Very creamy mouthfeel. Gets spicier with time, adding layers of orange peel and fennel. Water adds even more spice (though not hot - more like cinnamon and paprika) and a slight maltiness. Quite delicious.
The long finish is peppery with more oak, milk chocolate and a hint of grapefruit. This gives you exactly what you want from an older bottling - richness and complexity, while never trying to re-invent the wheel. How does it compare with the current Gibson's 12 Year Old? Slightly darker in colour, it has all the same notes but dialled down significantly. The palate in particular is sharper without the depth of the 1971 distillate. No big surprise - these older Canadian bottlings almost always outshine their descendents.