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History of Glen Moray
Glen Moray began life as the ‘Elgin West Brewery’ on the banks of the River Lossie in the year 1830. In 1897, owners Robert Thorne & Sons sought to capitalise on the whisky boom and converted the site into a distillery. Handwritten ledgers which are still onsite today confirm that the first spirit run took place on September the 13th 1897.
Thorne & Sons’ timing was a little off, however. The early 20th century saw an industry wide downturn, exacerbated by the reckless antics of the Pattison brothers. Thorne & Sons were able to weather the storm initially, but when a devastating fire destroyed much of their other distillery at Aberlour, they were forced to concentrate their efforts on saving their most prized asset and Glen Moray soon fell into neglect. The plant was eventually closed in 1910.
Glen Moray lay silent for years until Macdonald Muir, owner of Glenmorangie, purchased the site in the early 1920s. The distillery soon resumed production and in 1924 the new owner bottled an 1893 vintage, 30 year old single malt. This was highly unusual at a time when most single malts were little more than a few years old and the vast majority of spirit went straight into blends.
The distillery was expanded in 1958 when the owners purchased the adjoining Gallowcrook Farm. A new still-house was constructed and a saladin box was added, automating the malting process and freeing up the vast amount of space previously required for the malting floor.
Macdonald Muir changed its name to Glenmorangie plc in 1996. Under their ownership, Glen Moray eventually came to be seen as a budget single malt, operating in the same price bracket as many blends. As a result, the brand began to earn a less than favourable reputation but in 2008, Glen Moray was acquired by French distiller, La Martiniquaise and while the ‘Elgin Classic‘ range continues to inhabit the lower end of the market, the brand has been able to recover a degree of appreciation amongst whisky connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.
The Glen Moray malt is an adaptable spirit, working well in an array of different cask types. In 1999, it became one of the first commercially available malts to have been matured in white wine casks with both Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay versions on the market. In this review, however, I will be looking away from the distillery’s official bottlings and returning instead to the stocks of our old friends at Douglas Laing of Glasgow.
Under their Old Particular label, Douglas Laing have bottled this Glen Moray at 10 years of age, having spent the entirety of its maturation in a refill sherry butt. Bottled at a whopping 66.7% alcohol by volume, it retails at £67 in the UK.
Smell: Burnt Caramel, Blackcurrant, Maple Syrup & Prune Juice, Raisin & Sultana, Raspberry Jam and Sticky Toffee Pudding. Burnt Toast and Charred Oak.
Taste: Blueberry & Raspberry Jam, Orange Liqueur. Chocolate Raisins, Maple Syrup and Prunes with Peppery Oak at the finish. Arrival becomes even juicier with a splash of water.
Thoughts: I first tasted this malt last month at the National Whisky Festival in Glasgow. When I asked how much a bottle was, I expected the answer to be close to £100, such was the quality of the dram. So while £67 may not exactly be cheap, it is still a very acceptable price for a whisky of this standard.
I try to spread my coverage as much as I can on this site yet I am aware that Douglas Laing have featured quite heavily of late. Is it really any wonder though, given the quality of their output?
I can honestly say this Glen Moray is as good as anything I’ve tasted in the last 12 months. Should a bottle happen to cross your path, please take my advice and grab it while you can – before it disappears for ever. Not only is it a great advert for independent bottlers, this big old sherry bomb is a fine flag-bearer for Scotch single malt whisky in general.