Glenrothes 22, 1990 (Maltbarn)

Glenrothes may have the most distinctive bottles of any distillery but, alas, don’t always put very distinctive liquid inside them. I’ve not had any official releases that I found to be very bad (well, maybe the Select Reserve); but by the same token I’ve not had many that were far above average either, and only one that I thought was very, very good (the 1985-2005). The distillery seems to be aiming at the high-end blend drinker who occasionally drinks single malts–and while there’s nothing wrong with that approach whatsoever, given the number of interesting malts out there it does tend to not make me very apt to keep track of what’s new from them.

I’m interested, therefore, to see what this single cask from a relatively new bottler, Maltbarn, is like. Maltbarn has garnered a pretty strong reputation in a short while and this should at least be interesting.

Glenrothes 22, 1990 (50.7%; Maltbarn; sherry cask; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Mild sherried notes–raisins, a bit of honey–but also something leafy and a little vegetal. With more time there’s some malty sweetness and some musky acidic notes (gooseberry). Some brine too. With more time the vegetal note turns piney and there’s a whiff of smoke too now and then more citrus. A drop of water brings out more of the citrus.

Palate: Sweet raisiny notes at first followed by bright citrus (orange rather than lemon) and then that leafy, almost smoky note. Not a whole lot of oomph. I doubt water is going to do much for this but in the interests of science: well, actually water integrates the notes quite nicely and pushes the leafy thing down below the citrus. Gets a little richer with time.

Finish: Longish. Sweet with roasted malt and that whiff of smoke and then it gets somewhat bitter. The sherry separates just a tad at the very end. Sweeter with water.

Comments: I liked the way the nose developed but didn’t care overmuch for the palate or finish. Oddly, for a whisky that started out without much punch water gave it a lot of depth on the palate. On the whole, however, while there’s nothing wrong with it there’s also nothing to recommend it over many similar (and cheaper) malts, including some younger official Glenrothes. Indeed, it doesn’t taste particularly old. It is the oldest Glenrothes I’ve had but I much prefer the slightly younger 1985-2005 vintage.

Rating: 84 points.

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