Glenburgie 14, 1997, Cask Strength Edition

So far this month I’ve done two weeks of reviews of highland whiskies and one of peated whiskies from Islay. For the last full week of the month let’s move north east to the Speyside and do a week of unpeated whiskies. First up, this Glenburgie. This was bottled all the way back in 2012 in Chivas Bros.’ late, lamented Cask Strength Edition series. The 500 ml bottles in this series were officially available only in the distillery shops but in reality came to be available from regular retailers as well. Indeed. I purchased this one from the Whisky Exchange in London. And it wasn’t the first such Glenburgie I purchased from them. In fact, I only purchased it because the first one had been so excellent that it compelled me to see if all such Glenburgies were excellent. (I reviewed that one in the early days of the blog, by the way.) Of course, as was my way with so many of the some many bottles I purchased in that era, I didn’t get around to opening it till almost a decade later. But better late than never and here I am now. Let’s see what it’s like.

Glenburgie 14, 1997 (60.5%; Cask Strength Edition; Batch GB 14 005; from my own bottle)

Nose: Malt, toasted oak and quite a bit of orchard fruit (apple, over-ripe pear) and some lime. On the second sniff there are spicy, almost bitter notes from the oak that threaten to throw off the balance. As it sits cereals show up along with more of the toasted oak. The fruit really gets going with time and air—there’s some apricot mixed in with the lime now—and it gets creamier. After about 40 minutes the bitter, oaky notes are completely gone and it’s now all about delicate, creamy fruit custard. Ah, a few drops of water and it’s even better: the fruit gets muskier (pineapple joins the party along with more apricot and orange) and there’s a strong pastry crust note and a touch of wood glue.

Palate: Comes in sweet with muskier versions of the fruit and then the oak rises up from below it. Hits hard at full strength and the alcohol seems to clamp down on the flavours as I swallow. This needs water to open it up but let’s give it some air first. Yes, some time in an uncapped glass is good for it—the sweet, fruity notes (pear and apple still) expand and are in better balance with the oak. As on the nose with time and air. Okay, let’s add water. Yes! Everything that happens on the nose is mirrored here: the oak recedes, and the fruit gets muskier and expands.

Finish: Long. You feel the alcohol here as the burn goes on but the flavours remain compacted with the oak making the most prominent impression. Opens up here too with time and water.

Comments: This is not quite as good as the previous Glenburgie CSE I reviewed all those years ago. A lot of that I think is down to the stupid high strength of this. Especially considering that these were batch releases and not single casks I really don’t understand why they went for such a high strength. Most of the malt’s best characteristics are blocked by the high abv and it takes a lot of time and tinkering with water to bring them out. Well. I guess the previous one was not shy either at 58.8%—maybe past a certain abv every tick counts for more? Or maybe it’s not just the abv but also the higher oak impact here that makes this a tougher approach. Still with time and water it does open up nicely and then it’s very good indeed.

Rating: 87 points.



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