...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Glenrothes 1972-2005

I began this week essentially nominating Glenrothes for the The Great Meh Distillery title. Since then, I've had three very good Glenrothee. But surely a 30-something year old single malt distilled in 1972 will be bog water. Right?

Distillery: Glenrothes
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Speyside (Rothes!)
Age: 32-33 years (1972 - 2005)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%


The nose begins almost like an old Calvados, with baked apples and pears. Then there's the honey cake we had at kiddush in the synagogue when I was a kid. My notes then say "macrons"; did I mean macarons? Or does the whisky smell like France's first family? You decide. After that: hints of maple sugar, iodine and seaweed. Finally, again quoting my notes, "Sticky Icky in the BG". I can't imagine what that's supposed to mean.

Musty oak, sandalwood incense and a hint of cigarettes start off the palate. Tiny notes of dried herbs, dried apricots and dried leaves. But it's mostly a series of old oak tones, though not as far down the path as liquid furniture (see Pappy 23).

A little bit of sherry cask appears in the finish, along side cracked peppercorns, dried leaves and the palate's bitterness.


This is unlike any Glenrothes I've had before. But then again, I don't think I'd tried too many older than 20yo. Having completed three decades in a cask, and starting a fourth, the whisky has gradually taken on plenty of oak; the key word being "gradually." The result is a remarkably expressive nose. Though I liked the palate's aged tobacco-like style, the oak's dominance didn't leave room for much else. Again I wonder what this was like at cask strength, and what was lost in the dilution.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Glenrothes 16 year old 1979

I've never had Glenrothes from the 1970s, so this will be a first — and a second, since I have another sample from the Malaise Decade. Both whiskies are official bottlings weighing in at an overwhelming 43%abv. The first one was distilled in 1979, the year Pops Stargell and the Pirates knocked out the Orioles in the Series.

Distillery: Glenrothes
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Speyside (Rothes!)
Age: 16 years (3 August 1979 - 1995)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(sample from a bottle split)


At first sniff, the whisky noses of roasted meat and roasted nuts with a side of paint VOCs. Then things get interesting. Mothballs and olive juice. Then caramel applies. Yuzu. Vanilla Bean. And finally, guava.

The palate begins very dusty, but by the third sip it takes off. First toffee, salt, lemons and Sugar Daddies (the candy). Then hints of tobacco ash and horseradish.

The finish comes in sweeter than the palate, but it also has the tobacco ash and hints of chile oil and tannin.


I've found my new favorite Glenrothes! Had it been bottled stronger (yes this song again), it may have been pretty fabulous. But at 43%abv, we're left with just pretty darned good. Though it has touches of tannin, vanilla and caramel, it doesn't feel like a contemporary woody thing because those elements take a backseat to much more interesting stuff. The nose itself is delightful.

Three high quality Glenrothes in a row? This is the strangest life I've ever known.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, September 20, 2021

Two Glenrothes single malts distilled in 2001

You're screaming at your screen, "You stopped reviewing Highland Parks for THIS?"

And I'm like, "Yes?"

I recently marked ten years of Diving for Pearls whisky reviews with a re-review of the first Single Malt Report, Balvenie DoubleWood 12 year old. Ten years ago today, I started a streak of Glenrothes single malt reviews. That streak ended on 9/28/2011. There hasn't been a single Glenrothes post on this site since.

Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I have found Glenrothes to be one of the least inspiring single malts. It's a consistent C grade whisky that can hit B- range when it's hitting on all cylinders. And that's only when it's from a bourbon cask. Otherwise, it serves a blank canvas for other cask types. I tend to see it as malt filler for the sometimes-preferable Famous Grouse.

But then again, I haven't had a Glenrothes for more than six years, so I'm willing to give this Speysider another chance. My palate has gone through many changes, and I have four samples that aren't going to drink themselves. So here I go with the first two, both about 14 years old, both distilled in 2001, both bottled by indies, and both from fortified wine casks.


: Glenrothes
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Speyside (Rothes!)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 14 years (27 March 2001 - 2015)
Maturation: refill port pipe
Cask #: 30.87
Cask "name": A skinny dipping dram
Outturn: 738 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.6%
(Thank you to St. Brett for the sample!)

The nose leads with a surprising stinky aged cheese note (which alters one's view of the name SMWS bestowed upon the cask). Sugary things follow, like Luxardo cherries, gummy worms and black Twizzlers. Ginger ale and roses in the background. But that aged cheese note keeps everything from going overboard. The nose picks up a coastal note once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv. There's more salt and raw almonds, less candy.

Grapes and berries appear early in the palate, but so do salt and savory notes, thus it never gets too sweet. Lemons and minerals fill out the background. It shifts around a bit at 46%abv, with almonds, salt and hay up front; honey, pepper and bitterness in the back.

No sweetness in the finish, as the fruits (berries and citrus) are quite tart. A little bit of tannin, a few roses as well. At 46%abv it finishes with honey, oranges and black pepper.

I like this? I like this. The port pipe is certainly refill, but not dead. The spirit isn't particularly unique nor complex but it's solid and slightly spartan. I'd drink this any day. The nose works better without dilution, in my opinion, while the palate and finish do well with a little water. This was unexpected.

Rating - 86


Distillery: Glenrothes
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Speyside (Rothes!)
Independent Bottler: Malts of Scotland
Age: 14-ish years (2001 - 2015)
Maturation: sherry hogshead
Cask #: MoS 15029
Outturn: 182 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.8%
(sample from a bottle split)

The nose says clean cask. Loud cask. Rolos and Three Musketeers meet root beer and cherry popsicles. A little of bit of orange peel in the background. There are more nuts and berries at 46%abv, and less chocolate. Strawberry jam and roses fill the background.

Lotsa cask in the palate too. Bags of dried fruit, nearly overwhelm everything else. One may find candied lemon peel, sharp ginger beer and a hint bitterness way in the back. Reducing the whisky to 46%abv seems to thicken the palate's texture, and maybe brings out a touch of malt. Otherwise it's all almonds, dried sweet potato, caramel and a hint of chiles.

The finish mostly matches the palate with dried fruits, ginger and sugar leading the way. The sweetness nearly vanishes at 46%abv, and some tannins jump in. Then there are nuts, black peppercorns and dried sweet potatoes.

With its style and dark coloring, this is the sort of whisky that would have certain whisky fans vigorously stroking......the refresh button on their auction bids. It's not really my style, as it's one of those blank canvas 'Rotheses. But the cask is pretty good. It's a dessert thing at full power, nearly a liqueur, though I prefer it diluted.

Rating - 84

Those were the two best Glenrothes I've ever reviewed, and I would certainly sip both again, something I've never said about a Glenrothes single malt. Perhaps I should stop fooling around and get to the 1970s stuff...

Friday, September 17, 2021

Concluding the Highland Park cluster

This cluster wore me out. The comparisons were enlightening, and (even more importantly) I am not sick of Highland Park. This was also a good way to battle my significant Whisky Attention Deficit Disorder. But, still, the cluster structure feels a bit rigid. There's no room for improv nor inspiration. And I did miss all the other things. 

I'm going to recap and retire this cluster with some snippets of info. Since I have a decent sample size on hand, I'm going to analyze the data set using my always-consistent made-up scores!

Total Highland Parks - 28
Mean - 85.39
Median - 86
Mode - 90


There was no easy way to split this group by age, especially since seven of the whiskies were 18 years old. Had I split them at the 20 year mark, the distance between the average score of the two categories would have widened. Even if I'd dropped the highest and lowest score for each column, the difference would have remained the same. Older Highland Park scored better.

It's a dead heat! The bourbon casks had the highest (91) and lowest (70) ratings in the set. But the key is that 70-point Old Malt Cask. For these numbers, I guessed it was from a bourbon cask, as it had many bourbon notes on the nose. Were it a sherry cask, then the bourbon cask set would have been slightly stronger. (Also, this group does not include the unaged HP.)

Another near tie. The OB scores had a tighter range and a smaller standard deviation than the indies. One could chalk that up to the variety between single casks.

The 1984 OMC wrecked the average for the '70s & '80s. Without that whisky, that group's average was nearly 89. With that one in the mix, the average scores between decades aren't that dissimilar, which is good news for those of us who can only afford 21st century Highland Park.

The official bottlings that fell below 50%abv were MUCH better than those above 50%abv, and that's what pushed the lightest category into first place. The violent style of the young sherry bombs resulted in the third column's low scores.

I get High-land Park with a little help from my friends.

Twenty-eight different whiskies averaging out to a B grade qualifies as a very nice thing. That this happened with Highland Park is not a big surprise. The distillery's whiskies vary style — a little more sherry influence here, more smoke there, some ocean, some farm, bit of fruit, etc. — but the usual result is at least very good, and I think the HPs in this cluster bear that out.

One more round of thank yous go out to my friends who donated samples to this effort! As you can see in that last table, those whiskies made a difference. Now I'm going to take a break from clusters for a short while in order to catch up on all the other things.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Highland Park 26 year old 1977 Hart Brothers

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

I feel like I'm limping across the finish line for this cluster. Part of the exhaustion is due to life and all the things. Part of it is 28 Highland Parks, with only a pair of brief breaks. Part of it is oh my god it's only Tuesday as I type this?

This cluster comes to a close with, no, not a Cadenhead dumpy nor one of those official single cask monsters from the early 1970s, but a Hart Brothers 1977 that passed through a sherry cask's innards at some point. What, you expected something sexy? What makes this blog sexy is its lack of sexiness. Yeah, that's the ticket.

The good news about this one is that, unlike the 1978, the Bros didn't water it down to 43%abv. They let it live at 46%abv. Perhaps they had a change in philosophy between 1996 and 2004.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Finest Collection
Age: 26 years old (November 1977 - September 2004)
Maturation: "Sherry finish"
Outturn: ????
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)


Those nose is woody, but nicely so. Slightly toasted and kinda musty, like someone I know. But there's also plenty of ocean brine, fried plantains and roasted nuts. Maybe a hint of caramel to go with those plantains. After 30-ish minutes, a good combo of lime, burlap and coastal smoke arrives. The whisky changes a bit when reduced to 43%abv, with lemon, melon and basil up front; coal smoke in the back. Very mild overall.

Smoke, cayenne pepper, lemon and milk chocolate lead off the palate. The tannins roll right up to the too-much line without crossing it. With time in the glass, the whisky develops a slight medicinal note, which goes well with a solid mix of lemon candy and cayenne. The palate gets sweeter at 43%abv, while losing the citrus and gaining salt and bitterness.

The finish carries a moderate sweetness up front, from its citrus and honey, and a little bit of white pepper and acidity in the background. Diluted to 43%abv, the whisky finishes woodier, just holding onto the sweet citrus.


This Highland Park feels old school. It's not just the slightly creaky cask(s), nor its somewhat dusty quality; rather the sherry finish doesn't feel slathered on top, instead it's part of the whole. It's also a good thing the whisky was given those three extra alcohol points because it was collapsing as I reduced it, and may not have stood up to 17 years in a bottle. It's a good whisky, not tremendous, but a well made drink I'd be happy to pour at any time.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (neat only)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Highland Park 27 year old 1984 The Whisky Agency

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

Monday's '84 Highland Park was......not what I had expected. But I carry on. Sometimes I really carry on. Ask my family or anyone I've ever worked with. You see, I have opinions about things. And so does the man in charge of the My Annoying Opinions blog. He generously provided me with today's sample from a bottle he opened for his _ _ birthday. You know what I opened for my last birthday? MALÖRT. Which I shared with Randy Brandy. Actually this sounds like a good sample swap...

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Agency
Range: Bugs. Seriously, Bugs. Beautiful labels.
Age: 27 years old (1984 - 2011)
Maturation: Bourbon hogshead
Outturn: 222 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.5%
(Many thank yous to My Annoying Opinions!)


The nose leads with ocean, cocoa, toasty oak and toasted nuts. Lemons and oranges. Wait, now I'm getting limes. And fresh basil leaf. Smoke arrives at the 45-minute mark, adding another great dimension. The elements merge well once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv. It gains some baking spices, but I find mostly nuts, malt and ocean, with a hint of grapefruit.

The palate has a stone fruit and salt combination that elicited from my face a sound, a wordless monosyllabic utterance that may have made passers-by turn their heads (and barf). A flawless balance of stones, sweetness, tartness and wood smoke arrives at the twenty minute mark, and remains for nearly an hour. Ocean notes and bitter herbs appear later, as does a white peach. At 46%abv, some more oak appears, but peaches and fresh apricots remain.

Its long finish holds dried leaves and dried grass, lemons, white peaches and a whiff of smoke. At 46%abv, the finish is simpler, a little earthier and sweeter perhaps.


Upon sniffing the whisky, I knew my recent streak of uninspiring whiskies was over. Yet I didn't think it was going to leap into 90-point territory. But then I actually tasted it, and yes it's excellent, especially when neat. The TWA folks dumped this cask at a great point, just as everything was in balance. If 25+ year old bourbon cask HPs were in my price range, this style is exactly what I'd seek out. Thank you, Mr. Opinions!

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90

Monday, September 13, 2021

Highland Park 16 year old 1984 Old Malt Cask

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

It's time to wrap up this cluster. There will (probably) be a flurry of three posts in three days because Yom Kippur arrives on Thursday. My hope is to provide a thoughtful recap of the cluster on Friday.

Today's HP was distilled in 1984. I only vaguely remember 1984. But then again, I only vaguely remember 2019. Anyway, Douglas Laing has bottled at least ten Highland Parks from the 1984 vintage, but this was the first. With its 750mL listing in Whiskybase, the whisky appears to have been bottled for the USA. It's great to know we were getting OMCs back then. Too bad I was shooting vodka with Coors Light chasers in those days. Too bad, indeed.

I'm kinda spilling the beans with this picture.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
Range: Old Malt Cask
Age: 16 years old (May 1984 - July 2000)
Maturation: "Cask" (woo, that narrows it down)
Outturn: 270 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
(from a bottle split)


For the first 30 minutes, the nose offers mothballs, metal, chalk, seaweed and apples. After that it takes a turn towards bourbon, with caramel, bananas and barrel char. Once the whisky is reduced to 43%abv, the nose turns simple, blendy, with hints of minerals, smoke and ocean.

The palate. SOAP. And also soap. Awkward Old Bottle Effect swoops around malt, sweet apples, bitterness and hints of oranges. The soap retreats a bit at 43%abv, only to be replaced by cardboard and tannins. It's a little sweeter, with more smoke and a touch of lemon.

It finishes with sweet citrus, OBE, cardboard and soap. At 43%abv, there's lemon, metal and cardboard.


This bottle was freshly opened when it was split up less than a year ago, so this isn't a case of a dusty going weird when met with years of oxygen. I also switched glasses twice. So it's the whisky.

There's a slight sample size issue when it comes to the Whiskybase community's opinion for this Highland Park. There are two ratings: a 91, and a 60. My take falls between the two, though closer to the latter. The palate is dramatically flawed with its soap, cardboard and heavy oaky bitterness. And though I tend to like Old Bottle Effect, it doesn't work well with any of the other characteristics in the palate. The nose doesn't do much to save it either, other than bringing the score up out of the 60s. I sincerely hope the last two HPs are better than this.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 70