Here is another of my purchases from my brief Chicago trip last month. I’ve had very little Glen Keith before. It’s a relatively young distillery that no one’s ever gotten very excited about, albeit one that’s packed a fair bit of change into its brief history. It was built in the late 1950s and originally triple-distilled its spirit (unusual on the Speyside). In the 1970s it produced peated variants under the Craigduff and Glenisla labels. In 1999 it was mothballed and seemingly closed for good…until it reopened in 2013 with a doubled production capacity. Now, as then, it is producing a somewhat generic spirit for Chivas Bros./Pernod-Ricard’s blends and it’s mostly known to whisky geeks through a number of independent releases in the 2000s—and, of course, individual casks can hit far above the average. Unremarkable as its reputation is, I’d have been willing to bet that it would eventually have turned around if the owners had only been far-sighted enough to keep it closed. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like.
Glen Keith 19, 1995 (56.1%; Signatory for Stoller Wines; hogshead 171202; from my own bottle)
Nose: Malty, slightly biscuity; some acidic, slightly musky fruit as well (in the lime family). Chalkier and grassier with time and a hint of white pepper shows up too. The musky fruit gets a little more outgoing with time but the chalky/grassy note is always present. Water pushes the chalk back and lets more of the fruit through—and there’s some gooseberry now too.
Palate: Malty arrival here too but sweeter before the acidic fruit washes over, turning peppery as I swallow. Nice thick mouthfeel. Not too much change with time except that the chalk from the nose shows up here too–held in check here by the peppery lime. Water integrates everything nicely but there’re no new notes as such.
Finish: Medium-long. It’s here that the chalk recedes and lets the mellower fruit and malt slowly fade out along with the pepper. With time it’s a little bit vinegary. Longer with water, less peppery and more acidic.
Comments: Simple but pleasurable stuff. Excellent whisky for the summer (I’m a season behind). If you don’t care for chalky notes this might not be your thing—I will say that I don’t usually like chalk in my whisky either but it didn’t really bother me here too much as it never got astringent. Still, a little less of the chalk plus a little more fruit on the palate would have taken it to the next tier: maybe it’ll happen as the bottle stays open longer. I think I preferred it with water (I added 5 or 6 drops).
Rating: 84 points.