Towards the end of 2017 there was a glut of clickbait material online as every Tom, Dick and Harry revealed their best of for the year. It’s a vicious circle and something we debated at Malt. Ultimately we decided to veer away from any such list or clickbait and keep on doing what we strive to do – i.e. honest reviews and opinion daily.
However, I’ve been asked for my own favourites on a couple of occasions now and I’m still resisting any compulsion to produce a top 10 list or whatever. What I have noticed is that several bloggers out there have picked some expensive candidates for their own summaries. It’s all too easy to be dazzled by an age statement, glorious distillery name on the label or lavish packaging. The bling trap does snare many out there who become shell-shocked by the bright lights of ages and the addictive freebie bandwagon.
Kilkerran offers tremendous value and would feature in any recommendation based on their current form. To quote our American cousins there’s plenty bang for your buck when you purchase a bottle of Kilkerran. The Ben Nevis 10 year old has returned with aplomb and affordability – you’ll notice by now that price is a big feature when I’m considering any recommendation. Yes, it’d be far too easy to reel off a list full rarities such as the Cadenhead’s Banff, Caol Ila 33 or 1973 Glen Keith that all spring to mind alongside the 33 year old Tormore. Surprisingly the bottle that really sticks in my memory from Scotland’s finest independent bottler isn’t the Knockdhu 10 year old although that was great fun, but rather a distillery you’d never normally consider. Yes, step forward the Glenlossie.
This was an elusive bottle. Especially when word hit the street as to how good it actually was. I first encountered it in the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s store as a mystery pour. I was taken aback but as my own stockpile was burgeoning with 175th Anniversary releases already, I decided to pick it up next time. After all, the guys in the store commented that it was a Glenlossie and it’ll be around for a while. Thankfully, distillery names are no longer a barrier to sales and word of mouth rules supreme. When I returned the following week the existing stock had been literally snapped up. There is always a sense of disappointment when this happens. As a regular supporter of Cadenhead’s I’ve grown accustomed to the reality that you simply cannot afford every bottle or necessarily guarantee yourself the option when each outturn lands. However, I probably win more than I lose and for that I’m more than satisfied. Fortunately, a bottle reappeared and remembering my misfortune this was added to my stockade.
Generally I love the single cask format as it gives every distillery a fighting chance to somehow rise above and deliver a killer blow. Yes, this even includes Jura and Auchentoshan. The planets align and by chance you’re left grasping proof that a distillery you generally ignore is capable of greatness however brief and fleeting. This dram also reared its head a Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar event where post-Springbank tasting it was the bottle that blew away several attendees. Word spreads fast in the digital age and few things remain secret for long.
Glenlossie itself has been around since 1876 believe it or not. Today it’s an important blend component for its current masters in Diageo, but also a major source of warehousing with at least 14 buildings on site helping to store a wide range of casks from across Scotland. In 1971, a new neighbour arrived in the form of Mannochmore which previously arguably might have been called Glenlossie #2 if the rules didn’t prohibit such a name. Thankfully both distilleries have gone about their own business since. The exception being that for a while during the worldwide downturn in whisky – remember those days? – the distilleries operated as a tag team, taking turns until demand picked up. Nowadays you rarely see Glenlossie as an official bottling with the Flora & Fauna release arguably being the most common sighting as a modest 10 year old.
The distillery thankfully enjoys strong support from the independent sector with this particular Glenlossie coming in at around £80 was it? I cannot recall fully, but its bottled at 56.8% with an outturn of 216 bottles from an ex-bourbon hogshead.
Cadenhead’s Glenlossie-Glenlivet 23 year old – review
On the nose: incredibly fruity with a touch of all-spice and pepper alongside tobacco remnants. A glorious resin-like stickiness holds everything together with mashed bananas and plump raisins. I’m also reminded of an aged varnish. Water unlocks the density somewhat revealing more fruit and subtle spices.
In the mouth: its literally a time warp back to the 1960’s or what the Cadenhead’s tasting notes suggest is an old school whisky. In other words complexity and dynamic characteristics beyond the mere influence of the wood although it’s clearly a great cask. Lots of juicy apples and pears, littered with cinnamon, nutmeg, toffee apples and flecks of chocolate. Jeez, when it’s this good you just have to lap it up! Harmony and depth are the things my palate is taking in with a lingering honey finish. Water is very beneficial unlocking more fruit and a delicate floral aspect.
Simply a fantastic whisky and one I believe would receive universal acclaim especially if tasted blind. Telling someone in advance this whisky was from Glenlossie would spoil half the fun. So yes, this is my favourite whisky of 2017 from an unlikely source followed by that marvellous 2003 Glenfiddich single cask – yes I did say that – which was bottled for the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival. Sometimes the greatest surprises come from the most unlikely sources and isn’t that one of the joys of whisky?