The Glenrothes is a curious Speyside distillery; before a recent move away from ‘age statement’ whiskies, they were already cutting their own path with ‘Vintage Single Malt’. The theory is simple; rather than bottling a whisky made in 2003 and calling it “12 years old”, they instead name it “2003 vintage”.
Partly, this is a hangover from the fact that the brand is owned by Berry Bros & Rudd who are, primarily, wine folk. More cynically, it allowed them to escape from the need to produce a consistent blend year after year, by repositioning their range as what essentially becomes a series of special editions.
Ironically, by only blending with whiskies from the same calendar year means they are far more restricted than the traditional ‘aged’ blenders, who are perfectly at liberty to use any age whiskies in their mix – as long as everything is at least as old as the age statement.
To counter this, The Glenrothes have their ‘Vintage Reserve’ range which (perhaps despite the ‘reserve’ naming) is their entry level offering, and features whisky from across different vintages – and with far more in common with more traditional distilleries.
The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve is the latest example of this side of their range.
Originally launched at the World Record-setting Lord Provost of Glasgow’s Burns’ Night Supper in January, it’s now available to all of us – priced at a little under £40 (every retailer I check seems to price it slightly differently, but they’re all £39 and some change).
The nose is warm and rich, with dried orange peel, dark honey and an undertone of worn, polished wood. Over time, some lighter redcurrant aromas appear. Water reduces the sweet notes, allowing more of the wood to come through.
In the mouth it’s soft and almost creamy; a slightly raw alcohol harshness right at the beginning is swiftly washed away with fudge and a slightly nutty edge. The finish is gentle but drawn out, with a sharp citrussy tang.
With water, some of the creaminess is lost but so is the initial harshness. It becomes fruitier, with sharp red berries and the finish is drawn in too.
I think it’s more interesting unwatered, but it’s a pleasant enough dram either way. 3 stars.
Many thanks to The Glenrothes for providing this whisky to taste.