Glen Elgin 1986 – 21 Year Old First Cask (46%)

This is the story of a tasting that has left me with open questions. I sat with my friend and fellow blogger Yoav of the Whisky Gospel for an evening of tasting samples, and he whipped out a sample of a 21 year old Glen Elgin that was bottled a decade ago, in 2007. We looked for the bottle on Google, found it on the Whisky Exchange website, and assumed it’s that bottle, jotting down its details.

While preparing this post, I was looking for a picture of the bottle to post, and noticed that a picture I saw had a different cask number than the one I remembered writing down. Lo and behold, a quick search on Whiskybase showed that First Cask bottled seven Glen Elgin 1986 casks at 21 years of age (casks 2514-2518, 2520 and 2521, and I do wonder what happened to cask 2519), and I have no way of knowing which cask this was.

I am, thus, presenting to you my tasting notes on a 1986 Glen Elgin indie (not too many of those around in the first place), sans reference to the cask number. Should that information become available, I’ll obviously update.

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Just a small interesting detail about Glen Elgin, a brand almost completely obscure outside malthead circles, is that together with Lagavulin, it formed the basis of the White Horse blend, and was probably saved in the 1983-85 distillery purges by that fact, just like Lagavulin. The malt is known for its robust fruitiness, and that’s what it contributes to the blend. By the way, the Diageo distillery license is still held by White Horse Distillers.

This distillery was Charles Doig’s last distillery design, and when the distillery opened in 1902 he famously lamented it as the last distillery to be built in Scotland for 50 years. He was almost on the money, as the next distillery to open was Tullibardine in 1949. If you’re looking at a picture of the distillery and wondering why Doig, known for his pagodas, didn’t put one in Glen Elgin, well, he did. It was dismantled in a 1964 refurbishment of the distillery. Another feature worth noting is the use of worm tub condensers (a practice that is curiously found almost exclusively in Diageo distilleries, and in five of the six original Classic Malts).

So how’s the whisky?

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First Cask Glen Elgin 1986, 21 Year Old (46% NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, thin legs run down very slowly.

Nose: Gentle on the nose, honeysuckle, lemon and fresh green apples. Hint of cereal and warm spices. Vanilla and oak join in to give it some age effect. After a while, some mineral cleanliness comes out.

Palate: Spice on the first attack, with quite a bit pepper and cinnamon, with a hint of lemon.

Linger: Sharp peppery spice with a hint of lemon. The spice stays all around the mouth for a long time.


This is an interesting Glen Elgin. On the one hand, the age goes well on it, on the other hand it hasn’t lost its kick.

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