The United Kingdom's Speyside region is home to half of the distilleries in Scotland—including Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, Macallan and Cragganmore—and has the greatest concentration of fine malt whisky producers in the world. So what exactly is it about Speyside that makes its Scottish whiskies so superior? In Santa Monica at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel’s FIG restaurant, whisky authority Nicholas Pollacchi (of The Whisky Isle) recently had the honor of introducing US-based whisky aficionados to Speyside’s newest three vintage releases in The Glenrothes Reserve Collection: Sherry Cask, Bourbon Cask and Vintage Reserve. The single malts are blends of rare and limited vintages to make distinctive 40 percent ABV expressions.
The Bourbon Cask Reserve ($60) is matured in American oak refill bourbon casks to pull aromas and flavors from the seasoned woodgrain. “Bourbon Cask Reserve whisky is rooted in Scotland but gives a nod to our American cousins,” says Ronnie Cox, Brands Heritage Director for The Glenrothes. “These casks deliver flavors of vanilla, citrus and delicate floral notes, producing a dram which is creamy, sweet and balanced.” Light in color, this expression definitely isn’t for the casual imbibers.
The Vintage Reserve ($54) epitomizes the company’s Vintage Single Malt philosophy of bottling whisky only once it has reached the peak of its maturity. This blend is comprised of 10 vintages from three decades and is aged in a variety of casks. “Whisky enthusiasts want to know what they are buying and we are happy to oblige by being open and transparent about the 10 vintages assembled together for Vintage Reserve,” says Cox, who specifies the blend’s vintages as being 1989, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2004-2007. “It’s our most complex Reserve to date.” Pollacchi had his own unique perspective, calling it, “Sweet and delicious like liquid dessert. It’s softer than a New England football.”
My favorite of the three vintage releases is the Sherry Cask Reserve ($60), a Double Gold Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America award winner. Marking the first time The Glenrothes has offered a totally first-fill sherry cask expression, the whisky is aged in Spanish oak and delivers a rich and pleasant flavor profile of dried fruit. “The texture is deliciously creamy, a hallmark of The Glenrothes, which develops into a kaleidoscopic rainbow of soft spicy and fruity flavors on the palate,” says Cox. Chiming in, Pollacchi likened the sherry casks to “the tigers of the spirits world—they’re much more promiscuous. This is one of the easiest whiskies you’ll ever ease into your flavor profile.”
You can find the new Glenrothes Reserve Collection on a variety of spirits websites, including The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt.