Quinta Ruban has been one of my favorite budget single malts since I first reviewed the 12 year-old version (which has been replaced by this 14-year) back in 2013. Looking back, I was complaining about price increases back then, too! 7 years later the Quinta Ruban has also fallen victim to the across-the-board price increases in the modern whisky market, and I found a bottle at my local soulless liquor megamart for $57. That’s not too bad, really, considering 7 years of blockbuster whisky demand and an extra two years of maturation and 3% ABV. It used to cost $46 ish, and actually can still be found for that price if you dig around online.
Quinta Ruban is standard Glenmorangie malt that is aged around 12 years in ex-bourbon casks and then finished in ruby port wine casks for 2 further years, for a total age statement of 14 years. The old 12-year expression spent 10 years in ex-bourbon. The whisky is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV. No mention is made of coloring, so I’m guessing the color is corrected with spirit caramel.
Nose: The first note is strangely barnyard-y, like a musty cellar or animal barn. This doesn’t fade, but is quickly overtaken by a round, juicy, sweet ruby port note that is somewhere in between candy apple and berry preserves. The two opposing notes combine into balsamic or rancio and balance out. The port note does seem to drown out the malt, which stays resolutely in the background. Note: The barnyard note fades as the bottle rests – my second glass a few weeks later was much better-balanced and with less of an off-note.
Palate: Medium bodied, almost syrupy. A robust tongue burn brings notes of cinnamon and jalapeno jelly, and then recedes to show sweet dried berries, grape jam, and a dusting of cocoa powder. Tasty.
Finish: Medium-short. The rancio note returns, along with slightly bitter walnut and charcoal notes. The finish is must less sweet than the palate, but retains the same essence. This fades quickly, though, leaving just a vague dusty grape-skin note.
With Water: A few drops of water initially mute the aroma. After a rest in the glass, there’s a marked increase in alcohol bite and a lot less sweetness. Texture is unaffected, but the palate is muddier and confused. Skip the water here.
Overall: At first, this is a little more disappointing than I remember from when it was 12 years old. The port notes are nice, but are accompanied by an uncomfortable musty character that I can’t quite shake. The Glenmorangie malt – always a bit of a wallflower – is totally subsumed by the port. On the upside, the palate is well-rounded and satisfying, with good depth of flavor. Luckily, the disappointment fades as the bottle rests, perhaps through oxidation or perhaps it’s shaking some bottle shock. Whatever the reason, if you have an issue with your first glass – give it another try a week later, or maybe even decant it to encourage the oxidation a little. Once my bottle and I came to an understanding, I amended my review up to a “Recommended”.