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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Single Malt Report: Glen Mhor 26 year old 1978 Scott's Selection

On Monday, I celebrated my half birthday, which is something all five-and-a-half year old grownups do.  On my actual birthdays, I sample a whisky my age alongside a whisky that was distilled during my birth year.  So yesterday, I thought I'd do half of that approach by opening up a sample of Glen Mhor 1978.

Thank you to Eric S. for another great sample and super great label!
There's a funny story about this whisky, a story that isn't actually funny so I'll keep it to a paragraph.

In September and October 2012, I attended two Scott's Selections tastings.  Both times Glen Mhor 1978 was part of the lineup.  Both times I liked it very much.  I had recently opened up my first official birthday whisky (Balblair 1978) and wasn't sure what the next one would be......until I tried the Glen Mhor.  It was the right year, it was delicious, it was $40 cheaper than my Balblair, and it was from a closed distillery!  My first dead distillery bottle!  So excited.  Then, despite what the distributor rep said, it was not in stock.  And despite what the distributor rep said later, it would not be available in a few weeks.  Three months later, I got an email that Glen Mhor was in stock.  I bought a bottle.  Fast forward to August 2013, I was (and am) still working on the Balblair Birthday Bottle, but I thought I'd admire the Glen Mhor bottle a bit.  I took out my tasting notes from ten months earlier to imagine what I'd be drinking on a future birthday.  That's when I noticed my notes said "Glen Mhor 1978-2001, 56.6% ABV".  The bottle I bought was 1978-2004, 56.0% ABV.  Though it's three years older, it ain't the same whisky.  Then I started hearing muted enthusiasm by the folks who had tried the 2004.  Though, I was happy to see My Annoying Opinions give it a positive review in December.

Ultimately, after the distributor put up two runaround/delays about the whisky, they then released a whisky that was different than the one they were providing at tastings.  I don't have buyer's remorse, but I am a little irked about this.  Going forward I will be even more cautious about my purchases.  And I'm very very thankful that reader Eric S. sent me a sample from his bottle so that could find out what my future whisky might actually taste like.

Distillery: Glen Mhor (pronounced "vor")
Former Owner: DCL (proto-Diageo)
Bottler: Scott's Selection
Age: 26-ish years (1978 - 2004)
Maturation: "Oakwood Casks" (how helpful!)
Region: Northern Highlands, right next to Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 56.0%

The color is light gold.  My bottle pic on the right is looking a little dark.  The nose starts very simply: vanillas, caramels, mellow barley spirit, and Juicy Fruit gum.  But with a little bit of air the whisky starts to develop some Glenmorangie-ish citrus.  Orange, citron, and cardamom.  Then there's mint leaf.  A peach with pencil lead stuck in it.  Citronella meets vanilla.  Or does citron + vanilla = citronella?  After almost thirty minutes of air: lemon juice, hay, and butterscotch arise.  The palate is less exciting.  Hot cereal alternating with orange candy.  Vanilla and toffee meet orange, lemon, and lime peels.  And that fruit element grows with time.  Brown sugar starts peeking out later on.  There's a bit of alcohol heat that mellows after a while.  I keep feeling like there's something graceful lurking in the distance, but it never arrives.  At first, the finish alternates between sweet and butyric (like someone burped up that hot cereal), but then here comes the citrus oils, bubblegum, and a wee floral peep.  Rock candy and toffee as well.

Something almost phenolic (Band-Aids?) appears in the nose, though the distillers did not peat their malt.  Then coconut and vanilla, as if this was a single grain.  But with time, it straightens out.  Caramel sauce, the oranges and cardamom, saline nasal spray, cucumber, fresh apples, and lemon peel.  The palate is a sweetie.  Tart too.  Orange pixie stix, vanilla frosting, apple juice, and some fresh cut grass.  The finish is intensely sweet.  Straight white sugar.  The tart citrus rolls in later on.

Scott's labeling says "Matured in Oakwood casks".  They should add "Bottled in glass".  I'm a little confused about what sort of "Oakwood" was utilized.  MAO found some sherry notes when reviewing this whisky.  Meanwhile I'm finding all sorts of vanillas, butterscotch, coconut, and caramels.  Could this have been a refill sherry cask fashioned from American oak?  We do both find loads of citrus all over the whisky, and we both prefer the nose over the palate.

I wasn't particularly disappointed by the whisky.  It's a very drinkable sweetie that proves to be another boldly citric Highlander.  But it doesn't establish itself as unique in anyway, thus if I were to add emphasis in the previous sentence I'd say it's another boldly citric Highlander.  Despite this, I am glad Scott's salvaged a cask or two of Glen Mhor, bottled it for us all, and gave it a decent price (in the current market, at least).

My notes for the 2001 bottling say "graceful, mellow, and malty".  I still would have preferred that version since I was and am loathe to spend this sort of money on a single bottle.  I'm going to leave my bottle of this 2004 closed for a few more years.

Availability - A few liquor shops in the US
Pricing - $140-$180
Rating - 85