Official Glenrothes, as I’ve noted before and as you probably already know, is almost always a vatting of spirit from sherry and bourbon casks. There are some exceptions (see the Robur and Alba Reserves, for example) but by and large this is true. And a lot of the independent releases that have appeared over the years, in the US at least, have been from sherry casks. As a result when people think of Glenrothes it is an at least somewhat sherried profile they have in mind. Drinking bourbon cask Glenrothes—when you can find it—feels like drinking the product of another distillery entirely. (Yes, this is a stealth build-up to my post on distillery character which will be going up very soon.) It’s always interesting to try such variations, and in this case this is also the oldest Glenrothes I’ve had—five years older than the not very good Wilson & Morgan cask I reviewed a couple of months ago and also the pretty good Archives release that I reviewed in 2014. Let’s see what it’s like.
Glenrothes 30, 1982 (53.2%; Malts of Scotland cask #12065; bourbon hogshead; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Prickly citrus (lemon) with an interesting mineral quality to it. Some tart apple too and also, interestingly (for Glenrothes) some paraffin. The lemon turns to citronella with time and then the apple begins to get a bit sweeter. With more time still there’s a faint grassiness and a touch of vanilla but that citronella is strong stuff. About 10 minutes in there’s definitely some sweeter fruit trying to poke its way out: peach? pear? Maybe water will get it to talk a little louder a little later. With a lot of time (>30 minutes) the citronella/citrus/acid calms down and now the sweeter, maltier notes that showed up early on the palate get their turn on the nose as well. With water the citronella/paraffin thing flares back up again at first but then sweeter fruit does emerge: and yes, it’s pear; much more peppery now too.
Palate: Much sweeter to start on the palate and maltier too. Which is not to say that it’s not acidic as well. A mild grassy note on the second sip and some pepper as well. Nice viscous mouthfeel and quite approachable at full strength. Not much change at first but with more time sweeter, muskier fruit begins to show up (I’m having a hard time picking what exactly though). Okay, let’s see what water does. Hmm it makes it more acidic and brings out more (white) pepper.
Finish: Medium. Pretty much as on the palate except the malty note turns breadier. With a few more sips the citrus comes back in force on the finish and there’s a touch of something muskier at the very end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This was very pleasant but not anything I need a full bottle of. It doesn’t really act its age (except with water on the nose) and that might be a disappointment at the probable price (though I’m not sure that it’s even around anymore); and in any case, you can get most of its pleasures, at likely more affordable prices, in younger bourbon cask Speysiders. Still, it’s a nice change-up from the usual, which is to say, official Glenrothes profile. I should really revisit the other bourbon cask Glenrothes samples I have saved on my shelf.
Rating: 87 points.