Glen Moray has always been to my mind one of the great value distilleries. Without shame it occupies a space at the more affordable end of the whisky shelves, offering some decent whiskies at a bargain price – with a good few of them to be found under £30 at supermarkets. No problem with that – it gets people into single malts who might not be able to afford the crazy prices we see these days.
Founded in 1897, Glen Moray’s stills have been producing whisky for 120 years. (Well, they were silent from 1910 to 1923, which is good going by many distilleries’ standards.) Later they became part of Glenmorangie Plc, which is possibly where it gets its penchant for cask finishing (which is where whisky is decanted into another, usually more active cask for another few months). In the late 1990s they were finishing in French wine casks, an ex-Chardonnay and two ex-Chenin Blanc releases, but as far back as the 1970s it had been finishing in Port Pipes. (Anyway, sherry is a wine, so given the sherry influence throughout whisky’s history, we shouldn’t pretend wine casks are anything fancy.) In 2008 Glen Moray was bought by La Martiniquaise, a large French spirits group, and consequently a lot of the distillery’s spirit ends up in the Label 5 blend.
This year Glen Moray celebrates its 120th anniversary, and to celebrate this it is releasing a brand new whisky – at a rather different price-point to those affordable whiskies that I’m more familiar with when I consider the brand. Glen Moray Mastery is a “multi-vintage” single malt (multi-vintage, like most single malts?). Mastery uses whiskies from 1970s, 80s and 90s, which represent some of the different eras of key production staff. These were then “intertwined” with whisky that’s matured fully in first-fill sherry and some that has been finished in port. Bottled at 52.3% ABV, this will cost you a cool £800.
Glen Moray Mastery Review
Colour: lovely russet colour with a pinkish hue.
On the nose: intense, heavy dried fruits: raisins, prunes, the darker end. Milk chocolate. Praline. Black forest gateaux. Heather honey. Maple syrup. There’s a wonderful sweetness, Muscavado sugar too. Not overly fruity: those sweet-cloying dried fruits are dominant. It becomes slightly woody eventually, drifting into a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. Eventually when it all fades there are wafts of Christmassy orange peel and cloves.
In the mouth: extremely silky texture, though not especially thick and oily. It feels like the port finishing is playing a dominant role. Elderberries. Blackcurrant jam. Raisins and dried figs. Orange marmalade. Again, slightly woody towards the end: tannic, with a coffee and dark chocolate bitterness. Cloves and tobacco, with some black tea. Reminds me of a Dalmore whisky, curiously. While the flavours feel worthy of a venerable whisky, the layers aren’t presenting themselves as I’d expected. Perhaps because there’s a lot of potent casks involved – sherry, port – the subtitles of the distillery are slightly hidden. There’s a lot battling for dominance.
Very tasty indeed. Whilst it’s a lovely whisky, I’m not sure personally I’d feel this was £800 of lovely, particularly because I’d like to know the ratios of the whisky and that information simply isn’t present in the press material. For that kind of money, because I’m a fussy sort, I need details. I know that Scotch laws prohibit it on the bottle, but it’d be nice to know it in this instance. Psychologically, also, I think because Glen Moray has always represented very good value at the cheaper end of single malt whiskies, it’s a heck of a leap to the ultra-premium sector. Perhaps for a special occasion – such an anniversary – it’s merited, and one can’t blame them for putting something out in this price bracket.