Glenisla 1977 – Rarest of the Rare, Weirdest of the Weird

But you’ve never heard of Glenisla, and when you checked the closed distilleries section in your ‘Malt Whisky Yearbook’ you found nothing. So what is this and how did it get to a bottle?

The story is this: Glen Keith is one of Chivas Brother’s most important distilleries, and while not officially bottled, is quite well known. With interesting (and mostly excellent) bottlings out by independent bottlers, Signatory definitely leading the way with bottling that distillery. Here and there, you’ll even come across a peated version of Glen Keith – which brings us to Glenisla.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Chivas Bros., both under Seagram’s and under Pernod Ricard, are looking to innovate and Glen Keith, located right behind Strathisla, is the group’s secret laboratory, if I’m to use Malt Maniac Martine Nouet’s term for it, although it was mothballed between 1999 and 2013. Glenisla malt is one of those experiments, and a strange one it is. It appears that Chivas was experimenting with changing the water used for distillation, infusing the water with peat (from the Isle of Lewis, no less) and running it through the stills to concentrate the smokiness. Then, lightly peated malt was mashed with the heavily peated water, fermented and distilled.

The result is downright weird, and tastes very artificial.

The whisky produced in these 1977 experiments is extremely rare, with only seven casks bottled. This cask was bottled in 2011, and if you really want to, another was bottled in 2015 at 37 years old, and is still available.

My only question is why would you?


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Signatory Vintage Glenisla 1977, 34 Year Old, Distilled 7 July 1977, Bottled 11 November 2011, Cask 19605, Yield 274 Bottles (44.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, slow thick legs.

Nose: First hit of a compost heap or an artificial pineapple drink concentrate. It turns to apricot popsicles with green leaves and a hit of lemon. A sour note persists. After some time some smoke appears, though faintly over the fruit.

Palate: Palate has that apricot flavor, hint of honeydew melons. Hint of smokiness on the palate, but this is by no means a heavily peated whisky.

Linger: Sweet with a note of sour fruitiness. The sweetness persists for a bit leaving a parched dryness.


Weird dram, truly… The artificial flavor of apricot is the predominant (and almost only) feature, and I really can’t recommend this for anything other than the novelty. No wonder the experiment was scrapped.

I do wonder what would have happened had they experimented with wood finishes  😉

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