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The Glenrothes

The Glenrothes
Select Reserve
Speyside Single Malt
Scotch Whisky


By Robert Plotkin

Scotch enthusiasts are hooked on the thrill of discovery and the joy that only comes from finding a tremendous whisky with which they’re unfamiliar. When a bar affords them this new experience, their continued patronage is assured. The Glenrothes Speyside Single Malts are exactly what aficionados and novices are searching for. While highly esteemed within the drinks community, The Glenrothes is yet a common household brand. The Glenrothes Select Reserve Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky will surely change that.

Far from an overnight sensation, The Glenrothes Distillery began producing malt whisky in the small town of Rothes in 1879. For most of the 20th century, the distillery produced malts for blended whiskies such as Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse. That changed in 1994 when The Glenrothes released for export their first vintage 1979, which was also the centennial anniversary of the distillery.

The response to the Vintage 1979 malt was an enthusiastic success, and when it sold out, enthusiasts clamored for more. Over the years the distillery released 16 more vintage malts—1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1998—each of which has met with critical acclaim and commercial success. Requests poured into The Glenrothes distillery to create a readily available single malt that reflected their house style and embodied the character of the Speyside, Scotland’s most prestigious whisky appellation.

The pursuit eventually culminated in the introduction of The Glenrothes Select Reserve Speyside Single Malt. The whisky is a marriage of mature casks distilled in different years that typify the style of The Glenrothes as interpreted by master distiller John Ramsay. The water comes from the nearby Ardcanny and Brauchhill wells, a couple of miles upstream from the Rothes burn, which flows past the distillery.

The Glenrothes is one of only a small handful of distilleries that has its own cooperage. The whiskies that comprise Select Reserve were aged in American ex-bourbon barrels and Spanish sherry casks. The bourbon casks lend lush vanilla and coconut character, while the sherry casks imbue the malt with spice and a resinous quality. Although the 80-proof single malt bears no age statement, the whisky is aged to optimum maturity before bottled.

The Glenrothes Select Reserve offers a great deal of elegance at a relatively modest price. The amber/gold whisky has a satiny, medium-weight body and a captivating bouquet of honey, anise, vanilla bean and orange zest. Its soft, refined entry builds into a lively palate of malt, plums, dried herbs and peppery spice before slowly fading into a creamy, toffee finish with tantalizing hints of peaty smoke. It’s a bona fide masterpiece reasonably priced around $45. There’s a legion of malts costing twice as much that deliver less than half the number of contented sighs. Kudos John Ramsay.

The recent vintage release—The Glenrothes 1994 Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky—is a light festive offering. It’s a rare vintage-dated malt embodying the nobility of Speyside. The 86-proof whisky is a wonderful find—far too good to share with the in-laws. It has a zesty orange and lemon bouquet and lively notes of raisins, toffee and coconut and a full rich palate of fruit, toasted malt and dark chocolate. The finish is uplifting and delicious. Like their previous vintage malts, The Glenrothes 1994 is a sumptuous slice of life never to be repeated. Grab some while you can.