I’ve noted a number of times that I was less than impressed with what I tasted of K&L’s selections for 2013 (most of which showed up in early 2014 for reasons outside their control). Despite having resolved to “try before buying” as far as possible for their future selections I was predictably unable to resist getting some of their 2014 selections when they showed up early this year. I’ve already reviewed one of these, the Hepburn’s Choice Craigellachie 18, which I quite liked. The other two that I purchased are both cask strength bottles from Signatory (though in the livery of the regular UCF series rather than the decanters—a change I welcome heartily). One is a Glenburgie 19 that I hope to review soon; the other is this Glen Ord 17. Both of these are distilleries whose malts I enjoy more often than not, and both of these are also distilleries whose malts are not often available in the US—which is my way of justifying my lack of self-control. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.
This Glen Ord was part of the fourth release of Whiskybase’s Archives series in 2012. I don’t think they’d started selling samples then and though I was very intrigued—I’ve not had too many Glen Ords but I’ve liked all the ones I’ve tried quite a lot—I was put off chancing my arm on a full bottle by the low scores it received from the Whiskybase community. And then I kind of forgot about it. Recently, however, I noticed it was still available at the store and that samples were now also available, and so here I am. What a deeply uninteresting introduction this has been. Let me see if I can manage another paragraph that can compete with it.
The Glen Ord distillery is the last distillery remaining on the Black Isle in the northern highlands. The Black Isle is not an island at all but a peninsula and therefore is not the setting of the early Tintin story, The Black Island, which was one of the first Tintins I ever read—the other was King Ottokar’s Sceptre. I believe The Black Island was my sister’s and the other was mine. There’s no distillery in The Black Island (and no Captain Haddock) but Tintin’s dog Snowy gets drunk on Loch Lomond whisky. Okay, this paragraph may possibly be more interesting than the previous; but the interesting bits are mostly redundant as I’ve gone over it all before here. What do I win? Continue reading
The number of Glen Ords I’ve tried does not pass single digits but I’ve liked every single one I’ve tried (the only ones I’ve reviewed so far are two of the older official releases, here and here). Will this 12 yo from A.D. Rattray keep the streak going? Let’s see.
Glen Ord 12, 1998 (60.1%; bourbon cask #24; from my own bottle)
Note: This review was written up when the bottle was freshly opened. The accompanying photograph of the bottle was taken a couple of days later. In the intervening period it was the star of our local group’s most recent tasting, and hence the much lowered level.
Nose: A little spirity and closed at first–not surprising given the strength and the fact that this is a freshly opened bottle. I’m going to let it sit for a bit. With the benefit of air and time there’s some grassy citrus and some vanilla and oak, but this is still pretty tight. With a lot more time this begins to open up, and now there’s teasing hints of tropical fruit along with some stewed apple and pastry crust. Water brings the fruit out to the front, and it’s not tropical fruit as much as it is good old lemon, and mostly lemon peel/preserved lemon at that. Some malty sweetness to go with it too. A little later the hints of tropical fruit are back. Continue reading
I’ve previously reviewed the excellent Glen Ord 30; today, the Glen Ord 25 which was released a couple of years prior. The actual bottle is far more attractive–and identical to that of the 30 yo–than this repurposed miniature in which I received my sample from another whisky geek. Back in the mid-2000s Diageo released a number of these Glen Ords in their annual special releases–in addition to the 25 and 30 there was also a 28 yo. I guess the 30 yo (released in 2005) really didn’t sell well; there’s been nothing from Glen Ord since then (other than the regular younger entries in the range).
Glen Ord 25 (58.3%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Bright and acidic at first but then sweet malty notes emerge. Quite a lot of honey too, and some pepper and brine. Gets quite lemony with some hints of ripe peach and apricot. And with more time it really gets quite briny and then later still, the lemon takes over again, bringing more pepper with it. Gets a little maltier and dustier with water, and the lemon gets a little pickled (my few Indian readers are the only ones likely to get this reference: it reminds me a little of Fabindia’s antique lime pickle). Continue reading
Glen Ord is located in the northern Highlands, in the same part of Scotland, generally, as Balblair, Pulteney, Clynelish and Glenmorangie. And in my limited experience there’s a significant intersection in the profiles of the whiskies from these distilleries (I am referring here to the classic Glenmorangie profile, and not to all their experimental finishes etc.). Their mainline malts generally eschew sherry, and (with the occasional exception of Clynelish) they generally have a very light hand with the peat as well. The profile tends, therefore, to be relatively austere with the fruit mostly in the apple/pear family with the occasional stone fruit, and the emphasis coming from briny notes rather than smoke.
Some would say that it is in this profile that you come closest to tasting what Scotch whisky is all about, away from the extremes of sherry or peat. I am not a fundamentalist in that sense but I have come to enjoy it far more than I did when I first started drinking single malts in anything but a casual manner–in the beginning, I fear, I found it a little boring. I don’t mean to suggest that this a common or necessary evolutionary development but it took me a while to begin to appreciate the subtler charms of this style of whisky. It was a cask strength 11 yo Glen Ord, 1998 from Signatory (cask 3475) that first opened my eyes and so when I found this bottle quite deeply discounted a few years ago I jumped on it. This was part of Diageo’s annual special release in 2005, and I guess the lack of familiarity of the name kept it from selling out. These days it’s mostly available, where it is, closer to the list price of $250, but you can still find it for considerably less if you look hard enough. I certainly think it’s worth the trouble.