Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Whisky Review Vol. II number 2: Glenrothes

Founded in 1879, (exactly a century before the year of my birth), Glenrothes produces some of the finest single malt whiskies around. The distillery is located in the Speyside town of Rothes, which is also home to Glen Grant, Speyburn, Glen Spey and Caperdonich. Long known amongst master distillers as a source of terrific blending whisky, Speyside distilleries eventually struck out on their own and began bottling their own single malts, a trend which Glenrothes would follow and eventually, with some help from famed London wine merchant Berry Brothers & Rudd, further refine by producing vintage dated single malts. Unlike other houses who seek a consistent product for each level of aged single malt (10 year, 15 year, 18 year, etc), Glenrothes chose to highlight the variations which distinguish the best vintages. A master distiller checks the barrels' progress, and when he feels they are ready, they are bottled and then released. As in the case of port and champagne, not every vintage is declared.

Wood plays a pivotal role in producing a single malt's characteristic flavors. Oak is preferred, usually in the form of a used sherry or bourbon cask (it is now popular to use wine barrels from particularly well-known producers, but that is a relatively recent phenomenon). Glenrothes uses mainly oloroso sherry casks. More expensive than Bourbon, but a key element in producing the sort of rich, sweet flavors and velvety mouthfeel you get in the best Highland and Speyside single malts.

Glenrothes Select Reserve Single Malt Whisky

This would be the equivalent of a 10 year. Very classic Glenrothes, with a round texture, fairly rich, malty character on the mid-palate, and a mellow, balanced character. Just a wonderful house single malt, and a terrific introduction to the joys of Speyside whisky.

1985 Glenrothes Distillery Bottle Single Malt Whisky

Of the dozens of whiskies I have tasted over the past year or so, this one stands out and just might be my favorite. Originally release in 1997, this was recently re-released after some additional time in cask. It has the intensity of flavor and presence that only long, careful cask aging lends a spirit. Toffee, candied orange, vanilla, and spices are all there, as well as a gently floral finish and that impeccable Glenrothes balance. I don't use the word value and $100 together often when describing a bottle of anything, but this is absolutely a value and one to contemplate on your own or in the company of a few close friends.

Until the next chapter in dram-ology, be well, and don't forget your single malts!

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