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Monday, 24 April 2017

Glenrothes 25 Year Old (Signatory Vintage) Whisky Review!

Glenrothes' whiskies usually fly under my radar a little, mostly due to their official bottlings being very gentle and approachable, by design. But there have been a few independent bottlings of Glenrothes making their way to Australia lately, often bottled at cask strength, which offer a different take on the distillery's style. This 25 year old cask strength bottling from Signatory Vintage should be a perfect example!

Glenrothes (pronounced 'Glen-roth-is') was built in 1878 in the heart of Speyside, near the town of Rothes. It's actually quite a large distillery, with an annual production capacity of over 5 million litres coming from their 5 pairs of very tall stills, although the majority of production goes into blends, mainly Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark. Their malted barley is sourced from nearby Tamdhu Distillery, which has quite a large commercial-style malting facility on-site, with 10 Saladin boxes capable of holding 22 tonnes of barley each, rather than the more traditional and much smaller-scale floor maltings that you will find at a select few distilleries.

Glenrothes' official bottlings do not carry any age statements, with their 'Reserve' releases having no age statement or vintage, while the 'Vintage' releases state the year of distillation, and often the year of bottling. These are not single cask bottlings mind you, they're still vattings or marriages of different casks that were filled in the same year. And confusingly there is also a 'Vintage Reserve' bottling which does not carry an age statement or vintage. The official releases are all bottled at 40 or 43% and are of course chill filtered. The bottlings that I've tried so far have all been pleasant, but very much the gentle, light and crowd-pleasing Speyside style bottling which normally isn't my most preferred style of dram.

This whisky we're looking at here doesn't follow any of those suits, as it's a 25-year old single cask independent bottling from Signatory Vintage's Cask Strength Collection. It was distilled in 1990, and matured in an ex-bourbon hogshead (250-litre cask) for just over 25 years, before being bottled without chill filtration or added colouring at a cask strength of 52.7%. Like many of these older Signatory bottlings, it was also a bit of a bargain at around $220, and although it seems to have sold out everywhere there is a more recent bottling currently available for $210 from Signatory's Australian importer The Whisky Company, who kindly provided this sample for review, which is practically a steal for a 25-year old cask strength single malt.

Glenrothes 25-year old (Signatory Vintage), 52.7%. Speyside, Scotland.
Cask 19014, ex-bourbon hogshead, distilled 9/1990, bottled 1/2016. Natural colour, non-chill filtered. 221 bottles.

Colour: Pale gold. Hardly anything for a whisky that was aged for a quarter of a century. 

Nose: Dusty, slightly waxy sweet fruit - green apples, some citrus and banana, and slightly bitter and meaty old oak. Honeyed cereals, and some raw spirit / solvent notes. 

Texture: Medium weight, sweet but also quite raw and spirit-y.

Taste: Sweet, lots of honey and waxy sweet tropical fruit. Some citrus again, then a raw spirit kick that lasts well into the finish. 

Finish: Short. Still plenty of raw spirit, when it eventually fades we're left with some dusty pear drops, a little banana, and some of that musty & slightly meaty old oak. 

Score: 2 out of 5. 

Notes: There's no way in hell I'd have picked this as a 25-year old whisky. In fact this could almost have passed for new make spirit if not for that musty old oak note. I've had whiskies that were bottled at higher strength and a small fraction of the age that had far more character, finesse and maturity than this one did. This must have been one very tired old cask, or at the very least it just didn't have the strength to tame this spirit. A shame that this one didn't do much to redeem Glenrothes for me, I thought it had all the boxes ticked - considerably older, natural colour, non-chill filtered and cask strength. But it wasn't to be, the sum of the parts just didn't add up. Although the price is very reasonable for the age of this bottling, you're not getting quite what you might expect for a whisky of that age. 

This is honestly the only disappointment I've come across from Signatory's Cask Strength Collection so far, the rest have all been very enjoyable. In fact I'd have to say I prefer the standard official bottlings of Glenrothes to this one, despite the low strength and chill filtration. And I really didn't expect to say that going into this review. For my money, you'd be far better off saving yourself a few dollars and grabbing this one from Signatory (I've reviewed the previous version of it here). It doesn't have the same impressive age statement, but it does have quality and complexity in spades, with a healthy dose of both peat & sherry influence. A truly excellent dram that one. Then again, perhaps that more recent bottling of the Glenrothes mentioned above (which is the currently available one anyway) was more of a success than this one.