There’s very little Glenburgie going about nowadays beyond the Ballantines blend that it faithfully serves or the occasional single cask release. Oh sure, Chivas did release a 15-year last year alongside Glentauchers, and the ‘Duff or Miltonduff to those unaware, thereby showcasing the core ingredients of the blend. Generally, Glenburgie remains submerged and out of sight.
The most commonly seen release is arguably from Gordon & MacPhail as part of its distillery label series. It’s pleasant enough and inoffensive. Nothing to change course towards or prompt further investigation, but at least it’s cheap at £30-ish for a 10 year old. This would get you 1cl of a 3 year old whisky judging by the prices some of these new distilleries are demanding for their initial releases. Outrageous times we live in and whisky continues to entertain in unforeseen ways.
Thankfully there are distilleries already out there producing that remain relatively obscure. It’s these producers that can enthral and disappoint in equal measure. Take the ‘Duff for instance. A fairly average history, but some of its recent single cask releases from the independent field have been jaw-dropping. Glentauchers is well known to produce some exceptional single casks and has been the recipient of much love from the Netherlands. Some of the recent Cadenhead outturns featuring Glentauchers have sold out before many of the bigger name distilleries. Why is that exactly? Value and flavour – simple as that folks.
Of the Ballantines trio, Glenburgie remains the most stealth apparent; the U2 or Nighthawk of the bunch if you will. This makes it enticing to a renegade enthusiast such as myself and others out there. What is the essence of Glenburgie? What is its distillery character? Where to begin? To understand a distillery we should attempt to go back in time as far as possible. A difficult task in today’s excessive investment portfolio market, but we’ve managed to journey back to 1968. That’s 50 years ago and its thanks to the Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice range that we can take such a trip. Cheers to Dave who provided the whisky and even commented that a Glenburgie from the 1960’s was a rare thing indeed before opening the bottle. Truly a moment. In fact to go back beyond this we’d have to locate a 1948 Glenburgie bottled by Gordon & MacPhail again, as part of their Centenary Reserve that was released in 1995. Maybe a future review?
Regular inmates will know that I like to set the scene when faced with such a historical whisky. Not only does this give you a sense of the time and place of the distillery and distillate, but allows for additional comparisons as you progress through the decades until you reach today’s Glenburgie. The distillery itself stretches back to 1810, which makes it one of the earliest Speyside distilleries. For instance, Glenfiddich didn’t start its journey until 1886, but prior to that date Glenburgie was blighted with owner changes and a period of closure.
In 1956 additional Lomond stills were installed at the distillery giving birth to the Glencraig distillate. We acknowledge this isn’t what we have here as it would be called as such, but I’ve had some very enjoyable Glencraig whiskies. We do know that the floor malting was stopped once and for all in 1958. Meaning we’ve got the new set up post-1958 in the glass with centralised malting.
This Glenburgie was bottled at 40% strength and would have been bottled in the 1980’s making this a difficult teenager. It’s long since sold out but you’ll see bottles now and again if you wish to take the plunge. My only hesitation with the Connoisseurs Choice is the cask management from Gordon & MacPhail that through experience sometimes swamps the whisky. Therefore, in essence, you’re tasting and experiencing more of what G&M have engineered as opposed to letting the whisky develop and sing naturally. Or at least that’s what I feel sometimes. Ok, review time.
Connoisseurs Choice Glenburgie 1968 – review
Colour: weather battered rivets.
On the nose: a single word springs to mind and that’s age. This smells old, fusty, stewed and like a handful of damp kindling. Tossing that onto the fire would reveal a mossy smoky quality that lingers here. Dried and crinkly leather that moment when you know the end has come. Milk chocolate, honeycomb and unripe pears. Almonds follow as do Kiwi fruit, melon and wine gums. There does seem to be a restrained sherry influence with some leathery, tobacco, spicing and juicy raisins.
In the mouth: subtle, restrained and somewhat simple. More other leathery quality propelled by stewed apples and cinnamon. There’s some dark chocolate towards to the end of the journey. Oats, walnut oil, caramel and cranberries. A slightly drying finish as well. The lower strength is a shame upon reflection.
An interesting experience, but as an opener it makes me question what is the essence of Glenburgie? A relaxed and engaging Speyside style of whisky that is an ideal blending component but as a standalone single malt? That debate is still wide open. This is only the start of our journey to discover and unlock its secrets. I’m intrigued, if slightly perplexed.