Let your senses guide you. Whether it is merely a memory triggered by an aroma, or a favourite flavour on the palate. Ditch the packing, fancy names, bling factor and legacy. Purely follow what you enjoy until the big reveal. This is what you should do ideally, devoid of marketing, trends and vain brand ambassadors. Let the whisky stand on its own and deliver its array of characteristics.
This is the beauty of blind tasting, whether at a formal function or just with friends in person, or via the postal service. It’s also the fun you can potentially have when walking into a well-stocked whisky shop and seeing what your friends select as their purchases. That is after a series of blind drams are handed over by shop staff.
The setting was Edinburgh Cadenhead’s store – where else? And I had just stepped into this beautiful whisky environment, open-minded and ready to make a purchase. With me was the Queen of Instagram, Noortje, and Ian of Waterford distillery. After much hilarity and exploration, our giddy party settled on a young Bunnahabhain and this elder statesman in the form of a Glenburgie. An unfashionable choice on paper but one driven purely by the contents. You know, the stuff that really matters beneath all that Macallan, Highland Park, Glenfiddich and Balvenie nonsense that shrouds releases from these distilleries and many others I could mention.
I’d love to do a tasting with say 3 of the aforementioned totally blind, with another 3 drams plucked from unlikely sources such as a Cadenhead’s MacDuff 29 year old. I’d expect a victory for the unloved, the unfashionable and the obscure. With the lasting legacy of encouraging attendees to step away from the established names and explore.
Glenburgie leads a quiet existence. Even referring back to the biblical document that is the Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, reveals just a single page entry. Alfred Barnard as we know, despite all his efforts, was never consistent in his coverage. Whether it was a day populated by travelling or the next destination being the highlight, some distilleries were passing gestures. Glenburgie, at the time owned by Alexander Fraser & Co, is another limited example. If only now we had more detail and substance for those that grave such detail.
By all accounts, the distillery was in a beautiful area and supplied by the finest barley growers of the north. Assisted by a spring of great purity that resulted in a pure Highland malt of fine quality. It seems he didn’t stop long enough for a dram. Moving onto perhaps a more famous name in the Elgin area or departing further north to Dalmore, which warranted more coverage. For Alexander Fraser & Co. they managed to survive the stormy currents of the whisky market until 1925 when the firm filed for bankruptcy and their ownership came to an end.
Nowadays you’re left debating if only and given much of what Barnard experienced was still intact until 2004 when Allied Lyons demolished the site and reconstructed a new distillery at a cost of just over £4 million. Such things fill me with sadness as the industry lays waste to a site and rebuilds a new facility to promote more efficiency and production. The fact that literally the character, visual appeal and history has been lost is pushed aside. At least Macallan kept their old facility intact, just in case the market falls out of the stuffed toy genre.
I’m sure even Alfred would have lamented such a loss and even brought himself to try a dram of this Highland malt, which we’re about to do in a minute. Generally, a good selection of Glenburgie exists thanks to the independent bottlers. If you’re wanting to go official then a 15 year old Glenburgie was released by Chivas in 2017 and is another bottle on our hitlist. Worth further exploration is the Cadenhead’s Club 21 year old from 1993, or even the Connoisseurs Choice Glenburgie from 1968.
This Glenburgie was distilled in 1992 – so the old distillery – before being bottled in 2018 as part of the Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection for a welcoming price of £101. Residing in a bourbon hogshead for the whole period, it was bottled at 50.2% with an outturn of 216 bottles. Given Glenburgie’s unfashionable status, you may find a bottle if you’re interested.
Cadenhead’s Glenburgie-Glenlivet 1992 – review
Colour: A light sand.
On the nose: Emphasis on cereals, wine gums and honey. A dram that rewards time. Then more layers with marzipan, almonds, pencil shavings and chocolate. More interesting notes with pine nuts and a bit of grapefruit. Further time brings out the fruit and a bit of that white wood glue that you used to get everywhere in school. Then sandal wood, toffee and lemon icing. The addition of water showcases unused matchsticks, gunpowder and coconut.
In the mouth: Wood spice and a malty vibe. Tea leaves takes us into a subtle finish with a touch of waxiness. Simple but charming in a way. Milk chocolate and a creamy aspect and time reveals a resin tree sap vibe. Water brings out more wafers.
This Glenburgie is a nice gentle soul. Nothing too flashy or glamorous and rewards a patient approach. The fact that you can pick it up for £100 is the icing on the cake. A solid dram, which I’m sure will improve as the fill level lowers and new appreciation is formed.
Thanks to Ian for the opportunity to try this release.