WhiskyReviews.net is a free service and always will be. However, if you would like to support the author you can do so by subscribing for just £1 per month. Alternatively, you can make a one-off donation of your choice. Thank you for your support.
Lady of the Glen is an independent bottler of Scotch whisky. Established in 2012 by Gregor Hannah, the company takes its name from the legend of the Green Lady of Stirling Castle.
The old story tells of a young Highland girl in the service of Mary, Queen of Scots. Blessed, some would say cursed, with the second sight, the young girl was haunted by visions of a fire in the Queen’s bedchamber. She took it upon herself to guard the monarch as she slept. Sadly, the young lass couldn’t stay awake. As she dozed, she knocked over a candle, setting the room alight. The Queen herself managed to escape but the servant girl wasn’t so fortunate. It is said that her spirit still roams the castle to this day, walking the halls and rattling doors and windows.
Lady of the Glen sources casks of whisky from all over Scotland and bottles at cask strength, without filtering or colouring.
This is Part 1 of a three part review on some of the Lady of the Glen’s recent bottlings.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the samples in this article free of charge. As always, I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the whisky and the value for money it represents.
Blair Athol 2011 10-year-old Single Malt
Blair Athol stands on the outskirts of the town of Pitlochry. The distillery produces spirit for use in Diageo’s blended Scotch brands, with official bottlings limited to a single 12-year-old Flora & Fauna release.
Matured for a decade in a single hogshead, this Blair Athol single malt is bottled at 57.6% and retails at £65.95.
Smell: Creamy vanilla with a touch of coconut. Shortbread and fresh fruit. Lemon and a touch of lime. Some fresh oak. Malty with grist and flour.
Taste: Quite an intense arrival. There’s oak and citrus notes. Then some black pepper. Honey. A little bit of coffee. The addition of water brought forth some fresh fruits. Apples and pears, with lemon and even grapes. Dry, oaky finish.
Thoughts: The pricing seems around average for a single cask bottling of this age. It’s also worth noting that Blair Athol isn’t a malt that appears in this format too often, which makes the release all the more appealing.
In many ways this is a typical Highland malt but at cask strength there’s a robustness that heightens it. It’s more intense and lingers longer on the palate than you’d perhaps expect. Compared to other releases in the batch, this one almost appears rather pedestrian on paper but the complexity of the spirit, allowed to shine without being overpowered by a dominant cask, elevates it beyond run-of-the-mill single malt whisky.
Port Dundas 2004 17-year-old Single Grain
Port Dundas was a grain distillery in the north of Glasgow. It closed in 2010 and was demolished a year later. As the distillery closed fairly recently, there is still a fair amount of stock remaining. Independently bottled versions are not uncommon.
Matured in a refill butt, it was finished with Oloroso and bottled at 58.7%. It retails at £90.
Smell: The combination of creamy single grain works wonderfully well with the oloroso. There’s the dried fruit notes you’d expect from the sherry, along with some woody cinnamon but they mingle with creamy cereal notes. There’s a touch of coconut and as always, the mature grain whisky reminds me of creme brulee.
Taste: The sherry makes its presence felt immediately with lots of those typical raisin and sultana notes. There’s also some dark chocolate and cinnamon. The finish is oaky with currants. Once a decent splash of water has been added you get some of the grain character coming through with custard and vanilla. Some burnt sugar caramel, as well.
Thoughts: In the past I’ve complained about there being too many single grains of similar age from the same type of cask type but in recent weeks I’ve encountered some excellent variety in this category from Watt Whisky, Murray McDavid and now, Lady of the Glen. Long may that continue.
17 years isn’t all that old for a single grain but there’s a lot of cask impact here. The character of the spirit is still there but it’s the cask doing most of the work where the flavour is concerned. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, because the end result is a Port Dundas that’s richer and more sumptuous than almost any other release from this distillery I can think of. £90 isn’t cheap but I like the whisky enough to pay it. Until recently, that wasn’t something I said about too many grain whiskies.
Benrinnes 2011 10-year-old single malt
Benrinnes is a Diageo-owned Speyside distillery. Like Blair Athol, its main purpose is to churn out spirit for blends. It feels like something of a shame to me, as I really enjoy the spirit and feel it would be worthy of its own single malt range. Not to worry, independent bottlings are pretty easy to come by and usually of very good quality.
This one was matured for 10 years, first in a hogshead and then finished in Oloroso sherry. Bottled at 56.5% it retails at £80.
*Before I talk about the aroma, I have to mention colour. I know that pale whisky can be just as delicious as dark whisky. That is a fact but the eye can’t fail to be drawn to the deep auburn of this single malt. It looks utterly spectacular!
Smell: Quite a fragranced Oloroso finish this time. A bit like eating raisins in a herb garden. There’s sultanas and maple syrup with prunes. Cherry too. Caramel. Brown sugar. Walnut and tobacco leaves. Some vanilla and under all that, is the meaty, almost metallic, backbone so typical of Benrinnes. With a splash of water I picked up some classic Speyside orchard fruits.
Taste: Lots of dark chocolate. Dried fruits. Tobacco leaves. Overbrewed tea. Walnut. Dry, peppery oak. Wee touch of cherry on the finish. Water tones down the spice and brings out some red berry notes.
Thoughts: Benrinnes is a wonderful single malt and it can work exceptionally well with sherry casks. We’re very much in sherry bomb territory here, so we have to hunt for the distillery character a little but that’s OK. With water the dram found a nice level of complexity under all the sherry. In any case, I’m not complaining because more than most, Benrinnes can take it. A deep, dark and delicious single malt.
£80 might a bit pricey for a 10-year-old but this kind of sherry influence doesn’t come cheap. As with the other drams reviewed here, I found the quality to be good enough to justify the price.
For more on Lady of the Glen visit here.