Everyone loves a bargain. Especially in today’s whisky realm where prices are firmly flowing along a one way street with no sign of deviation, or slowing down. It’s far from a cheap commodity, particularly when considering the luxurious purchase of a single malt.
Glen Keith distillery is not a household name. Since its revival by Chivas in 2013 after an extensive refurbishment, it has been engaged in rebuilding its inventory of maturing stock since closing in 1999, alongside supporting blends such as 100 Pipers and Chivas Regal. This means since 2016, the distillery has been capable of releasing a very young whisky. Therefore the announcement from Chivas in October 2017 of a new No Age Statement (NAS) Glen Keith, as a permanent expression was not a huge revelation. Launched with a suggested retail price of £30, it’s been attracting attention recently thanks to a supermarket chain discounting this Speyside single malt to an attractive £20. At such a price its hard not to become interested in this mysterious Glen Keith.
This price bracket is more blend territory or the homestead of Aldi’s Glen Marnoch range or other white label supermarket offerings. Whilst its possible to see single malts for under £20, it is very rare to see an official expression that states the distillery name around this price point. Unless, its an end of range such as that Bowmore 9 year old that left a bad taste in the mouth. In hindsight, at £30 the Glen Keith is arguably overpriced with some hefty discounting almost becoming a guaranteed accompaniment to any supermarket visit. The entry level Highland Park, Glenfiddich and Jura are just a trio of whiskies pitched slightly above this level. This begs the question why would you pick up a Glen Keith for £30 knowing that is likely to be just 3-4 years in age?
That sense of mystery perhaps and for malt enthusiasts the attraction of trying a rarely bottled distillery. The original Glen Keith single malt only debuted in 1994 with the delightful 10 year old in its distinctive bottle shape. Yes, quite possibly Chivas have utilised some of their existing stock prior to 1999 to top up this Glen Keith. It does offer the escape route for any casks that are lacking definition after all this time rather than the additional cost of reracking.
This is all speculation on my part and honestly at £20 I’m all about the whisky experience. The impressive packaging may offer some clues perhaps? Except it doesn’t. All we know is that this is bottled at 40% strength – to be expected at this price level – and is matured in the finest traditional oak casks. This is classic marketing bull. I’ve always wanted to know where the sub standard or average casks end up? Everyone seems to have the finest casks at their disposal and traditional? As in what? Their shape or the type of trees utilised? It sounds good therefore it goes on the packaging. The most laughable component is the suggestion that its distilled by master craftsmen. I’m not criticising anyone that works at Glen Keith, as I’ve toured the distillery twice and have been impressed by the welcome and hospitality of those working in the site. However, Glen Keith today is effectively run by a single person sitting behind an impressive console. That’s not the image I have when someone suggests a master craftsman. In addition, this Glen Keith is likely to harbour artificial colouring and chill filtration. Again, not what we’d expect from a master of their craft, but acceptable features for a whisky at £20.
There are no casks maturing at the new Glen Keith as the spirit is shipped away by tanker to be filled at a central Chivas facility. This is what the modern distilleries tend to do in the pursuit of efficiency. By the lowering of costs this means you can have a single malt such as this Glen Keith for around £20. Again, I’m not complaining, but you cannot have your cake and eat it. You’re either traditional and authentic, or a modern facility that is remotely controlled. A little more transparency would be a good thing. At £20 this will sell regardless of the marketing spin.
Glen Keith Distillery Edition – review
Colour: a creamy toffee
On the nose: an inoffensive mix of apples, pears and caramel. Then there’s a refreshing lemonade, vanilla marshmallows, wafers but its very light generally with a touch of varnish spirit suggesting its youthfulness and lacking cohesion. Water I felt wasn’t required unleashing more of the alcohol.
In the mouth: more of that refreshing quality with white grapes, vanilla and pears but also a drying wood towards the end with a maltiness. There’s Kiwi fruit and green bananas along with cinnamon. It holds together better than the nose generally, with that spirt nature spurting through now and again. Pleasant and inoffensive, but avoid water as it removes these finely balanced details.
Well, there’s nothing to dislike here, conversely at the same time very little to be enthralled by. There are flashes of the Speyside fruity nature, but also a slightly spirit dominated whisky i.e. immature and in some respects, memories are revived of entries in the Flora & Fauna series. For £20 there’s little to complain about and as a palate cleanser it has value, or as a very easy drinking session whisky or newbie dram. If this was priced higher it would be scoring a 4. Yet for those wanting more depth, detail and tenacity from their whisky it won’t do much other than leave your bank balance fairly intact. Overall, I’m reasonably pleased with my bargain purchase.