Glenrothes 15, 1994 (Signatory)

The Glenrothes distillery in the Speyside is perhaps best known for their idiosyncratic bottle design and also for their vintage based releases, usually vattings of bourbon and sherry casks. The former, while attractive, can lead to heartburn if a cork breaks on you and you don’t have one saved from a previous bottle (no other corks will fit their bottles); the latter leads to some confusion because while the vintage year is printed in large letters on the label there may be releases in any different years of whisky distilled in a given year–further confusion arises from the fact that on closer examination the labels usually say not when the whisky was bottled but when it was “checked” (what this means, I don’t know). Things are less confusing with indie releases which tend to be more forthright about these details, and also offer the oppportunity to taste Glenrothes from both sherry and bourbon casks.

The whisky I am tasting tonight is from a refill sherry butt, distilled in 1994 and bottled in 2009. In my opinion, this Signatory bottling, from their Un-Chillfiltered series, was superior to the official 1994-2009 vintage that was released in the US. In fact, I’d say the only officials I’ve liked more are the 1985-2005 and the 1991-2006. I’ve not had anything older than the 1985-2005, and have not had the most recent vintage releases. Does anyone have one they’d recommend?

Glenrothes 15, 1994 (46%; Signatory UCF, refill sherry butt #1094; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)

Nose: Clear but subtle sherry influence. There’s raisins, some citrus and a fair bit of salt. A little bit of polished wood too. The citrus note expands with time (orange liqueur). Brown sugar too.

Palate: A little watery but then there’s the citrus from the nose, along with burnt sugar turning to simple syrup sweetness. No development after that, except perhaps some little intensification of the citrus note.

Finish: Somehow watery and hot at the same time–rather than alcohol I think it is probably a kind of unbalanced woody note that provides the sensation of heat. Not a good way to end. Some of the citrus does hang around.

Comments: I think I liked this a lot more when I first got the bottle. The nose is still quite nice but the palate and especially the finish are letdowns. Again, the sample was put aside early in the bottle’s life but it does seem a little flatter than I remember. Still, it’s on par with most of the younger Glenrothes vintages and vattings I’ve tried–and far superior to the Select Reserve.

Rating: 84 points.

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