Three distilleries got the distinction of being “royal”. You’d think that that would be a guarantee of longevity for a business, but it isn’t.
Glenury Royal was located in the town of Stonehaven in the Eastern Highlands, south of Aberdeen and near other closed distilleries such as Glenesk, Lochside and North Port, in the vicinity of Fettercairn and Glencadam.
Glenury Royal’s beginnings in 1825 are steeped in disasters, after being founded by the very eccentric Captain Robert Barclay Allardyce, Laird of Ury and member of Parliament (which might explain the “Royal” designation granted by King William IV, who also gave Brackla Distillery a royal warrent, making it the second “Royal” in 1835 (And at one point all three “Royal” distilleries were in the portfolios of companies that today make up Diageo). Very soon after beginning operations in 1825, the distillery’s kiln, grain loft and malting barn burned down and just a few weeks later one of the workers, James Clark, fell into the boiler and lost his life. But from these inauspicious beginnings, Glenury Royal kept going, in different hands and with the obligatory silent periods here and there, until coming under DCL ownership in 1953. By the mid 1960s, the distillery was being refurbished and capacity doubled by installing another pair of stills, which raises a question as to the reason the distillery was laid to rest less than two decades later. With the opening of the nearby Glenesk Maltings (see my review of the 1969 Glenesk bottled to commemorate the opening of the Maltings here), floor malting were stopped at Glenury Royal.
There are very few bottlings of Glenury Royal around (probably one of the reasons for its closure, as the blends could probably manage without its malt), with only three expressions bottled as a UD Rare Malts Selection (a 1970 bottled twice – as a 28 year old in 1998 and a 29 year old in 1999, and a 1971 bottled as a 23 year old in 1995) and four expressions were released in the Annual Special Releases from Diageo: Vintage 1953 released in 2003 as a 50 year old, 1968 released in 2005 at 36 and two vintage 1970, released in 2007 at 36 years old and in 2011 at 40 years old.
We tasted the 36 year old 1970 vintage at the `Gone But Never Forgotten’ tasting. This dram is a dessert bomb on the nose, and had the palate delivered that in the sip, this could have been the top dram in the tasting, and a worthy cause to break a savings account.
Glenury Royal 36, Vintage 1978 (57.6% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Amber, tiny legs coming off in droplets from a rather sturdy necklace.
Nose: Vanilla custard, nutmeg, coffee with milk, wood spice, green apples, baking cinnamon buns and notes of wet green moss.
Palate: Old sherry, leather, very spicy, notes of sourness. It comes on harsh, and needs some water. Then you get nuttiness, spice and dried fruit, especially apricot leather with a date rolled up around it.
Linger: Very dry with leather. Spice in the back of the throat with notes of cinnamon. The finish is long and really dry.
As I mentioned, had the palate delivered the dessert cart promised on the nose, this could have easily been the top dram in this tasting. This is an intricate and complex dram, but the harshness on the palate and the lack of consistency with the nose detracts from the total balance. I’m curious to know if other expressions of Glenury Royal exhibit this dessert cart, and if any of them actually follow through on it. If you find one that does, don’t leave it in the shop….