WHISKY REVIEWS, NEWS, HISTORY & FOLKLORE
A trio of casks…
Lady of the Glen is an independent bottling label owned by Hannah Whisky Merchants. Brand Ambassador, Paul McKendrick, very kindly sent me some samples recently and I’ve been slowly working my way through them. Rather than review them all at once, however, I decided to arrange them into smaller groups. The three featured in today’s review, were some of the first to catch my eye when I looked through the parcel. Normally I like to focus on the affordable side of the whisky industry but the drams covered here stray towards the dreaded premium end. Still, even those of us on a tight budget like to treat ourselves from time to time and it’s nice to know what’s out there.
Glenrothes 27-year-old Single Malt
Glenrothes is an Edrington-owned Speyside distillery. Next to the company’s flagship brands like Macallan and Highland Park, the Glenrothes malt rarely finds itself in the spotlight and official bottlings, whilst not terrible, lack that certain something. For that reason, independent bottlings, like this Lady of the Glen offering, are often the best way to sample the spirit. Bottled at 51% abv.
Smell: Nutty and sweet. Dunnage oak. Leather-bound books and red leather armchairs. Some dried fruits and gently warming spices. Honey and beeswax. Apple and some citrus. Biscuit with cinnamon. Some red fruit top notes. Old and complex.
Taste: Arives with golden syrup and honey, orange liqueur. Dried fruits. Candied fruits. Pepper and cinnamon. A dry oakiness spreads round the sides of the tongue. Raisins and dried figs towards the back. Dry, old oak with some subtle spices on the finish. Manages to feel both dry and mouthwatering at the same time.
Thoughts: This is what people imagine when they think of old single malts. There’s lots of cask action. Lots of musty old leather and dried fruits. Sometimes I find Glenrothes a wee bit too lightweight but this one has picked up a bit of muscle over the years. In truth, the spirit character is largely lost anyway, but I don’t think it really matters when the cask has delivered as well as it has. 51% is a fantastic drinking strength as well. Not too light, not too strong. In fact, this is very possibly the best Glenrothes I’ve ever had. A magnificent dram.
Price: At £235, it clearly isn’t a dram for those on a budget but when you compare it to the official Edrington-bottled 25-year-old, which is 43% and costs almost three times the price, this single cask starts to look like value for money.
Auchentoshan 15-year-old Single Malt (Tawny Port Finish)
Auchentoshan is a survivor. It outlasted dozens of other lowland distilleries and continued to fly the flag for triple distillation long after the trend had faded. Part of the global Beam-Suntory empire, the distillery rarely makes casks available to indie bottlers. This is therefore a rare opportunity to try out a single cask Auchentoshan that’s made its way to the outside world. The 15 years of maturation includes a period in a tawny port cask. Bottled at 54.7%.
Smell: Herbal and spicy. Wee bit nutty. Furniture polish in a spray can. Some forest berries. Develops some oakiness but then, it parts and a light, triple distilled spirit seeps through. In truth, I don’t think it’s a change for the better. There’s some creamy vanilla, some cereal but even that fades and I’m left with a distinct new make spirit note – which is odd, given this is 15 years old.
Taste: The lightness of the triple distilled spirit is in evidence straight away. There’s also an abundance of white pepper heat from the off, which brings us back to that new makey quality that was present on the nose. Aniseed. Liquorice. Now some nutty oak, suggestive of the Tawny port finish but it’s a little too subtle.
Thoughts: I had high hopes for this dram as I don’t get to try independently bottled Auchentoshan very often. Sadly, it really didn’t work out for me. I found it remarkably young, bordering on immature at times and though the finish added some interesting layers, it wasn’t enough to rescue it. It feels like it probably spent the first 13 or so years of its life resting in a half dead third fill cask with nothing left to give. Certainly it improved with a splash of water and some time to settle, with spirit and cask working closer together but it never really got above tolerable. Maybe we’re not missing too much with the lack of indie Auchentoshans?
Price: £115. The price is around what I’d expect for a single cask of this age, from a relatively big-name distillery but it didn’t have enough to tempt me into a bottle.
Bruichladdich (Lochindaal) 15-year-old Single Malt
Lochindaal is a name given to a peated spirit made at Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay. It’s a name that doesn’t pop up on the market very often, although the last 3 or 4 years have seen a few casks bottled. This one was matured for 15 years in a bourbon barrel. It’s bottled at 60.1% abv.
Smell: Malty and honeyed. Biscuity. Oaky. Bready. Lots of baking spices. Salted caramel. Sea shells. Touch of brine. More coastal than smoky, though some of the earhy turf notes of the peat start to come through. Buttered scones. Shortbread. Custard. Pineapple and orange.
Taste: Honey, malted barley. Pineapple and grapes. Vanilla and apple juice. Biscuits and butter. Oak and sea salt and black pepper with some smoke and ash on the tail.
Thoughts: It doesn’t come across as a full-on peat monster but there’s a definite seaside vibe and the smoke eventually makes its presence felt. Wonderfully inviting nose that’s typically Laddie, with the barley taking centre stage. Nice texture on the palate, too. Almost develops a grainy feel, like chewing on a kernel. Like the Auchentoshan before it, the cask impact has been subtle but here, the spirit quality is more than enough to carry the experience. I think it’s noticeable that no finish has been applied as it really wasn’t needed. When I see Bruichladdich and Lady of the Glen on a label, I expect quality and I wasn’t disappointed.
Price: £195. Ouch. It’s a crazy price but we can’t point the finger of blame at Lady of the Glen for that. Single casks of Bruichladdich go for mad sums. It’s just the way it is. Would I fork out for it? No, I don’t think so, but someone with deeper pockets than me will – and they won’t be let down by the liquid in the bottle.
For more on Lady of the Glen visit https://www.ladyoftheglen.com
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