December 2016 Whisky of the Month:
Imported exclusively for the Club, the delightful Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve made it’s Australian debut in time for Christmas 2016. Join The Club now for exclusive access to more exciting drams like this each month and great member perks.
Country of Origin:
The Glenrothes story begins in 1868 when a local grain merchant named James Stuart took a lease on Macallan, a small farm distillery a few miles south of Rothes. In a bid to raise funds for the expansion of Macallan he and a solicitor from Elgin named Cruikshank formed a company with two local agents from the Caledonian Bank; Robert Dick and Willie Grant. Trading as James Stuart & Co., the business prospered and before long the lads decided to build another, larger distillery in Rothes.
Work on Glenrothes commenced in the spring of 1878 on the site of an old saw mill opposite the town cemetery. With the neighbouring burn (stream) providing power via a water wheel and plentiful supplies of pristine spring water, the setting was perfect – except for the timing. That summer Britain plunged into the worst economic crisis for almost a century and of course Messrs. Dick and Grant had borrowed heavily from their bank to finance the new distillery only to see the bank itself heading for collapse at the end of the year. With trouble and uncertainty looming Stuart split the partnership and headed back to the safety of Macallan while the other three struggled on as W Grant & Co (not the Glenfiddich one). Remarkably they managed to continue funding the construction and in May of ’79 the local press were shown round what was clearly a smaller distillery than originally planned, even though it was no less impressive, with the local paper declaring that it ‘bore the stamp of superiority’ and was ‘extensive yet compact.’
On 28 December 1879, two momentous events occurred in Scotland. The new rail bridge over the River Tay collapsed, plunging an unfortunate train into the icy waters and killing all 75 passengers. That same day the first pure spirit flowed from the stills at Glenrothes, a ray of sunshine on an otherwise dark day. Word spread of the quality of the spirit and it was soon highly sought after by Master Blenders as a ‘top dressing’ of choice thanks to its unique flavour, structure and body, so much so that today Glenrothes is still found at the heart of some of the world’s finest blends such as Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse.
In 1887 Grant & Co. merged with the Islay Distillery Co. (a move that nearly 120 years later became the inspiration for our whisky this month) to form Highland Distillers Company Ltd and in 1999 things came full circle when the Edrington Group (who own Macallan among others) and William Grant & Sons (who own Glenfiddich) came together to buy Highland Distillers. While the distillery is owned and operated by the Edrington Group, the Glenrothes Single Malt brand is owned by Berry Bros and Rudd (BBR), London’s oldest established wine merchants. The special relationship between BBR and Glenrothes began in 1923 when BBR approached Glenrothes to be the home for their blended whisky, Cutty Sark, and continues today with BBR’s ownership of the Glenrothes Single Malt brand. Incidentally Edrington and BBR swapped ownership of the Cutty Sark and Glenrothes Single Malt brands in 2010 to allow both parties to concentrate on what they were good at.
Since its inception in 1994 The Glenrothes Single Malt has been a disruptor. When BBR conceived to bottle The Glenrothes as a single malt, being wine merchants they were keen to explore the concept of vintages rather than follow the conventional route of continually producing homogeneous age statement whisky. Taking advantage of the distillers’ advanced understanding of the maturation process, BBR chose rather to bottle the very best of each year’s output as a vintage release, with less than 3% of the distillery’s whisky ending up as single malt. It’s been a very successful strategy, quickly gathering a cult following among whisky connoisseurs who eagerly await what each year’s new vintage release will bring.
About The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve:
The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve is the very first Glenrothes to be fully matured in 100% first fill sherry casks. This is significant because while The Glenrothes pride themselves on using sherry matured whisky in every expression excepting the Bourbon Cask Reserve (Alba Reserve), this is usually a combination of first-fill, second and third fill casks.
To fully appreciate this whisky it’s important to understand that a first fill cask is one that is used for malt whisky for the first time, irrespective of what it may have held before, or for how long. The result is that cask’s previous contents have the greatest effect on the first batch of whisky matured in them, with this effect diminishing with every subsequent refill. The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve’s harmonious balance displays the superb influence of fresh sherry casks, evident from the first sip, with perfectly balanced notes of fruit cake, ginger, orange peel and vanilla.
It’s interesting to note that over 90% of all the casks used in the Scotch Whisky industry have once contained Bourbon and the reason for this is quite simply because Bourbon casks are far more widely available and are therefore a lot cheaper. Sherry casks are made to specification in Jerez, southern Spain and cost approximately 5 times more than the ex-bourbon casks resulting in far fewer distilleries using them for 100% maturation, by and large opting rather to use them for cask finishing.
We are very fortunate this year to have secured an exclusive shipment of the Sherry Cask Reserve and are delighted to present it in Australia for the very first time, just in time for Christmas.
Age on release:
9 Years. Bottled in 2016 from a combination of casks filled in 2001 (70%) and 2007 (30%).
Age statements always represent the youngest whisky in a vatting.
Matured exclusively in first-fill Oloroso Sherry casks using a combination of 30% American Oak casks and 70% Spanish Oak casks.
The Glenrothes quick facts
Place of origin: Burnside Street, Rothes, Aberlour, Moray AB38, Scotland, United Kingdom
Water source: Ardcanny and Brauchhill Springs
Number of stills: 5 wash and 5 spirit
Capacity: 5,200,000 litres of alcohol (malt dependent)
Colour: Burnished gold
Nose: Orange peel, fruit cake, vanilla, ginger bread, black cherries and pear drops work in harmony to deliver a rich and inviting nose
Palate: Full and creamy yet spicy with ginger and crème brûlée notes. Hints of flamed orange zest and cinnamon rounding to juicy sultanas and raisins
Finish: Lingering spiciness with orange peel notes, brown sugar and nutmeg
You absolutely must save a dram to go with your Christmas pudding this year