This week's review focuses on a distillery that is rather well known and quite a vital cog within the Edrington stable of distilleries due to its use in some of the biggest blended Scotch whiskies in the industry. Glenrothes may be somewhat underrated as a single malt, but it is definitely no pushover.
Today's review focuses on the Glenrothes 1988 25 Years Old expression which has been bottled for The Single Cask, but before we get to that, as always we will first delve into the history of the distillery.
Glenrothes was established in 1878 when James Stuart & Co. (who were the licensees of the Macallan distillery since 1868), began planning and constructing the distillery alongside Robert Dick. William Grant and John Cruickshank. However, Stuart ran into financial trouble and was forced to terminate the partnership.
The other partners then proceeded to form William Grant & Co. in order to continue with the construction of the distillery and production commenced in May of the following year. The distillery operated under the name Glenrothes until 1884, when it changed name to Glenrothes-Glenlivet. It must be added that many distilleries in Scotland utilised the “-Glenlivet” suffix during this period as a hint to the quality of their spirit.
The distillery suffered its own share of misfortune when it was ravaged by a fire in 1897 as well as an explosion in 1903, which led to an extended period of repairs and reconstruction due to the substantial damage sustained. However, the distillery survived and underwent a series of expansions between 1963 and 1989, which significantly increased the production capacity.
In 1999, Edrington and William Grant & Sons purchased the Highland Distillers Company in which Glenrothes was one of a number of distilleries. The distilleries within were split between both companies and Glenrothes came under the control of Edrington (who are also the owners of the Macallan and Highland Park distilleries).
It is at this stage that we must issue a clarification: While the distillery is owned by Edrington, the Glenrothes brand itself is currently owned by independent bottlers Berry Bros & Rudd, who purchased it in 2010 in order to assure themselves of a stable supply of whisky.
Only 2% of production at Glenrothes is destined to be bottled as single malt, with the rest being earmarked for two of the larger blended Scotch whiskies in the market: Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse.
The stillhouse at Glenrothes consists of 5 pairs of stills which perform a very slow distillation
In terms of equipment, the distillery sports a 5.5 tonne stainless steel full lauter mash tun, ten washbacks made of Oregon pine as well as eight stainless steel washbacks and five pairs of stills which are housed within a cathedral-esque stillhouse.
Prior to 2011, the distillery used to work a 5-day week and performed only 28 mashes in that timeframe. However, when Edrington decided to sell Tamdhu distillery to Ian MacLeod distillers, they had to find a way to make up the production numbers which had been lost.
As such, production at Glenrothes was switched to a 7-day week which resulted in 50 mashes and a constant fermentation time of 58 hours in all the washbacks. The stills perform a very slow distillation and the total current production level is 5.2 million litres of pure alcohol on a annual basis out of a total annual production capacity of 5.6 million litres.
The racked and dunnage warehouses at Glenrothes distillery
Glenrothes utilises a multitude of different casks ranging from new American oak to sherry-seasoned European oak in order to produce a multitude of different expressions. Their releases tend to be marked according to the vintage rather than with an age statement, which is a technique also employed by Balblair distillery.
So, let's get on to the review!
Colour: Pale gold
Nose: Sweet malt, grapes, apricots, peaches and a whiff of sherry on the mellow and enticing full nose, followed by barley sugar, a slight alcohol presence and a rich intensity. The colour of this dram as well as the sherried nature of this dram indicates that this was very likely bottled from a refill sherry butt.
Palate: Sweet, malty and fruity on initial entry, with just a hint of alcohol burn. The fruits from the nose make an appearance almost immediately and set the tone for this dram. Mellow and slightly spicy on the palate, with aniseed and a nice oakiness. Coats the palate very well and the sweetness tends to linger for quite a while.
Finish: Long finish with more of the fruits from the nose and a nice touch of sherry lingering in the background. Just a hint of aniseed at the very end but it is rather understated. Slightly oily on the mouthfeel but it does become rather drying towards the end.
Balance: A very well balanced dram which showcases the fruity, malty and slightly spicy aspects working in harmony with one another. A very good representation of what Glenrothes is capable of.
The Single Cask bottling of Glenrothes 1988 25 Years Old is available for purchased for in-bar consumption for $567 (with an additional 10% service charge levied) and is also available for purchase by the dram for $50 (with an additional 10% service charge levied) at the bar.
Patrons are also able to purchase this bottle for retail/takeaway purposes for $396.90 and without any additional service charges. This expression is also available for purchase in 100ml sample bottle form and prices can be obtained from our friendly bar staff.
Please be advised that stocks of this expression are extremely limited and will not be replaced once it has sold out.
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