Special Report – Scotch Whisky Part 2

By Steve Thurlow

The first part of my report on Scotch whisky discussed the processes used for the creation and maturation of single-malt Scotch whisky [SMSW] and then went on to focus on the distilleries of Islay. Islay is an island off the western coast of northern Scotland that has a major concentration of whisky production. The whiskies from there are notably smoky since the barley malt is dried using peat smoke. This part of the report was written following two whisky discovery trips to Scotland I made in 2019.

I had intended to return to Scotland in 2020 to continue exploring but regrettably the COVID-19 pandemic has so far prevented me from travelling there. Visiting a distillery and tasting a range of the whisky in the company of one of their experts is by far the best way to understand styles and the subtle differences in the production and maturation that have been employed. Most distilleries have been closed to visits since March 2020, but a few are now starting to open to visitors.

So I suspended whisky reporting until I could return. But the pandemic has been relentless; so with the help of the LCBO and local wine agents I recommenced tasting and reviewing whisky in February here in Canada. These reviews are therefore mostly of whiskies that are in the market in Ontario or will be here in the next few months.

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So now I am reporting on Scotch whisky from the other parts of Scotland. There are around 130 distilleries producing whisky at present and most of these produce at least one single-malt Scotch whisky. A single-malt Scotch whisky is the product of a single distillery and it is made by the distillation and maturation of whisky made for fermented barley malt.

These have to be matured by law for a minimum of three years before being released. Many casks are aged for longer and it is common for SMSW to be labelled as 8 to 12 Year Old or more.

Often the bottle will state how it was matured with, for example, the types of casks that were used. Oak casks that previously held American whiskey (e.g. Bourbon) or sherry are most common but these days. Distilleries are using a wide variety of casks. New oak casks, ex-wine casks, and ex-Port casks are becoming popular.

SMSW is the top of the quality pyramid and one can pay tens of thousands of dollars for some very rare and/or very old expressions. I am often asked if all whisky gets better with age. Certainly the price generally goes up as the age increases. One can find very good 10 Year Old SMSW at LCBO for $70 to $100. A 25 Year Old can cost from $500 to $1000 or more.

On my travels over the years I have been fortunate to taste some very rare whiskies, some selling for $10,000 or more. As with all luxury products, rarity goes a long way to explain price. Certainly whisky does get better the longer it is matured in cask. However, it will only be the best whisky that the distillery chooses to keep for a long time. One can make an analogy to the world of wine. The best wine is often made from the oldest vines. However, if these vines did not make good wine someone would have pulled them out and replaced them with new plants — if you see what I mean.

Anyway I digress. SMSW is the pinnacle of whisky sales. Some malt whisky from a single distillery is bottled without an age date, but this is still SMSW. Some bottles take the malt whisky from one or more distilleries and these are called vatted malts and have often been blended to be typical of a regional style. There are vatted malts from Islay and Speyside, for example, and some are just blends that are created for a particular brand. I have only reviewed a few of these to date and will explore them more in the coming weeks.

Most Scotch whisky by volume made in Scotland is blended Scotch. These are familiar brands such as Grants, Famous Grouse, Bells, Dewars, etc., that are blends of malt whisky and grain whisky. Grain whisky is made from something other than fermented barley malt, such as corn or wheat or unfermented barley.

You can find a bottle of one of these for around $30. Few blended Scotch brands have been able to become luxury items, but Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal have been successful — some aged examples can cost $400 or more.

For decades, blended Scotch was essentially all there was, since producers felt that consumers would be confused and intimidated by all the individuality of flavours from all of the different distilleries. However, the last two or three decades have seen a renaissance in SMSW, led by Glenfiddich, the first single malt to be marketed strongly. It is today the biggest selling SMSW — and we have hundreds of SMSW with many distilleries making dozens of different expressions.

Scotch whisky is appreciated the world over and it has become a very important source of income to Scotland.

Scotland Whisky Regions

The 130 distilleries producing today are categorized into six regions.


Scotland Whisky Regions
Scottish Whisky Regions

By far the largest whisky region is Speyside, with around 40 percent. This region lies around the River Spey and its tributaries in the central highlands south of Inverness. There are so many with so much variation that it is difficult to generalize on a Speyside regional style.

There is another grouping on Islay that was the focus in Part 1 of this report. These SMSW are the smokiest and often have the tang of salt and hints of seaweed.

Around 30 percent are in the Highland region. This is essentially the mainland north of a line between Glasgow and Edinburgh. They are widely dispersed throughout the region. Their whiskies are generally a little smoky and very smooth, often with hints of sherry.

Ten percent are in the Islands region. That is to say they are located on an island other than Islay. They are scattered among Scotland’s many offshore islands. They are generally more peaty with sea flavours.

The Lowland region has 13 percent of the distilleries. The Lowlands are the Scottish mainland south of the Edinburgh/Glasgow line that I mentioned above. The whiskies here tend to be lighter and softer.

Finally, there are three distilleries on the Mull of Kintyre, a promontory in central western Scotland. They are located near the community of Campbeltown. It is not an island and it lies in the middle of the country so cannot be fitted into the other loose regions. Moreover it makes a distinct style of whisky that is lighter and shows the influence of the sea such that these whiskies are widely appreciated especially for making Blended Scotch and hence though small Campbeltown is an important region.

Islay

I have been tasting whisky from Islay recently and have added about 20 reviews to the WineAlign database. Read Part 1 of the this report to discover more about the whiskies of Islay.

Speyside

There is a concentration of major distilleries in this region, with many in the valley of the River Spey and its tributaries. All together there are around 50 distilleries located here. I report on some of the largest with single malt whiskies in Canada at present.

The Macallan

The Macallan Distillery was founded in 1824 by Alexander Reid, a teacher and barley farmer, and has since become famous for producing some of Scotland’s finest single malts. The Macallan proudly associates its distinct taste to its small spirit stills — the smallest in Speyside.

Their unique size and shape gives the spirit maximum contact with the copper, which helps to produce full-bodied flavours.


Macallan
Macallan

They also use a wide variety of casks and some of their expressions are labelled double cask meaning that the spirit is a blend from two different types of cask and some are finished in a third type of cask.

They are known for their cask work and for constant experimentation to create ever more expressions.

The distillery is very modern and was designed not only to make great whisky but to be welcoming and easily accessible to the public for educational and promotional visits.

The Macallan Gold Double Cask $84.95, 40%
This is a pale golden malt made from spirit aged in a combination of American and European oak sherry-seasoned casks. It has a perfumed fruity nose of banana and vanilla with baked lemon and gentle oak spice. The midweight palate is well balanced with a lingering oak spice flavoured finish. Very smooth and creamy.

The Macallan 12 YO Double Cask $110.20, 40%
Double Cask whiskies are made from a blend of malts that have been matured in ex-sherry casks made from European oak and American oak. In the 12-year old these are ex-oloroso casks. It is pale amber in colour with aromas and flavours of dried fruit with iodine, pumpkin pie spice and mild oak spice. The palate is round and soft with orange marmalade and raisin flavours evident on the finish. Very good length with a firm spicy and fruity finish.

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak

The Macallan 12 YO Sherry Oak $159.95, 43%
This is an elegant rich amber malt with a subtle use of ex-sherry casks to give some finesse to the nose and palate. Expect aromas of baked pineapple and stewed pear with cereal, toffee and woodsy tones. The midweight palate is well balanced with soft acidity and a long lingering finish. Excellent length.

The Macallan A Night on Earth 2021 $175.00, 43%
The packaging of the 2021 edition of this malt is beautiful. It was matured in sherry-seasoned American and European oak casks, along with some American ex-bourbon barrels. It is golden straw in colour but regrettably, it is quite ordinary. Mild and mellow with subdued aromas and flavours. It is smooth but quite simple with a very distinctive oatmeal cookie aroma. However, since it is designed to be shared with friends on New Year’s Eve, it may be just the ticket for you. An uncomplicated, smooth, mildly flavoured dram is what friends that don’t regularly drink whisky will appreciate and they will no doubt be impressed by the exquisite packaging.

The Macallan 15 YO Double Cask $229.95, 43%
This is a very classy malt which has spent its years in a combination of American and European oak, both of which were seasoned with oloroso sherry. It is golden amber in colour and has a nose that is quite exquisite with sultana, toffee and baked orange nicely toned by vanilla and chocolate with some floral notes for lightness. Complex and elegant with a finely balanced palate and excellent length. The focus is good and I love the purity and balance. Savour this on its own at the end of a fine meal.

The Macallan 18 YO Double Cask $499.95, 43%
The Macallan Double Cask 18 Year Old, was matured for 18 years in both American and European sherry-seasoned oak casks. It is rich amber in colour with lifted aromas of baked tropical fruit with ginger and toffee plus some oak and orange peel. The palate is elegant with fine balancing zesty orange citrus acidity and it reflects the complex aromas of the nose. Somewhat understated yet classy and elegant with outstanding length and superb focus. This is for long contemplation after a fine dinner.

Cardhu

Cardhu is a Speyside distillery near Archiestown, Moray that was founded in 1824 by whisky smuggler John Cumming and his wife Helen.


Cardhu
Cardhu

The distillery is now run by Diageo and the distillery’s Scotch whisky is an important component of the Johnnie Walker blended whiskies.

Cardhu 12 Y O

Cardhu 12 Year Old $89.95, 40%
This gentle and round golden straw malt has a mild nose of orange marmalade with delicate oak spice and hints of porridge and honeysuckle. It is midweight to full and well balanced with very good length. Though most of the production of the distillery goes to Blended Scotch, this 12 Year Old is well-loved by many connoisseurs who appreciate its district style and reasonable price.

Dalwhinnie


Dalwhinnie Distillery
Dalwhinnie Distillery

Dalwhinnie Distillery is in the Cairngorm National Park and is the highest distillery in Scotland at an altitude of 350 metres. The site is close to clear spring water and abundant peat from the surrounding bogs. It is known for its gentle floral flavours of honey, citrus, vanilla and sweet malt.  It is owned by Diageo and very little of its production is bottled as SMSW, most being used in the production of the Buchanan and Black & White blended whiskies.

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old $118.00, 43%
This pale amber malt is quite elegant with an appealing fine nose of honey and pear fruit with hints of toffee and floral tones. The influence of oak is mild with cereal and mild spice flavours on the palate. It is smooth with a good acid backbone and excellent length. Clean, classy and fresh.

Dufftown

The town of Dufftown lies at the heart of Speyside and there are several very large and important distilleries here. The Dufftown distillery is owned by Diageo and most of its production is used for Bell’s and Johnnie Walker blended whiskies.

Singleton of Dufftown 12 Year Old $57.95, 40%
This golden amber malt is well-priced and could be an excellent introduction to single malt for a beginner. Delicate aromas and flavours of blackberry fruit with nutty and mild oak spice notes. The palate is light to midweight and round with good length with some coffee notes showing up on the finish. Easy drinking and very pleasant if not that complex.

AnCnoc Knockdhu Distillery


AnCnoc

AnCnoc [pronouced “a-nock” ] is the brand of whisky made at the Knockdhu distillery. It is a relatively small facility with only one wash still and one spirit still, both of which are unusually tall.


Pot Stills
Pot Stills

AnCnoc 12 Year Old $80.20, 40%
This is a delicate malt typical of the non-sherried Speyside style. It is pale gold in colour and has a delicate nose of apple and pineapple fruit with honey, oak spice and oak. The midweight palate is smooth and well balanced with very good length. Some nutty and cereal notes appear on the finish.

The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet Distillery was founded in 1824 by George Smith, and lies a little off the beaten track in a wild and remote glen of the River Livet. It is owned by Chivas Bros., which probably explains the high quality of their aged blended whiskies, which employ its malts. It is one of the oldest and most famous distilleries in the world.


Glenlivet

The stills are golden in colour and the still-room shimmers in golden yellow light.

The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve $60.05, 40%
This is bottled at 40 percent and is a rich amber colour. It has a tropical twist since it was finished in casks that previously held Caribbean rum. It has an appealing fruity nose of baked pear and fried banana with toffee. The palate is bold and well balanced if not that complex and has some rum inspired sweetness. Good length and nicely done for the money.

Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve $63.20, 40%
This is a golden straw coloured malt with a delicate nose of banana and vanilla with hints of creamed wheat plus mild oak spice. The midweight palate is on the sweet side and is very smooth with simple flavours of creamed corn with banana and custard. Good length.

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old $70.20, 40%
The 12 Year Old is one of the most popular single malts in the world. Its maturation starts in American oak and is finished in European oak. It is golden straw in colour with a lifted nose of birch bark, with vanilla, toffee, pineapple and oatmeal. It is midweight and round with soft acidity and good to very good length. There is a long lingering, creamy finish with pineapple fruit and wood flavours.

The Glenlivet Nadurra First Fill $85.90, 48%
Nadurra is normally bottled as a cask-strength malt at 60 percent ABV but this bottling is 48 percent ABV; a version sold mostly in the duty free in the rest of the world. It has been matured in first-fill American white oak barrels so the wood is quite evident on nose and palate. Nadurra means natural in Gaelic. Pale gold in colour it is a powerful intense malt which is not suited to the novice malt drinker. Unlike most malts it is non-chilled filtered and so is ever so slightly cloudy and is very smooth as a result. Expect vanilla and baked pear fruit to show on nose and palate with hints of citrus. Very good length.

The Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve $100.20, 40%
This is an elegant malt that is pale amber in colour with a delicate nose of sweet almond, orange with floral and cereal tones plus gentle oak and spice notes. It is midweight and well balanced with buttery flavours mingling with fruit and nutty tones. I think its distinctive aromas and flavours come as result of partial maturation in Limousin French oak casks. Classy and refined with excellent length.

The Glenlivet 18 Year Old $185.20, 40%
This is a complex and well-balanced malt with a dry nose with herbal, salt and lanolin tones to the toffee and rich fruit aromas and flavours. Both first and second-fill American oak and ex-sherry oak cask are used to develop the complexity of spicy fruitiness. It has a rich smooth mouthfeel and very good to excellent length.

The Glenlivet Archive 21 Year Old $329.75, 43%
This is a beautifully balanced and complex malt that was matured in specially selected American oak and ex-sherry casks and has a rich soft appeal. It is a deep amber with copper tones. Expect aromas and flavours of dried fruits like fruit cake with warm spice, gentle oak and hazelnut. It is full bodied and the finish is excellent in length. A malt to savour on its own or to be enjoyed with chocolate, nuts and dried fruits.

The Balvenie

Selecting a visit to the Balvenie Distillery is a good move for those seeking an understanding of the whole process of making whisky in Dufftown, the “Malt Whisky Capital of the World.” Everything happens on site — from growing the barley to bottling the final product. Little has changed in Balvenie production in over a century.


Balvenie

Balvenie still has its own floor malting, the last in the Highlands, and the barley is grown and harvested on-site.

They also dry the malt with peat smoke. They are unable to produce all the malt they need and do source malt from elsewhere in Scotland.


Peat Smoke
Peat Smoke

They also have their own on-site cooperage for the repair and recycling of used casks.


Cooperage
Cooperage

The Balvenie 12 Y O Doublewood

The Balvenie 12 Year Old Doublewood $120.20, 40%
The Doublewood version of the 12 Year Old comes from spirit that has spent 12 years or more in selected American Oak ex-bourbon barrels and hogsheads, before being transferred to Spanish oak ex-Oloroso sherry casks for an additional nine months. Before bottling these lots from small casks are moved to very large oak vessels for three to four months to allow the whiskies from individual casks to marry. The nose shows sweet fruit notes from the sherry casks with chocolate, toffee and hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. Lots of flavour with balancing grapefruit acidity and hints of black pepper. It is very smooth with a lingering warm finish. Very good length.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old $170.25, 43%
This rich amber expression was created by David Stewart to celebrate 50 years at The Balvenie. It was initially aged in oak casks before it was finished in casks which had previously held Caribbean rum. He made his very own blend of West Indian rums to fill the casks that were subsequently used to finish this malt. Finishing in rum casks imparts extra sweetness and warmth to the whisky. Consequently, vanilla, coconut and baked pineapple are very evident on nose and palate. Though the nose is quite delicate, the palate is rich with toffee and tropical fruit and it’s on the sweetish side with a lingering custard tone to the finish. Very good length. In fact it seems somewhat like an aged rum. So if that appeals this could be for you, but it is pricey.

Glenfiddich

This whisky distillery was founded in 1887 by William Grant, whose descendants today manage one of the only remaining family owned independent producers of single malt in Scotland. The 12 Year Old was the first single malt ever bottled and is the most popular single malt in the world, so I am told.

The distillery is a very large complex of buildings, that is just down the road from The Balvenie, which is also owned by William Grant and Sons.

The massive Glenfiddich distillery makes about 30 percent of the single malts in Scotland. However, they have retained Old World charm.


Glenfiddich Distillery
Glenfiddich Distillery

The exteriors disguise a modern facility within the walls of the buildings.

It is also one of the most-visited, so on a fine day you can expect crowds from all over the world. The tour is well organized and the guides are well-informed.

The Malt Barn Coffee Shop and Bar is an excellent place to take a light lunch and the bar has many rare drams by the glass.


Glenfiddich Bar

Glenfiddich 12 Year Old $70.20, 40%
This is one of the most popular single malts. Bottled at 40 percent ABV in its iconic triangular shaped green bottle. It is a light, fresh and fruity malt with pear and hazelnut aromas and flavours. The palate is soft and could be described as a little flabby, which makes for easy drinking, and part of why it is so popular, I guess. There is a some sweetness and a touch of smoke on the finish. Good length. Enjoy on its own or with smoked fish.

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old $105.20, 40%
This warm spicy malt is golden amber in colour. Its wood aromas and flavours come from maturation in ex-bourbon, new American oak and ex-sherry casks. It is blended using the Spanish solera system where the aged malts are regularly added to an enormous Oregon pine vat that has been used as solera for decades. Before a quantity of new malts are added each time a similar amount of blended whisky is withdrawn to be bottled. So in every batch there are some ancient spirits. The solera system ensures the blend is automatically kept consistent. Before bottling the blend is stabilized in Portuguese oak tuns. It is a rich, thick, spicy and raisin flavoured malt with a round and balanced palate. Aromas and flavours are intense but it finishes mellow with honey and golden raisins. Very good to excellent length.

Glenfiddich 18 Year Old $185.20, 40%
This smooth, mellow and intense malt is rich gold in colour with a midweight to full palate and a complex nose of baked apple, cinnamon, and oak mingling with raisins with some floral tones. It was matured in a mix of ex-Oloroso sherry and ex-Bourbon casks. It is super smooth with a lingering honey caramel finish. Excellent length. To be savoured on its own.

Glenfiddich Gran Reserva 21 Year Old $380.20, 40%
This rich sweet malt was matured in ex-sherry and ex-Bourbon casks before being finished in rum casks. Casks of rum from Sancti Spiritus in the heart of Cuba were emptied at the Glenfiddich distillery and 21 Year Old malt was added. The whisky is matured in these casks for up to six months to give this malt its unique character. It is a burnt amber in colour and, as one would expect from whisky finished in rum, toffee, vanilla and caramel aromas and flavours are very evident, but there is a freshness with floral and banana fruit tones. It is sweet and rich but it is also vibrant and finishes dry with a lingering elegant finish. The rum adds but does not dominate. Nicely done. Excellent length.

Glenfiddich 40 Year Old $9496.40, 45%
This exquisitely packaged malt is burnt umber in colour. It is one of the best malts I can remember tasting ever for its smoothness, freshness and complexity. Around 1000 bottles are released each year and the blend is made up from selected individual casks of 40 years and older plus spirit that was left over from previous year’s vatting blends to help maintain consistency. It is not a solera system but it is close. This method is called remnant vatting and Glenfiddich claims it is the only single malt Scotch whisky to be made in this way. The nose is floral toned with dried fruit flavours of fruit cake, dates, raisins and stewed apples. There are hints of toffee, pineapple and mocha wrapped with spice and a touch of peat smoke. The smooth palate has outstanding length. It finishes dry with lingering dried fruit flavours.

Glenfarclas

One of the few entirely family-run distilleries remaining in Scotland, it has been in production since 1836. It was purchased by John Grant in 1865 and since then, the Grant family has been producing single malt. It is now in the hands of the fifth and sixth generation of the family.

It is one of my favourites to visit since it offers a selection of great expressions that are quite reasonably priced.


Glenfarclas
Glenfarclas

They only use ex-Oloroso sherry casks for maturation, creating a range of expressions by using different combinations of first, second, third and fourth fill casks.

They are maturing whisky in more than 50,000 casks in dozens of warehouses on the site. I am told that they have a much larger proportion of very old whiskies than most distilleries.

I spotted this cask dated 1953 when I was last there.


Glenfarclas 1953 Cask
Glenfarclas 1953 Cask

I think that being able to add some of this supply of very old whisky is an important asset. For example, adding some 50-year-old whisky to a 30-year-old expression gives valuable subtle additional complexity.

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength $110, 60%
This is a powerful cask strength malt (60 percent ABV) but the sherry-cask maturation delivers grace. It is burnt umber in colour and dry with well-integrated smoke and spice notes and seems very fresh. The nose has herbal, caramel and vanilla tones. Very smooth and very even with a long lingering finish of spice and vanilla with a hint of toffee. Very well balanced, with complexity and class.

Glenfarclas 12 Year Old $73.35, 43%
The 12 Year Old is burnt amber, almost copper, in colour and has a delicate salt laced barley nose with well-integrated toasty oak with dry herbal hints. The silky palate is finely balanced with the alcohol tamed and has raisin fruity tones and a long lingering finish, with the flavour persisting well.

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old $109.30, 46% I think that the 15 Year Old hits the sweet spot in terms of value for money among all the malts at Glenfarclas. It has complexity, structure, texture and finish that are all only slightly exceeded by older expressions that cost about twice as much or more. It is bottled at 46 percent (most of the range is 43 percent) — I am told this was the strength that the current owner’s grandfather preferred. It is an intense floral, fruity and rich malt that is so well balanced and makes you think of Christmas cake. It is so smooth that you think it must be older than 15 years — and maybe it is? Raisins, orange, salt and baked almond are the lead components to nose and palate which is not sweet until you add water. Excellent length. Lingering and finely balanced. If you like the Speyside sherried style then this is an affordable must buy.

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old $180.90, 43%
The sherry influence is less evident at 21 years since this is fresher, more herbal with citrus and baked apple aromas flavours. Delicate and elegant nose. It is amazingly smooth with a rich creamy palate with some cereal notes showing up on the finish. I thought of porridge with maple syrup for a while. Excellent length and designed to provoke contemplation.

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old $269.95, 43%
This is a complex and delicately sherried malt that was matured 100 percent in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Lifted aromas and solid flavours of toffee, baked lemon and oatmeal are most evident with lovely focus and clarity. Super smooth and sweetish but zesty with some nutty and ginger spice hints in the finish. Excellent length.

Glenfarclas 30 Year Old $794.95, 43%
As you sample the older expressions at Glenfarclas, the sherried house style persists. They get more complex and more delicate with more floral notes showing on top of the oatmeal, butterscotch and citrus notes of the younger expressions. It is so, so smooth, and really makes you think about what has been going on in your life over the last 30 years while this was maturing at the distillery. It is rich and graceful with some herbal and warm spice notes adding to the complexity of the finish with just a hint of sweet rubber and marmalade. Outstanding length. Compared to 30 Year Olds from elsewhere this is well priced but it is not inexpensive. Tasted October 2019.

Cragganmore

This small distillery, part of the Diageo group, is known for its complex whiskies which probably result from its unique flat-topped stills.


Cragganmore Distillery
Cragganmore Distillery

Additionally the spirit is also slowly condensed in traditional wooden worm tubs, which must also add to its unique character.


Craggonmore Wash Still
Craggonmore Wash Still

Cragganmore 12 Year Old

Cragganmore 12 Year Old $99.95, 40%
This is an easy-drinking balanced single malt that is golden amber in colour. The nose is round with baked pear fruit plus floral, nutty and oak aromas with hints of spice, peat and malt. It is midweight, with none of the flavours dominating. So if you are averse, for example, to smoky peat or overly spicy or woody flavours then this is middle-of-the-road in terms of its flavour profile. So it will suit many who look for complexity with no flavour or aroma dominant. Very good length with a lingering soft finish. Last tasted October 2019.

Glenrothes

This distillery in the town of Rothes is owned by the Edrington Group along with The Macallan and Highland Park.


Glenrothes Distillery

Its malts are lighter and fruitier than the other two distilleries.


Stills

Slow distillation and very tall stills is the secret behind this lighter and fruitier style. Tall still necks and slower distillation removes more impurities and hence one gets a more mellow spirit.

Glenrothes 12 Year Old $75.20, 40%
This is golden amber in colour with a fruity well balanced low-key nose and palate. It is aged in ex-sherry casks and has banana and baked lemon aromas and flavours. The oak is nicely in balance and fine porridge flavours appear on the lingering finish. It is midweight and smooth with delicate aromas and flavours. A good value entry level malt with very good length.

Craigellachie

The Craigellachie Distillery is owned by Bacardi and lies close to the historical Craigellachie Bridge over the River Spey. This cast iron arch bridge was designed by the renowned civil engineer Thomas Telford and was built from 1812 to 1814.


Craigellachie Bridge
Craigellachie Bridge

This Category A listed structure is a beautiful piece of Victorian engineering.

The distillery was built in 1891 and so is relatively modern compared to many others on Speyside.

Malts from here are used in the blended whiskies of John Dewar and Sons and have only recently been bottled as SMSW.

Craigellachie 13 Year Old $79.95, 46%
The 13 Year Old is pale gold in colour and is bottled at 46 percent. It shows some elegance not often seen at this price with an appealing nose of baked tropical fruit, mango and pineapple with smoked ham and maple syrup. The palate is round and well balanced with smoked meat, malt and baked lemon and fine balancing acidity. Intense but also quite classy with very good length and well-priced.

Conclusion

That concludes the section on whisky from Speyside, the largest and most concentrated whisky region in Scotland.

There are more distilleries for me to visit and report on but I have covered most of the major producers with whisky available in Ontario.

Highland, Islands, Lowland and Campbeltown

In June Part 3 of my Whisky report will cover these four regions.

However there are many reviews of whisky from there at WineAlign. Use this link to open the search engine.

Then search Scotch from Scotland in the database.

Cheers or maybe I should say Slange Var which means good health. (Written Slainte Mhath in Gaelic). Steve Thurlow