Recently, a Stateside friend was visiting Scotland for another whisky-fuelled pilgrimage and had a couple of days to spend in the heartland of whisky also known as the Kingdom of Fife. Whisky is booming or at least simmering nicely nowadays, but it’s the element of whisky tourism that seemingly remains buoyant.
Newly designed distilleries sitting on architects drawing boards and those just starting out with production are seemingly constructed around the visitor dynamic. For the first few years it’s a revenue stream that many cannot afford to ignore; throw in a café alongside a shop and you have a valuable source of income. The whisky? Only time will tell whether that comes to fruition. At least in the meantime, Jim Murray can score your new make a splendid 95, meaning you can skip the maturation segment; it’s a tiresome bore and financial drain after all.
The Kingdom itself has several distilleries nowadays and slightly further afield there is the historical delight of Kennetpans to be discovered. My nameless friend suggested Glenrothes as a perfect candidate for a visit. Its one of these post-war towns of the 1940’s created around the vision of roundabouts. Home to the awfully expensive and inefficient Fife Council, it’s a prolonged journey to reach anywhere within the town limits. Roundabout after roundabout creates a Groundhog Day feeling, followed by long stretches of road through forests that seemingly lead nowhere, or Glenrothes as its known.
Technically, Glenrothes does have its own distillery with the arrival of Inchdarnie. Sadly it’s not open to the public and remains out of reach, being established on the edge of town on the fringes of an industrial complex, with the large site allowing plenty of room for maturation and expansion. However, my friend was referring to the Glenrothes distillery – oh that’s a drive – seeing how it’s in the town of Rothes on Speyside. Pointing out their geographical error, not for the first time, we settled on more reachable candidates. Ultimately it shows the importance of a distillery name, the resulting perception and its implications.
Glenrothes the distillery has recently changed hands and returned to the Edrington fold after being sold by Berry Bros. This should bring some stability and vision to the distillery with a potential series of wonderfully named No Age Statements – last time checked at Malt – Vikings weren’t noted to be in the region. However, for this review, we’re finally bringing Glenrothes and Fife together with this bottling from Abbey Whisky. This Fife based online whisky retailer is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a series of releases that kicked off with a splendid 1993 GlenDronach that sold out almost immediately upon announcement. The ’93 vintage GlenDronach’s are viewed with increasing enthusiasm and this release was no different. Abbey Whisky is more widely known for its generally excellent Rare Casks series including that lovely Glen Garioch 21 year old that’s still just available.
It’s a tough act to follow any GlenDronach in its 20s and the next anniversary release comes from the warehouses of Glenrothes. A popular seller on Abbey Whisky thanks to some excellent single cask releases that have unsurprisingly sold out leaving just an enticing 39 year old Glenrothes distilled in 1976 from the official range. This relationship enabled their 2nd choice, a single sherry cask (number 5469), distilled in 2006 and bottled at 10 years old and a mighty 67.1% strength. Exclusive to Abbey Whisky, 636 bottles escaped from the cask to Fife and the price is a reasonable £69.95. On paper it looks enticing and Malt was fortunate to have a taste of the whisky, which has just hit the shelves.
Abbey Whisky Glenrothes 2006 10th Anniversary review
Colour: battered copper.
On the nose: a powerful arrival with ginger, honeycomb and brass shavings. A touch of dark chocolate with some salt thrown in and a real density with a resin-like quality. Sweetness from a syrup laden flapjack, a little dampness and wood sap. Time reveals hazelnuts and sweet cinnamon with a rich toffee. With water a nutty aspect appears, a fleeting Parma Violet and a well-fired piece of bread.
In the mouth: a lovely texture with vanilla and a robust undercurrent of cola cubes. A lovely progression develops with roasted coffee beans, cinder toffee and raisins. These are followed by almonds, Scottish oats and marmalade on the finish with a touch of ginger. Water refines those strong edges revealing more subtle flavours underneath with milky chocolate and cloves.
A very robust and forceful Glenrothes, but at the same time there are layers of complexity to engage with and saviour. Heralding from a distillery that I really don’t pay much attention to in general, finally there’s something interesting happening in Glenrothes and at an excellent price.