Lady of the Glen Single Casks Part 2

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Back in July I was sent an impressive package of samples from independent bottler, Lady of the Glen. With a total of 10 samples included, I was faced with two choices. Cherry-pick the most interesting of them or spread the review over a few posts. Quite frankly, it would have been near impossible to narrow down the choices so I opted for the latter.

Lady of the Glen are independent bottlers of Scotch whisky. They source casks from all over the country and bottle them at cask strength, without filtering or colouring.

This is part 2 of my look at Lady of the Glen’s latest releases. For part 1 visit here.

*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.

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Fettercairn 2008 12-year-old Single Malt

Fettercairn distillery is owned by Whyte & Mackay. Its pot stills are equipped with unique cooling rings that dowse the neck with cold water, increasing reflux within the still. The single malt brand has struggled to develop a name for itself over the years with independent bottlings often offering the best examples of the distillery’s capabilities.

This single malt spent the entirety of its 12 years in a single first-fill bourbon barrel. It is bottled at 57.5% and retails at £80.

Smell: Lots of malty cereal notes to begin with. Muesli and oatcakes. Runny honey. Toffee. Some apple and pear. Grape. Citrus and oak.

Taste: Lovely texture as it arrives on the palate. Like thick caramel. Gentle warmth of woody spice. Then honey and apples. Slight confectionery note before a dry, oaky finish.

Thoughts: This actually reminds me of the official 12-year-old bottling, except there’s a bit more body and intensity here, thanks to its natural cask strength. There’s good weight, which really helps to deliver the flavour and I enjoy the wee soft hit of spice that lingers into the finish. A good whisky, in other words, and a fine example of a Highland malt but does it excite me enough to warrant paying £80 for it? I’m not so sure. Decent quality, though.

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Bunnahabhain 2010 11-year-old Single Malt

Bunnahabhain is the most northerly distillery on the isle of Islay. Its malt has often been advertised as the softer side of Islay as most of the spirit is made from unpeated barley. However, peated versions are becoming more and more common and their quality can be excellent.

This Lady of the Glen offering was matured in a first fill sherry butt and bottled at 58.9%. It retails for £125.

Smell: There’s quite a sulphury sherry note when you first put your nose into the glass. Beyond that there’s raisins and syrup and cherry. Lots of winter spices like cinnamon and ginger. Star anise. Orange and apricot. Plum.

Taste: Honey arrival then Raisins and sultanas. Toffee apples. Vanilla. Walnut. More of the winter spices and lots and lots of dark chocolate. A touch of charcoal on the finish.

Thoughts: This one had a wonderfully complex nose and I’m not sure if the palate quite lived up to that promise, at least to begin with. When I found that dark chocolate note I struggled to get passed it. A splash of water from the trusty jug improved the balance though and it brought out more of the honeyed malty character that was hiding under the sherry. I found the whole experience better for it and when I revisited the dram some time later it had become really quite exceptional.

I enjoyed this one. The price is challenging, I admit, but it’s a wonderful, if slightly grouchy, single malt. In any case, I’m not even sure we stand with pricing now. I’ve happily paid a similar amount for a 5-year-old Octomore, so why not an 11-year-old, single cask Bunnahabhain? As always, our taste buds are the only reliable gauge. Personally, I think, yes, I would pay the price for this one but I completely understand that it might be a step too far for others.

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Glen Grant 1998 23-year-old Single Malt

When I unwrapped the package from Lady of the Glen I photographed the samples and posted it on instagram. Then, when I went to dispose of the packaging I realised I had missed one. There, blanketed in bubble wrap was a 23-year-old Glen Grant. What a horror it would have been had I binned it without realising!

Glen Grant is an Italian-owned distillery in the heart of the Speyside region. Official bottlings are of a decent quality but tend to be low strength. Here, Lady of the Glen offer something far more appealing.

Matured in a refill butt before being finished in oloroso. It retails for £160.

Smell: I know appearances shouldn’t matter but you can’t help but get excited by that mahogany hue. Especially when you know it’s 100% natural. On the nose there’s prunes and maple syrup. Dark chocolate and coffee. Currants. Cinnamon. Orange. Old leather.

Taste: Lively arrival. Raisins and sultanas. Maple syrup. Cherry and cranberry. Walnut. Tobacco. Lots of oak tannins toward the finish. Dry, old oak.

Thoughts: Price wise, Glen Grant is a peculiar creature. The official bottling range starts in the bargain basement but older bottlings sell for a hefty old sum. In fairness, the same could probably be said for most brands. A quick search around the main online retailers told me that an asking price of £160 was probably around average for a Grant of this age. The oloroso finish may actually tilt things in its favour, in terms of value for money.

In terms of weight, the malt is actually quite delicate but the depth of the sherry influence is sublime and it all feels really, sophisticated, for want of a better word. It’s not going to be for everyone at this price, but I can’t see anyone being disappointed by it. A delicate, refined old malt whisky meets sumptuous sherry. Delicious.

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For more on Lady of the Glen visit here.

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