Sam Bronfman of Seagram’s wanted a light blend badly. He saw how successful J&B and Cutty Sark were in the US market, and wanted a piece of the action. As a premium blend, Chivas Regal was too highly positioned in the market, and Strathisla, the Chivas main distillery, has too strong a character for making a light blend, so he approached Berry Bros. & Rudd to buy Cutty Sark from the London firm. He was turned down with Hugh Rudd famously saying: “I have something you want, you have nothing I need”.
So in 1957, Seagram’s founded Glen Keith in Strathisla’s back yard to create this lighter malt for a blend. Indeed, 100 Pipers hit the market in the early 1960s, with the signature malt being produced at Glen Keith, at first even triple distilled to add to the lightness of the malt. Since Seagram’s had no Islay distilleries, Glen Keith was also used to make peated malt when other whisky couldn’t be sourced, and some of those casks made it to the single malt market as Glenisla (or Craigduff). I recently reveiewd a 1977 Glenisla (here) and found it to be rather weird.
Eventually, the distillery fell silent in 1999, but was reopened in 2012, with distillation beginning again in 2013. Obviously, none of the whisky distilled following the reopening has hit the market yet, but with everything but the stills being completely new, it would be interesting to compare with the older malts, which are rather obtainable, as there is a steady stream of vintage bottlings from Signatory.
These are two bourbon barrels distilled on October 1st, 1992.
Glen Keith 1992, 22 Year Old – Signatory Vintage – Casks 120568 and 120572, Distilled 1.10.1992, Bottled 14.1.2015, 357 Bottles (54.9% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Amber, very thin legs coming slowly off a necklace.
Nose: Honey with a lot of fruit (fresh apricot, green grapes), cut grass and freshness. Vanilla appears with hints of spices. Hint of bourbon and concentred honey comes out with water.
Palate: Toffee, honey, pepper, some stewed green apples (like in an apple pie), and a waxy feel with honey and a residual hint of cereal. .
Linger: Spice on the tongue and high in the gullet. Long linger. Good but not overly complex.
This is a great example of the quality of whisky that Glen Keith can produce.
Tasted as part of the Malt Mongers Isreal Speyside Bourbon Night event held at the Milk and Honey Distillery – Le’chaim.