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Monday, October 24, 2016

Single Malt Report: Glen Moray 12 year old


Glen Moray-Glenlivet Distillery Co. Ltd. built Glen Moray on the site of the former West Brewery, in the midst of the Pattison-era whisky craze, in 1897. The whisky market crashed the following year, but Glen Moray kept chugging along until 1910, when it closed. Macdonald & Muir, then owners of Glenmorangie, bought the distillery in 1920, reopening it 1923. Due to the malt's success in M&M's Highland Queen blend, the owners doubled the still count in 1958, also replacing the floor maltings with a Saladin box. (Note: I've seen a conflict between reliable sources saying the stills were actually doubled in 1979. It's Chuck Maclean vs. Johannes.) Macdonald & Muir released the first official Glen Moray single malt in 1976. It was right around the late '70s when they ditched the internal maltings altogether for a third party's unpeated malt; so if you have one of the old 20yo or 30yo, those were distilled from the distillery's own maltings.  In 2004, Macdonald & Muir (now Glenmorangie plc) sold their distilleries to Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy. Then four years later LVMH sold Glen Moray to the current La Martiniquaise ownership.

For more than a decade Glen Moray has produced a number of well priced aged-stated single malts, including a 10 year old Chardonnay Cask, 12 year old, and 16 year old. They had the NAS Classic for years, but that was clearly priced to be their starter whisky. As of 2016, they entered the NAS parade with a Classic Peated, Classic Chardonnay Finish, Classic Port Finish, and Classic Sherry Finish. Thankfully, those price tags have been kept under £30.

Brief Commentary

With most of their malt going to the Label 5 brand, the 10th most popular blended scotch in the world, I get the feeling there was a bit of strain being put on their malt reserves. Either that or they bought into the artificial boom too late, because they just doubled the distillery's capacity to 6.5 million liters per annum last year. Whisky Yearbook says there are plans to increase it further to 9 million liters/year. Yes, you just heard me sigh. I hope their ownership looks back to the beginning of the distillery's history to determine the wisdom of that additional expansion.


Distillery: Glen Moray
Owner: La Martiniquaise
Type: Single Malt
Region: Speyside (Elgin)
Maturation: ex-bourbon casks, with unknown quantity of first fills
Age: at least twelve years old
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? Probably
Colorant added? Not much, if any
(Sample comes to D4P courtesy of a sample swap with My Annoying Opinions)

Its color is as light as straw, often a positive in my book. The nose is very grainy; think cream of wheat, oats, or rice. Actually, a bit of sake in there. Then hay, carpet, apple cider and a young weird buttery note that may be more from the spirit than the oak. The palate starts off well with a gentle toffee note and a raisin-like thing.....which vanishes after the third sip. What starts off as light acidity grows with time. Add that acidity to a fizziness, and one's left with a 7-UP note. Some anise. Hint of potato vodka. A thinness in the mouthfeel makes this come across like a mid-shelf blend. The finish has barley, anise and vanilla. That 7-UP note. The acidity remains, giving off a feeling of grappa, almost.

Well, that was curious. Having had other Glen Morays before (though oddly this is the first I've reviewed) I knew I wasn't going to get some average boring malt. There's always a kick of something quirky in their whisky. I liked the graininess and the whole young aspect of the nose. The palate began with promise then was overtaken by the acidity, and that's where it buried itself.

It works a little better as a tumbler whisky, as opposed to a Glencairn whisky. And that's how I'd recommend one drink it. The acidity mellows and more of the youthful barley notes stick out. You could do much worse in the vanishing $30 single malt tier, especially if you're not an oak enthusiast.

Availability - Specialty retailers
Pricing - $30-$40
Rating - 78