A review of the Glenrothes 20yr old single malt released by North Star Spirits as a part of series 001.
This Glenrothes 20 yr old from North Star Spirits was the first of the three whiskies poured for our monthly tasting session. Tastings are done blind. Before I get on with the review a little bit about the Glenrothes distillery. I've already written about North Star Spirits in my earlier post which you can read here.
Established in 1878, Glenrothes distillery is built besides the Burn of Rothes in the Speyside region. In 1887 it amalgamated with Bunnahabhain owned by Islay Distillery Company to form the Highland Distillers Company. Bulk of its malt goes into the Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse blends. Independent bottler and blender Berry Bros & Rudd(BB&R) who owned Cutty Sark began selling Glenrothes as vintages rather than the standard age statements. In 1999 William Grant & Sons (owners of Glenfiddich & Balvenie) partnered up with the Edrington Group (owners of Macallan & Highland Park) to buy Highland Distillers Company. In 2010 the Edrington Group sold Glenrothes to BB&R in exchange for the Cutty Sark brand. In 2017 the Edrington Group bought back Glenrothes from BB&R.
Sadly I've yet to be massively impressed by their official bottlings and I've sampled quite a few over the years. Somehow they tend to taste more or less the same which I think defeats the purpose of releasing them as vintages. Given this background I actually took a punt on this Glenrothes from North Star Spirits. I was curious to find out how an independent bottling of Glenrothes with an age statement would fare as compared to the official vintages. The price £82.50 is what you'd expect to pay these days for that age at cask strength. Also this was the only sherry offering in this series and yes I like my sherry! Update: According to a post by Master of Malts on Twitter, Glenrothes has not only repackaged their line up but have also dropped the vintages in favour of age statements! It's been called The Soleo Collection. It consists of a 10 yr/12 yr/18 yr/25 yr/40 yr and a NAS whisky called Whisky Makers Cut.
The Glenrothes bottle I received had a damaged label. My guess is that it was ripped during delivery but there is no way to prove it. My friend who received the delivery didn't bother to open the parcel and check. We realised only after a week when I asked him to open the parcel as I like to have photos of the bottles I order. Being so far away in Mumbai there is no way I can physically check my orders. I have to depend on the generous support of friends who have agreed to take deliveries on my behalf and store them safely. And a few great souls also carry them back for me when travelling to the UK. God bless them!
Honestly I was a little disappointed. After all, the labels are really stunning. I sent the picture above to Iain being fully aware that it wasn't his responsibility whatsoever. To my utter surprise not only did he promptly respond but also sent me a new foil with a lovely handwritten postcard. Mind you I'm not a local UK resident. Would any of the big boys of the industry respond similarly? Frankly I don't know. But Iain's gesture just blew me away! On to the review.
North Star Spirits-Glenrothes 20yr old-Series 001
Price paid £82.50 | Sold out
Cask strength @ 54.6%
Wood-Refill Sherry hogshead
Natural colour|Non chill-filtered
Distilled Aug'96-Bottled Oct'16
Outrun 252 bottles
Colour: Light Copper
Nose: Chocolate straight up. Orange marmalade, rum-n-raisins with red and green apples. Freshly cut fruits, pears, pickled ginger. It kept evolving in the glass with time, shifting towards the classic sherry notes of light varnish, apricots, walnut fudge, prunes lots of cinnamon, coffee-toffee-latte and vanilla. It becomes almost perfume like (not the Bowmore kind!) and I mean that in a good way.
Palate: Explosion of spices. A little thin and hot on the palate for that age but it follows the nose in perfect sync. The sherry takes center stage with dark chocolate, orange rind, hazelnuts, walnuts and black cardamom with bitter cereal notes. With water it gets a lovely creamy texture. The mouthfeel improves significantly bringing out more of the nutty character and taming the spices. A nice bittersweet balance.
After 20 mins in the glass it tastes of sweet confectionary. Lovely notes of aniseed appear along with old furniture and some resinous varnish. The morning after (I like to keep my glass overnight!) pure dense manuka honey.
Finish: Surprisingly long with roasted coffee beans and a whiff of tobacco.
Impressions: This North Star bottling takes the knickers off any of the official vintages I've tasted so far. It was very lively for its age and in an equally active refill sherry cask. Yet the sherry which was a little more pronounced on the palate than the nose did not overpower the distillate. An absolute belter and worth seeking out at auctions.