There is a fundamental difference between single malt whisky for blending and whisky for drinking, and I think Glenrothes embodies it in their “regular” single malts. They’re ordinary. Not bad whisky, just rather ordinary. On the other hand, for blenders, this single malt is a delight, designated “top class” for blending. Indeed, it plays a major role both in Edrington’s Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark blends. Cutty Sark was owned by Berry Bros. & Rudd in London, and in 2010 was sold to closely allied trading partner Edrington, with this deal, the Glenrothes single malt brand (though not the distillery!) was sold to Berry Bros. & Rudd, who are now distributing the single malts. Incidentally, the single malts comprise a mere 2% of the distillery’s impressive annual output of over 5 million liters.
The distillery has some 10 different NAS whiskies in “The Reserves”, from the basic Select Reserve, to the American Oak ex bourbon matured Alba Reserve and the European oak matured Robur Reserve and others, all the way up to the Oldest Reserve, a 30+ year old NAS travel retail expression . I must admit that my personal experience with the “Reserves” was somewhat reserved, if you’ll forgive the pun. Drinkable, yet unremarkable, and each would make a great introduction to single malt whisky to the uninitiated. The “Vintages” series bottles casks from different vintages, and most those I tasted (1978, 1991, 1992, 1995) being pretty close to each other: nice, nutty, caramel and vanilla with some sherry notes. Again, decent whiskys, but not anything exciting. The operative word here is pleasant….
The third line of bottlings is the “Special Releases and Extraordinary Casks” which include single barrels and ancient vintages (like my 1969 birth year, two 1979 sherry bombs that look quite enticing and some others), alas, I have not had a chance to taste any of them.
Thus, I have yet to review a Glenrothes on this blog in close to 300 posts (this is post 272, by the way). All that is obviously about to change thanks to fellow blogger Thijs Klaverstijn, of the excellent Words of Whisky blog, who sent me a single cask bottling insisting that it will change everything I think about the distillery, followed tormorrow by my friend and bona fide whisky geek Assaf Erel who got an Adelphi bottling of a young single sherry cask matured Glenrothes very worthy of being reviewed. Both prove that the distillery can produce really interesting whisky. This also forms a continuous flow with yesterday’s Wilson and Morgan Cragganmore, followed by today’s W&M Glenrothes.
You’ll note that there is not all that much information about the barrels and such, but we’ll go with what we have.
Wilson and Morgan Barrel Selection 1990-2002 Glenrothes (46% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Deep copper, slow medium legs.
Nose: Sherry, cereal/malt, sultana raisins, cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, molasses. Probably an American oak sherry cask. A few drops of water enhance the sweet sherry notes.
Palate: Sweet dried fruit, raisins, cinnamon some crushed pepper. Notes of wood spice, demerara sugar, grapfruit peel and some cooked clove. Stunning palate!
Linger: Bitter and sweet on the tongue, dryness on the inside of the cheeks, some concentrated artificial sweetener lingers on.
What can I say, Thijs, you were right! This dram is simply beautiful!
It pains me to see the night to day difference between this expression to the official bottlings. I really wish the guys at Edrington/Berry Bros got some of this stuff out under their own label!
More stunning stuff out of Glenrothes to follow tomorrow….