This week’s review focuses on an expression from the OLDEST active distillery in Scotland. Yes, we’re definitely talking about Glenturret.
While the subject of which distillery was established first will always be the subject of debate due to the proliferation of illicit stills which later became modern distilleries, it is generally accepted that Glenturret pre-dates most of the other contenders.
Glenturret distillery was established in 1775 when whisky smugglers created a small illicit farm distillery which carried the name of Hosh. The distillery remained as an illicit operation until 1818, when John Drummond became its licensee until 1837.
In the meantime, there was a distillery nearby which commenced operations in 1826 under the name of Glenturret, but it was decommissioned in 1852. That same year, John McCallum became the licensee of the distillery and held it till 1874.
In 1875, Hosh distillery officially changed its name to Glenturret and the distillery was managed by Thomas Stewart. The distillery was then taken over in 1903 by Mitchell Bros Ltd and production continued under their ownership until 1921, when the distillery was mothballed and was used only for whisky storage purposes.
Mitchell Bros Ltd was then liquidated in 1929 and the distillery was dismantled in order for the buildings to be used as storage for agricultural purposes. This continued until 1957, when James Fairlie purchaed the distillery and re-equipped it for production purposes.
The distillery then commenced production in 1959 and remained under the control of James Fairlie until 1981, when Remy Cointreau purchased it and invested in a visitor centre.
Ownership of the distillery then passed on to Highland Distillers in 1990 and it remained under their control until 1999, when a consortium known as the 1887 Company (which was a joint venture between The Edrington Group and William Grant & Sons) purchased Highland Distillers for £601 million.
Interesting fact: The 1887 Company was created for the sole purpose of purchasing Highland Distillers and while it was a joint venture between The Edrington Group and William Grant & Sons, the share was split 70-30 between the former and the latter respectively.
With Glenturret now under the control of The Edrington Group, the company proceeded to rebuild the visitor centre at a cost of £2.5 million and The Famous Grouse Experience was inaugurated in 2002.
The next shift occurred the following year, with the distillery phasing out its 12 Years Old expression and replacing it with a 10 Years Old variant, which then became the standard release.
A succession of single casks were released in 2007 and this was followed in 2013 by an 18 Years Old cask strength offering which was released as a distillery exclusive.
The distillery’s core released are composed of the following whiskies:
- Glenturret 10 Years Old
- Glenturret Sherry (a combination of American and European oak, seasoned with sherry)
- Glenturret Triple Wood (a combination of different types of bourbon and sherry matured whiskies)
- Glenturret Peated
Limited released from the distillery include:
- Glenturret 16 Years Old
- Glenturret 18 Years Old
- Glenturret 26 Years Old
- Glenturret 32 Years Old James Fairlie (the oldest distillery release to date)
- Glenturret Fly’s 16 Masters (released in the summer of 2016)
Glenturret is also the spiritual home of The Famous Grouse brand of blended Scotch whisky and part of the distillery’s production is earmarked for use in various blends, including The Famous Grouse and another Edrington brand, Cutty Sark.
In terms of equipment, the distillery sports a stainless steel open mash tun (which is the only one of its kind left in Scotland where the mash is stirred by hand and the draff has to be removed manually after mashing), 8 washbacks made of Douglas Fir with a minimum fermentation time of 48 hours and a pair of stills with vertical condensers attached.
The distillery has a production capacity of 340,000 litres of pure alcohol on an annual basis, but will be producing half of that capacity from April 2016 till March 2017. The production will then increase slightly from April 2017 to March 2018.
Interesting fact: The whiskies that are produced at the distillery are divided into two different styles. The vast majority will be unpeated spirit which will used for the creation of the Glenturret range of single malts, while the rest will be heavily peated (80 ppm) spirit which will be used for blending purposes and is known by the name of Ruadh Maor.
This week’s review focuses on an expression of Glenturret which was distilled in 2004, matured for 12 years in a first-fill sherry cask before being bottled at a cask strength abv of 57.1% by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail for Dram Full Australia.
So, let’s dive right into the review!
Glenturret 2004 12 Years Old (Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for Dram Full Australia, 57.1% abv)
Nose: Initial entry presents a nicely sherried nose, albeit one which is not sweet in a cloying sense. Unripe plums, whiffs of acetone, hints of demerara sugar and some alcoholic hints emerge early on and the nose isn’t as alcohol-forward as one would have assumed on the basis of the high abv.
Oak, prunes, nectarines, nutmeg and Christmas cake hints emerge later on and the nose is rather well-rounded. Hints of worn leather, tobacco pouch and furniture polish at the very end. (22/25)
Palate: Initial entry presents more of the well-rounded sherried notes which are once again fairly sweet without being cloying. The alcohol strength is more apparent on the palate than on the nose, but it presents itself as a nice warmth rather than a searing heat.
More unripe plums, prunes and nectarines emerge, as well as nutmeg, cloves and a distant hint of demerara sugar and cigar smoke. Oaky and warming due to the wood spices and there is a touch of meatiness to this dram which is accentuated by the worn leather and tobacco pouch notes. Christmas cake hints emerge late on. (21/25)
Finish: Medium on the finish, with the palate getting increasingly dry and oaky and there being vestigial traces of the unripe plums and worn leather. The wood spices have completely faded by the time the finish comes around though. (18/25)
Balance: A fairly well-balanced dram which is not a sherry bomb, but exhibits enough of a sherried character to present itself as an intriguing expression. The mouthfeel is initially oily but becomes increasingly dry with time. Quite an enjoyable and nicely rounded dram. (21/25)
This expression of Glenturret is rather different from the distillery style, but it is a really nice representation of what the distillery is capable of. As there were only 90 bottles of this expression released, it can safely be said that it has been sold out and most of it has in fact been opened and drunk from what I have gathered.
However, if you are in a bar in Australia and do spot a bottle of it on the wall, please do not hesitate to order a dram and sample it as it is a rather good expression.
Until the next review, have a great week.
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