I can’t believe it has taken us this long to feature a Glenrothes Scotch in the club! Glenrothes was the Scotch whisky that started it all for me, taking me down a path that would morph into a career. At that time, you could easily find three packs of 100mL size bottles mixed with older vintages like 1985, 1994, 1998, 2001. After falling in love with the whiskies, I made it a prioirty to go visit the distillery, and to this day, it is one of the coolest distilleries I’ve ever been to. If you happen to see any of those vintage dated bottles around on shelves anymore, they are worth buying, as they are no longer being produced. What is being produced is this amazing Glenrothes 18 year, which I hope you enjoy! (Photo courtesy of Glenrothes Distillery)
Cheers! Joshua Thinnes, Whisk(e)y Evangelist
Built in 1878 by James Stuart & Co. in the little town of Rothes, this small but productive distillery sits nestled into the hillside along a tributary of the river Spey. It went through some tribulating times when the bank financing it went under, but it was saved by the local church lead by Revereand William Sharp. Securing the fate of the distillery meant jobs for the people of the town, and soon it was back up and running. The Edrington Group later acquired the distillery, used mainly for producing its Famous Gouse blend, as well as the Berry Brothers & Rudd owned brand Cutty Sark. While the majority of the whisky made its way into those blends, along with Chivas Regal, not much was marketed as a single malt. That was, until BB&R came out with The Glenrothes brand, licensing exclusive production of the malt from the distillery still owned by Edrington. The most famous and long standing wine merchant in the world, BB&R decided to brand the bottles with vintage dates instead of age statements. Later BB&R sold both the Cutty Sark and The Glenrothes brands back to Edrington Group in 2010. In 2018, Edrington decided to remove the vintages in favor of the more tradtional US market preferred age statements in. The last one produced was the 2004.
The production process is a little different then most of its peers. To this day there is still a debate in the whisk(e)y industry about the differences between wood and steel fermentation tanks (known as washbacks in Scotland). Glenrothes uses both steel and wooden washbacks for fermentation, each with its own fermentation time and temperature. The resulting wort (mash as it is known in the US) is then blended together before distilling, providing a consistency of flavor and texture in the resulting spirit. Traditionally most of the whisky was filled into sherry wood, which was convenient since Edrington had large access to sherry barrels. These days more bourbon wood is used in the younger age statements as sherry barrels become harder and more expensive to acquire.
The Glenrothes 18yr is comprised of a high proportion of first fill sherry casks. That is very apparent in the nose, as it shows rich aromas of raisins and figs, complimented by dark vanilla bean and ginger. As the whisky opens up, it begins to show the brighter fruit tones that are indicative of the Glenrothes distillation style. Ripe pear, oxidized apples and sultana fruit mix and mingle with a touch of toasted coconut and caramel. The palate is rich, round and really enjoyable.