The Glenrothes, a Speyside distillery co-owned by well-known independent bottlers Berry Bros. & Rudd, prides itself on mostly-annual vintage releases which are chosen for their “readiness” as opposed to their age statements. The 1995 vintage (available now in the U.K. and slated for a U.S. release soon), was distilled in October of 1995, chosen for bottling in September of 2010, and bottled in 2011. I was able to try a generous sample, thanks to Danielle at Exposure USA. Thanks Danielle!
Every release is aged differently for variation in style year-to-year. (Update: Not anymore!) This vintage was aged in 34% first-fill sherry casks and 66% in refill bourbon. This makes for a whisky with clear Speyside character, signature Glenrothes butterscotch-and-toffee, and a light background of sherry fruit. I think of it as a denser, more refined big brother to The Balvenie’s DoubleWood.
Nose: Very lively. A heady mix of florals: heather and honeysuckle with a lemon peel chaser. Peach flesh, filtered honey, and freshly baled hay. Gloriously Speyside with layers of honey, summer fruits, and light cereals. No overbearing wood here, and only a touch of sherry fruit.
Palate: Gentle on the tongue, viscous like thin honey (not chewy, but soft and thick-bodied). Graham cracker, butterscotch, dried apricots, and more honey. A background of fresh juicy plums and ripe red table grapes. Quite smooth.
Finish: Not a trace of wood bitterness. Supple and sweet, medium-long and lingering. Some suggestion of dried fruits, otherwise a continuation of the palate flavors.
With Water: Brings out white tea and peaches in the nose. Sharpens the palate slightly, bringing out some nuttiness and cocoa as well as a few acidic fruits and citrus. Definitely worth trying with water, although it doesn’t need the improvement.
Overall: Elegant and pure. Not too young (the fruits are sun-ripened and the grains fully ripe), and not particularly old (very little oak impact, and no mustiness or resiny notes). A very straightforward picture of Speyside style. The background of sherry notes show a light hand was used with the sherry barrels. The lighter fruits and Speyside honey take center stage. If you’ll excuse the hyperbole, this tastes like sunshine on a cool spring day. Yum.