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The 28th of December 1879 saw much of Scotland engulfed by a terrible storm. High winds battered the land, coming to a head on the east coast. That night, the force of the storm would expose serious flaws in the design of the Tay bridge. Its designer, Sir Thomas Bouche, had failed to take account of the effect high winds would have on the construction and when the train from Wormit attempted to cross the already straining structure, the whole bridge collapsed, resulting in the tragic death of all 75 people on board.
Meanwhile, approximately 120 miles north in the village of Rothes a small Distillery was running spirit for the very first time. Construction of the Glenrothes distillery had begun in 1878 but production didn’t commence until the following year on the same day as one of the worst disasters the country had ever seen.
Many saw this as a bad omen for the distillery’s future and it would be accurate to say that Glenrothes has had its fair share of bad luck over the years, including suffering the devastating consequences of fire on more than one occasion.
One of these incidents took place in 1922. A hapless distillery worker who was repairing a leaky cask in the warehouse accidentally knocked over a candle. The whole building was soon ablaze. The warehouse was completely destroyed, resulting in the loss of 2,500 casks – around 200,000 gallons of whisky. Apparently, people from miles around descended upon the scene in order to help themselves to the whisky that trickled down the street.
Luckily, Glenrothes’ fortunes seem to have improved since then. Shortly after the fire of ’22, the distillery began a long-running relationship with London wine and spirits retailer Berry Bros & Rudd, which would eventually lead to Berry’s owning and marketing the Glenrothes Single Malt brand. This agreement just recently came to an end with the announcement in early 2017 that the brand would return to distillery owners, Edrington.
What this will mean for the range remains to be seen but for now, Glenrothes continues to be bottled as a selection of vintages and reserves. The current core range is made up of the Vintage Reserve, Bourbon Cask Reserve and Sherry Cask Reserve along with regular vintage releases.
Smell: Unsurprisingly, the nose offers up rich Sherry notes of Raisins & Sultana’s, Fig and Dark Chocolate. There’s also a touch of Burnt Toast and Brown Sugar with Vanilla and even Custard.
Taste: Orange and Caramel with Chocolate Raisins and Christmas Cake along with a generous helping of Ginger.
Thoughts: You could be forgiven for thinking that £55 is a little bit steep for a no-age-statement single malt, bottled at 43%. In fairness, though, sherry casks mean higher production costs. There’s also decent quality on offer here and while I would normally advocate for a higher bottling strength, this malt seemed to perform pretty well as it is. There’s no need for water, simply pour, sip and enjoy. I used to think Glenrothes was a little on the light side to really suit sherry maturation but it works pretty well here so I’m happy to admit an error there. This isn’t a sherry bomb, by the way, it’s not as intense as that, but the sherry influence is dominant and the resulting dram is a satisfying wee sipper.