The Glenrothes distillery has been making whisky since 1879 in its “quiet corner of Speyside”. Despite its heritage, it took over 100 years before it developed its own single malt brand, back in 1994. Since that time, the output of Glenrothes has fluctuated nearly as much as it’s ownership. The primary focus in that time however has been on vintages and flavours, rather than age statements. Their opening gambit under Berry Bros & Rudd ownership from 2010 was the Select Reserve, being reviewed here. This has since been replaced by the Vintage Reserve in 2015, which in turn has itself been scrapped in favour of age statements now back under the ownership of Edrington group from 2017. Why review this whisky then? Well, it can still be found out there in the wild plus its main emphasis is the house style and character of the Glenrothes spirit. Housed in their signature squat and bulbous bottle style (which has continued throughout its various ownerships and style changes), this whisky is captured at 40% ABV.
It’s light and heady to begin with. There’s an instant smell of malt, and a perfume-y floral scent that shoots right up the nose. Returning to the glass and there’s definitely a good fruity vibe amongst the smells, with plums, damsons and oranges coming to mind. It remains quite light and heady for some time and is pretty much popping out of the glass. Given time though and there is some easygoing vanilla and honey in there once it all dies down and a gentle spice.
Lots of flavours popping off the tongue now: sherbet, malt, peach, malt, pineapple, malt, passion fruit, malt, melba toast, malt and then lots of honey – not just honey sweetness either but that slightly cloying, herbal/floral note that you get from good honey too. And malt. Of course.
A little acidic and bitter after all that sweetness with the oak spice closing out on the finish – think cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. You have enough time to get to grips with these flavours too as the finish lingers.
Well, from my experiences to date any whisky that is packaged with the label “select” or “reserve” has fallen short of the standard that I know a malt house can make. [ed: That’s not being a whisky snob either, that’s just my own experience] So when I first saw this in stores, not just with “select” but also “reserve”, I thought I’d spend my cash elsewhere until I could try it at a pub or similar. (Remember pubs?) These are after all, terms usually associated with entry level or cheap, no-frills output. With various friends having enjoyed it over the years though, I was glad to have a bottle in the house. It is fresh, lively, and ’popping’ with delicate flavours (which I know I’ve used twice in the tasting notes). It’s enjoyable, but unfortunately that initial complexity and sweet balance slips away towards the finish. Probably a result of the youthful spirit in it, but its not pretending to be anything else either. It is light of body and as such very easy to drink. I also rather like their unique bottle shape and the handwritten style notes on the bottle that give it a different and personal touch. Definitely an easy opening gambit with promise and a good signpost for their more mature vintages.