K&L’s annual winter parcel of Signatory cask exclusives arrived a few weeks ago. As I did last year, I split these with a bunch of other whisky geeks—the idea being to try before buying. Given David Driscoll’s skill with hype—and the apparent endless market out there for hype—there’s always the risk of things selling out before you get around to tasting a sample, but that’s far better than the risk of spending $80 or more on what seemed like a great deal only to discover that it wasn’t. That was certainly true in spades with the Linkwood 19 that I reviewed last week. It was not terrible but it had absolutely nothing to recommend it. I’m hoping this Glenburgie will be better. Bourbon cask Glenburgie can be very good indeed (see, for example, this official release) and, as it happens, a couple of years ago K&L had another Glenburgie from Signatory that I quite liked. Well, let’s hope this one is closer to that than to this year’s Linkwood.
Glenburgie 21, 1995 (55.3%; Signatory for K&L; hogshead #6504; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lot of citrus to start (lemon and lemon zest) along with a big grassy note. The acid gets sharper very quickly and muskier, maltier notes emerge from below; there’s a medicinal note too (not peat/iodine but uncoated tablet and rubber). The acid recedes as it sits and the malty notes come to the fore. With more air a mild buttery, toasted oak note emerges as well. More citrussy again with water.
Palate: Pretty much as advertised by the nose at first except it’s more cidery than lemony. Some bitter oak here too especially as it heads to the finish. The mouthfeel is a little thin and it tastes hotter than the abv would suggest. On the second sip the bitterness is much stronger, almost overpowering (a combination of lemon zest and oak). With time and air there’s sweeter fruit here but it can’t get past the bitter oak which gets more astringent with time. Will water fix this? To some extent: less hot and less oaky now but the sweeter fruit disappears too, leaving only the lemon.
Finish: Medium-long. Hard to get much here past the bitterness. The finish is where water really helps.
Comments: I liked the nose (once it settled down) but it’s too hot and oaky on the palate and finish. A pity as what I often like about Glenburgie is here but struggling to make it past the off-notes. I guess the price is good in the abstract for a 21 yo malt but you’re not drinking an abstraction. In reality, this is a cask that probably should have been left for the blender’s vat where other malts/casks would have balanced out its flaws. Better with water.
Rating: 80 points. (Pulled up by water.)