Glen Moray is another distillery about which I know very little. I know that it is in the Speyside, that it doesn’t have much of a reputation and that its whisky is available for not very much money in the US. Until recently, that whisky was a 12 yo at 40%, which retailed in most places (and still does) for less than $30. As of a year or two ago (or at least that’s when I noticed it) it has been joined in the US by a 10 yo at 43% (higher than the 40% of the European release) that has been matured entirely in chardonnay casks, and which also retails in most places for less than $30. I’d resisted the blandishments of the 12 yo for many, many years on account of snobbery: an undistinguished distillery with “Glen” in its name and very low prices, I reasoned, was unlikely to add up to promising whisky. And the 10 yo I resisted when I first saw it on shelves last year because even goddamned Murray McDavid (who have finished whiskies in everything but a septic tank) did not mess with chardonnay casks (as far as I know). A gimmick, I thought.
Then I got some good reports of the 10 yo from some trustworthy folk, and decided to take a chance. And as I was putting together a tasting for some friends featuring two whiskies each from two different distilleries but from two different cask types, I decided to get the 12 yo as well. This tasting took place last night, and was quite a success–the group as a whole liked both, especially the 10 yo (everyone other than me tastes the whiskies blind at my tastings); and everyone was also very impressed by the price/quality ratio of both these whiskies. So, I decided to taste them again tonight in order to be able to take some more detailed notes than are possible in our tastings, which are really social gatherings featuring whisky (as they should be).
Nose: Acidic; just the slightest bit butryic at first (but this goes away fast). Then a vibrant lemony note that hangs around for a while. After a little while it gets just a bit sweeter and a musky, malty note develops. With more time, the lemon turns to vinegar.
Palate: Thin, watery. Not a whole lot going on. Some of that lemon at first, and then just some woody, vaguely spicy, and finally bitter notes.
Finish: Short. Not much to report–the wood spice hangs around a while.
Comments: I think I like this a little less tonight than I did last night. The nose is dynamic, but there’s not much happening on the palate or finish–no development to speak of. Still for $25 or less, it is hard to complain, and I’d happily drink this if nothing better were available, especially in the summer. The Tomatin 12 and Tamdhu 10, however, represent even better value at this end of the price spectrum.
Rating: 79 points
Nose: Raisins, toasted wood, musky fruit. Cooked apples? Gets buttery/creamy with time.
Palate: Pretty much as on the nose, with the fruit perhaps a touch more tropical. Everything is very well integrated and the mouthfeel is very nice. With time, I get orange peels (a hint of Cointreau) and more wood spice.
Finish: Medium; not much development but a pleasant aftertaste.
Comments: This is not complex whisky, but what it does it does very well and elegantly. I didn’t know what to expect from a chardonnay cask but this is not it. Blind, I would have picked this as a vatting with a fair bit of sherry cask whisky in the mix. A steal at the price and gives the Tomatin 12 a run for its money in the affordable division. Hell, I think it’s better than many better-known and more expensive entry-level bottlings from many more famous distilleries. Get a bottle–you won’t regret it.
Rating: 83 points.
Overall: I don’t think I will replace the 12 yo, even at the low price. Though as I say that, it’s not a bad whisky to have in your bar to serve at large gatherings. At 43% it would likely be much more dynamic on the palate and at 46% it might well be very good. Perhaps Glen Moray will up the abv as some other distilleries have been doing of late. The chardonnay cask, however, I will replace as soon as it’s done–and I might even pick up a replacement earlier if I see it on a shelf. Not a world beater, by any means, but excellent value for money. And now I am more disposed to try some Glen Moray from independents.
And finally, a note on colour: the image at the top of this post shows the two bottles side by side. The quite distinctly darker whisky is the 10 yo chardonnay cask. As I’ve never seen chardonnay of this colour, I am going to assume that this is a fake tan courtesy caramel colouring–my guess would be that the whisky coming out of the chardonnay casks at 10 years is probably very, very light in colour. If you have information to the contrary, please note it in the comments.