Many Whisky distilleries in Scotland are all about age—12-year-old Single Malt Scotch, 18-year-old, 25-year-old, or more. Then there’s Glenrothes, the distinguished distillery in the heart of Scotland’s Speyside region, the heart and soul of Scotland’s Whisky production.
What makes the Glenrothes different is also what makes it exceptional
Located near the banks of the River Spey in the small town of Rothes (home to Speyburn, Glen Grant, and Glen Spey Distilleries), Glenrothes has been carefully making Scotch since 1878. Even so, many of Glenrothes’s Whiskies do not have specific ages. Instead, the distillery often simply specifies the vintage, the year the Whisky was bottled after carefully being aged in a wide range of casks, according to the Glenrothes team at the distillery in northern Scotland.
“What makes the Glenrothes different is also what makes it exceptional,” notes the Glenrothes team. “At the Glenrothes, we only bottle our Single Malt Whisky at the moment it reaches its peak of maturity and taste. Thus, all of our Whisky is, by its very nature, vintage.”
But don’t be fooled. Age matters at Glenrothes
Age, Vintage Matters
But don’t be fooled. Age matters at Glenrothes. The distillery recently released the Single Cask 8377, a 32-year-old Single Malt Whisky that sold out in a matter of weeks. And on a regular basis, the distillery routinely releases other, older Single Malt Scotches. These rare releases can often only be purchased by eager subscribers to Glenrothes’s mailing list.
But Glenrothes insists that all the Whiskies it releases meet the distillery’s highest standards. Such standards include primarily aging its Whiskies in former Sherry casks as well as Bourbon casks in some cases. This approach explains why its Whiskies often have a citrus-like aftertaste with subtle, floral notes.
“You see, age statements are no guarantee of quality or taste,” Glenrothes notes. “What happens to the Whisky in the cask is far more important than the number of years it spends inside it. Much like a fine wine, Whisky matures at its own pace. Which is why each individual cask of ours is carefully checked, nosed, and tasted many times over many years, until perfect.”
History of Distillery
Perfection has been the goal at Glenrothes for more than one hundred years. Founded by James Stuart in 1878, who worked at the nearby Macallan Distillery, Glenrothes has forged a unique path in this world-renowned corner of Scotland famous for making some of the world’s best Whiskies. (Note: Even though the distillery was founded 1878, its first year of production was not until one year later under the guidance of John Cruickshank, Robert Dick, and William Grant.)
The distillery has also changed hands several times throughout its sometimes difficult history, which has been marked by several substantial fires (in 1897 and 1922), as well as an explosion in 1903. Earlier this year, Edrington (owners of The Macallan, The Famous Grouse, Highland Park, and Cutty Sark, which has used Whisky produced by Glenrothes for decades to make its popular, blended Whiskey sold throughout the world, including especially in the United States) purchased Glenrothes back from wine and spirits merchant Berry Bros & Rudd. But no matter who owns Glenrothes, this distillery continues to have a loyal following around the world.
“Nestled in the town of Rothes in the Scottish Highlands’ Speyside—a region densely populated with some of the world’s most famous Whiskies—the Glenrothes has been turning out exceptional Scotch since 1879,” the Glenrothes team wrote. “Malt master Gordon Motion carefully selects and marries specific standout vintages, with a particular emphasis on the 2004 vintage. The Glenrothes is so popular due to its characteristic ‘house style’ and is a fantastic dram for Whisky connoisseurs.”
Unique Flavor Profile
And for connoisseurs of Single Malt Scotch, what attracts many fans to Glenrothes is the distillery’s distinct flavors. “Every expression we create must have its own unique personality, underpinned by our distillery’s characteristic flavor profile—ripe fruits, citrus, vanilla, and an exquisite spicy finish all encased in the creamiest of textures and with a complex yet well-poised balance,” the Glenrothes team wrote. “Only when it meets our thorough requirements can it be bottled, either within one of our exquisite Reserves, as a unique and finite Single Vintage, or as a much sought-after Special Release.”
And while Glenrothes has fans around the world, this unique Whisky sells particularly well “in several key markets such as the UK, Spain, the Nordics, Asia, and travel retail,” according to Glenrothes. The distillery added that it recommends pairing its distinct Scotches with a wide range of cheeses. “Glenrothes pairs well with a variety of foods, but the perfect way to navigate our Whisky and explore a taste sensation is to pair with a well-stocked cheese board.”
The Glenrothes, Vintage Reserve
Alcohol by Volume – 40 percent
Aging – Unknown number of years aged in a variety of casks.
Aromas – Floral, vanilla, citrus, and dried lilacs.
Tasting Notes – Glenrothes’s signature Whisky, this light, refreshing Scotch has notes of vanilla, citrus, and flowers, especially lilacs. Definitely on the lighter side when it comes to Speyside Whisky, this wonderful expression of Glenrothes remains a timeless classic. Perfect before or after any hearty meal any time of year.
Glenrothes Minister’s Reserve
Alcohol by Volume – 43 percent
Aging – Unknown number of years aged in Spanish oak casks.
Aroma – Nectarines, orange peels, flowers, and wet cave.
Tasting Notes – One of the best Scotches produced by Glenrothes, this smooth, subtle Whisky displays a wide range of flavors, including fresh-picked oranges, sea salt, and vanilla. A long aftertaste, this perfectly balanced Whisky more than held its own about many higher-priced Whiskies. Let me add that you can really taste the Spanish oak in a subtle but not overpowering way. Truly outstanding Whisky, absolutely delicious. This is one you will want to savor after a long, robust meal.
Glenrothes 25 Year Old 1990, Cask 10784, Xtra Old Particular, Douglas Laing
Alcohol by Volume – 56.6 percent
Aging – 25 years in a single Sherry butt.
Aroma – Cedar, cinnamon, butter, and smoke.
Tasting Notes – Distilled in June 1990 and bottled in June 2015, Glenrothes made 285 bottles of this smooth yet intense Single Malt Scotch. A wide range of flavors burst forth in every, intense sip—from cinnamon and pepper to smoke and roses. Add a few drops of water (I personally added unfiltered well water) and this refined Single Malt Scotch reveals its subtle, tropical side. There were hints of apricot, orange peel, and a slight pepper aftertaste in this understated Whisky with a long, bold finish. Have this Scotch with a porterhouse or another thick cut of beef.
Glenrothes 26 Year Old 1988, Single Cask (Master of Malt)
Alcohol by Volume – 53.4 percent
Aging – 26 years in a single refill Bourbon hogshead cask.
Aroma – Vanilla, citrus, orange, dried flowers, toasted chestnuts, and tangerine.
Tasting Notes – Fiery and intense, this Glenrothes Single Malt Scotch is not for the faint of heart. Distilled in June 1988 and bottled in September 2014, this bold Whisky has real character and delivers a wide range of flavors—from roasted oranges to dark chocolate. Add a few drops of water and the peppery notes of this older expression from Glenrothes still packs a powerful kick. Definitely a winter Scotch for a long, cold night.
Photo courtesy Glenrothes