Whisky Review #57: Glenrothes Oldest Reserve

This week’s review focuses on a whisky from a distillery that has been getting a fair bit of attention over the last few years. Glenrothes distillery may have been founded in 1878, but the whiskies which it has been producing has only been seen more frequently since the turn of the millennium.

This should come as no surprise as Glenrothes functions first and foremost as a supplier of malt whisky for blends and the distillery supplies two of the larger blends in the market, namely Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse.

That the distillery supplies the bulk of its production to these two blends should also come as no surprise as both blended whisky brands as well as the distillery are owned by the same conglomerate, The Edrington Group (who we all know are also the owners of Highland Park and The Macallan distilleries).

Glenrothes operates under a rather unusual structure though, which sets it apart from most distilleries in Scotland. While the distillery itself is owned by Edrington and 98% of the annual production is earmarked for incorporation into the various blends, the Glenrothes brand itself is owned by independent bottlers, Berry Bros & Rudd and they bottle the remaining 2% of production as Glenrothes single malt whisky.

The distillery is also one of only a handful out there which chooses to label their whiskies according to the vintage (or year of distillation) rather than affix an age statement on the bottles. Another distillery which follows this rather unusual convention would be Balblair.

Initially, the distillery had an annual production capacity of approximately 3 million litres, but when Edrington sold Tamdhu distillery to Ian MacLeod Distillers in 2011, they had to find a way to make up for the loss in production capacity and therefore decided to increase the yield at Glenrothes to 5.6 million litres of pure alcohol on an annual basis.

This particular review focuses on the Glenrothes Oldest Reserve, which was created as a result of a vatting of casks from 1967, 1972, 1977, 1979 and 1980 and matured for a period of at least 30 years. It is also a Travel Retail Exclusive and can be found in selected airports around the world.

So, let’s get on with the review!

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Glenrothes Oldest Reserve

Glenrothes Oldest Reserve (43% abv)

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: Vanilla, cinnamon and a pronounced oaky note on initial entry, with fresh bourbon, butter menthol sweets and a slight hint of alcohol lingering in the background. Quite a well rounded nose with just a hint of acetone. (20/25)

Palate: Smooth, well rounded and slightly fruity, with citrus fruits, apricot and dried raisins particularly apparent. A melange of wood spices including cinnamon and aniseed also emerge after some time and there is just the tiniest hint of peat lingering in the background.

The acetone note which was detected on the nose doesn’t show up on the palate and there is a soft maltiness to this dram as well as a small serving of barley sugar and butter menthol sweets. (20/25)

Finish: Medium in length and becomes increasingly woody towards the end, with just a small trace of the fruit and spice notes. (18/25)

Balance: A sophisticated, well rounded and well balanced dram, but it also seems to be lacking complexity. Feels rather underpowered and would definitely have benefitted from a higher alcohol strength in my opinion.

Not a bad dram by any stretch of the imagination, but also not particularly memorable. (18/25)

Rating: 76/100

I admit that I was fairly disappointed with this dram as I expected a reasonable level of complexity from it considering that it was a vatting of vintages from between 1967 and 1980.

As weird as this may sound, I found it to be a bit too smooth to have showcased a good enough level of complexity to have warranted a higher rating. That being said, it is not a bad dram, just not spectacular.

However, I stress that this is just my opinion and that it is not meant to be taken as a point of reference if you are looking to purchase this expression. I would definitely recommend that you sample it prior to purchasing in order to make an informed decision as to whether it would be to your preference.

Until the next review, have a great week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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