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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Single Malt Report: Glen Ord 12 year old 1998 James Macarthur

There is a sad lack of Glen Ord reviews on this site, so I'm going to remedy that situation with three straight G.O. reviews this week.  The intros for all of these reviews will be mercifully short because the posts will likely be written long past midnight, possibly with a dram already in my system.

First up, is a review of a Glen Ord bottled by James Macarthur & Co., in their Fine Malt Selection series.  Thus, though it's a single cask, the ABV was reduced to 45% before bottling.  You may see a few of this series lingering around your favorite US whisky specialist; I've spied Highland Parks, Bowmores, Glendullans, Clynelishes, and Mortlachs.

This review is actually from my own bottle (gifted by my Kristen last year).  And this is another instance wherein I had intended to a "Life of a Bottle" review, but I polished off this thing with such haste that all I was left with was one 2oz review sample.

There's a reason the whisky inside the bottle vanished so quickly.  I liked it, a lot.  To get a better sense of how it compared with another Glen Ord, I compared it to another Glen Ord.  I took notes while drinking it on its own, then I took notes during a Taste Off with tomorrow's Ord.  I'll list both sets of notes for this whisky below.

Bottle shot:

Distillery: Glen Ord
Independent Bottler: James MacArthur & Co.
Series: Fine Malt Selection
Age: 12 years (1998-2011)
Maturation: re-fill bourbon casks
Cask number27
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: No

First, on its own:

Its color is straw.  The nose is barley barley barley.  It's very fresh.  Yeah, that's vague.  But it's fresh.  Mingling with the barley are roses, anise, and tangerine pulp.  There are hints of honey and cream, probably from the cask.  A bit of hot cereal and dusty sandy peat.  With air, grass, coconut, and grapefruit notes arise.  Barley is the biggest note in the palate as well.  Think toasted, roasted grains.  Right up front there's some salt and pepper, and very little sweetness.  A bit of a pilsner thing going on as well.  With air, out come the lemons and peppercorns.  A slight bitter earthy note develops, which complements the lemons well.  It has a long effervescent finish (considering its age and ABV) with a spicy tingle and a citrus bite (or the other way around).  The soft bitterness finds its way into some smoke.

WITH WATER (43%-ish ABV)
The nose gets farmier and more herbal.  But it's still mostly barley grist.  Aromatic orange zest and rose blossoms.  Some vanilla beans, roasted coffee beans, and menthol, too.  More roast and toast in the palate.  The bitterness gets bolder; I'm thinking baking chocolate and Campari.  A brown sugar note sweetens things up.  The bitter and citrus notes remain in the finish, as does some peppery spice.  Then hay and vanilla bean appear in the background.

Then, when sampled neatly alongside tomorrow's Glen Ord:

Barley and yeast lead the nose.  Then grapefruit, mango, and apple mint leaves.  Caraway seeds.  As the whisky airs out, rock candy and a hint of moss appear.  Again, barley and yeast in the palate.  Black pepper and oats.  Orange zest, vanilla bean, lime, and tart nectarines.  Brown sugar.  Lots of pepper in the clean finish.  An herbal bitterness meets creamsicle sweetness.

This whisky was recommended to me by two folks.  I asked them each, independently, for a suggestion of a good affordable independent Glen Ord, and they both named this one.  And now I'm happy to recommend the same to you.  If you can find a bottle.

(I wish I could link to a bunch of other reviews saying the same thing.  But I haven't seen anyone else review it.  Oliver K. reviewed its sister cask four years ago and liked it.  And that's about it, I think.)

But here's the disclaimer: The whisky isn't full of rich oak.  It's not a fruit cocktail or a sherry bomb or a peat missile.  But at the same time, it is not under-matured.  Fresh, big on barley, and gentle on cask influence, it's the sort of whisky I wish I ran into more often.

Glen Ord's doing well so far.  Onto another 1998 tomorrow.

Availability - Happy hunting!
Pricing - anywhere from $60 to $90
Rating - 89


  1. I hope one of those Glen Ords to be reviewed is the AD Rattray. That one encounter really left an impression, and made Glen Ord a distillery to watch for me. "Fresh" is a good way to describe it - for the ADR I reached for "soft spun gold" - yeah, that's what it did to me! Like Brackla, Mannochmore, or Miltonduff, Glen Ord is one of those obscure malts that I'd buy without hesitation - especially if not sherried or peated!

    1. You may be in luck...

      Yes, I can now be counted amongst the Glen Ord fanbase. All eight of us.