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Glenury Royal 1971 Rare Malts

I wonder what the Rare Malts range would be called today by Diageo? The New Money Bling Malts? You can’t touch this? Whisky Investment Series 101? What were we thinking in the 1990s? Lacklustre suggestions you’ll agree; let’s see if you can do any better?

For such a dominant force in the Scotch Whisky industry, there needs to be a more cohesive and ultimately a refresh of the range from Diageo, or even something new. The Special Releases have become anything but nowadays. I really don’t get excited, or interested, by their appearance and that’s a sad reality. The prices being demanded are prohibitive and the series is no longer a gateway into whisky and specific distilleries.

The exceptionally rare stuff it seems is destined to be finished in very old sherry casks (for a short period) and thereby receiving a higher price tag aka Talisker. There’s no debate as to why you’d need to finish stock that’s resided happily for 3 decades or more, except the obvious reason. Silly actions generate silly price tags it seems; we’ll leave such offerings to the fools who gladly make the purchase and good luck to them.

Meanwhile back on planet earth most of us have a budget. A ceiling that we daren’t cross for fear of reprisal from our better halves, or imaginary line that we won’t break as a matter of principle. The new Octomore 10.3 is retailing for £170; effectively a 6-year-old whisky. Where are the naysayers that happily complained about Springbank pricing for its latest Local Barley release? You have to be consistent despite the presence of branding and ultimately, a bias towards Islay.

Pricing is so relevant for whisky consumers today, yet it feels like a taboo subject for most of the media. Why don’t we ask more of our distilleries and why the price is XYZ? Where is the justification? Explain to us the reasoning behind such a pitch, which in turn enables us to make an informed decision whether something is worth the admission fee. In this buoyant market I sense that the tide is starting to turn against excessively priced whisky. I see more discounting; more offers and even more dust gathering bottles.

For many of us whisky has become too expensive. As a new father I have less time and more bills. I have become much more selective. The arrival of a child wasn’t the catalyst as such, but I’ve been asking more questions myself as to the logic in some prices. Even the independents have gotten in on the gravy train. Slowly, any sense of goodwill is being eroded and arguably more of us are finishing what we already have open before scanning the new releases. Quite rightly, because this stuff isn’t cheap and if the industry gets its way, whisky is only going to become more expensive.

I’ve written before about the sense that the older whiskies and the unicorns are becoming detached from the mere mortal whisky drinker. Few of us have the ability to go back now and explore. This is a devastating loss because judging and appreciating the whisky of today, is assisted by knowing what went before. Profits need to be made and rightly so for those that open and share such vessels, all of which takes us into this Rare Malts release from Glenury Royal.

This was one of the Northeast distilleries brutally chopped by the forerunner of Diageo in the 1980’s; effectively when the computer said no. A fantastically rare whisky; a unicorn for many. When I think of Glenury Royal, I visualise the excessively aged Diageo releases that were too woody. At least we did find a delightful example from Cadenhead’s distilled in 1966, or a 1973 release from Signatory as part of the Whiskybase Gathering dinner.

Glenury Royal 1971 Rare Malts – review

Colour: gold.

On the nose: a sensational assortment of spices, waxiness and sherry qualities. Plenty of black pepper, butterscotch, toffee, sage, dark chocolate or soil, well worn wood or polished wood. Leathery, bitter oranges, used tea leaves, pretzels and walnuts.

In the mouth: easily one of the best expressions I’ve had from this distillery. Plenty of wood influence but its balanced with a rich toffee, chocolate, pepper and a touch of soap. More varnish, oak, cloves, vanilla and a hint of smoke on the finish. Dried fruits galore and a resin caramel vibe.

Conclusions

A brilliant dram with that sense of soap midway that stops a 10 from me. I’m often asked what constitutes a 10 score? Its difficult to nail down in terms of text. To me personally, its just a whisky that ticks all the boxes and delivers. That realisation that you have something truly special in your glass for that evening, or few minutes. A whisky where everything comes together and the world stops spinning for mere second, or two. If a whisky does that for you; takes you a back to a good moment in your life, or reminds you of lost friends or relatives, then isn’t that a 10 and something to saviour?

We can trot out that immortal line that they don’t make them like this anymore. Wonderfully layered and textured. Full of flavour, aroma and balance. Superbly drinkable at cask strength yet sadly out of reach of the mere mortal whisky drinker. My hope is that we can recreate such whiskies when the industry focuses on flavour and the experience once again. Not just merely packaging, profit margins, shareholder returns and efficiency gains – the sorts of things that are crippling Scotch flavour-wise today.

Score: 9/10

Lead image kindly provided by the Whisky Exchange. My thanks again to Michael, who also provided the Rare Malts Benromach sample.

CategoriesSingle Malt
Jason
Jason

JJ is based in Scotland, which means he’s able to reach out and enjoy a wealth of distillery trips and whiskies. Although, it’s more than likely you’ll find him in the Edinburgh Cadenhead's shop or in front of a laptop.

  1. Avatar
    Mick says:

    From Diageo’s newly branded “You’re not worth it” range. 9/10 on MALT? Early 70s distillates! Somebody knew something. It’s a little bit like the story of Jesus…….

  2. Avatar
    bifter says:

    I got an email from Glenlivet the other month touting a selection of the excessively priced 50cl single cask bottles that they usually only sell in the Pernod Ricard distillery shops. The whole tenor of the pitch was that they were doing me an enormous favour just allowing me to purchase them. My mind was sent back to the tour of Glenlivet when they explained that, for reasons of efficiency and logistics, they’d had to stop using local farmers, low yield strains of barley, floor maltings, etc. Fermentation times in the huge washbacks was just over 50 hours and the whole operation was metronomic and mechanised. And yet they wanted a king’s ransom for a half litre out of, what, 20 million per annum?

    There was a brief period when it seemed that prices were actually competitive and even linked to the cost of production. Demand had bottomed out and whisky was an unfashionable drink. In this sense Diageo’s 80s distillery closures could be seen as a reaction to over-production these days it’s clear that producers are making hay while the sun shines, replete with all the worst manipulations of marketing and airline pricing. I used to buy a lot of IB stuff
    and was a member of SMWS but these days I just tend to keep an eye out for discounts which pretty much limits me to OB purchases online from sites like Amazon that offer free postage. Sad times! As you note, having kids doesn’t help either!

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Bifter

      We’re not huge fans of Glenlivet here, which is fairly inept stuff and whilst inoffensive, it doesn’t stimulate much either. They do seem to be pushing the 50cl format with these exclusives. You wouldn’t mind if they were priced accordingly, but it seems an excuse to reduce the bottle size whilst keeping the price intact, or even raising it.

      Sadly, it is mostly about size, efficiency and production nowadays from the likes of Macallan, Glenlivet, Balvenie and Glenfiddich. The taste aspect has been sacrificed on the high altar to profit. As consumers our obedience is expected so don’t ask questions! In the case of ‘livet they should be supporting local communities and farmers more than shareholders.

      Thanks, Jason.

  3. Roy Evans
    Roy Evans says:

    The Mrs loves “Timehop”, revisiting the past and seeing the changes over time… So I’ve been doing a bit of my own, re-reading the early Malt-Review posts from 2011/12. Saw you mentioned an 18yo distillery exclusive Dalwhinnie was £45 back then (£60 adjusted for 2019 inflation). Yet it’s nearer £90 now and significantly younger into the bargain (no pun intended). It can’t be a coincidence that so many folk have said (probably for the first time) that they are letting the Teapot slide this year too. Interesting times…

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Roy

      It is amazing what’s in the archives and given we almost always mention price – it becomes an interesting reference point. Unlike those other pesky sites that give an 85 and move on without quoting anything to do with price.

      A growing sense distilleries have pushed things as far as they can now in terms of price. The drinkers won’t drink and the investors/flippers have saturated the market.

      Something has to give.

      Cheers, Jason.

  4. Avatar
    Darren says:

    I bought, opened and thoroughly enjoyed this bottle many years ago. I was so taken with the whisky that I even went on a pilgrimage to where it was made knowing full well it is now a fairly mundane residential housing complex with only a bit of the chimney left from the distillery. An illustration of the times for me is demonstrated by a recent visit to Glenlivet (primarily to use the loo!) A suitably “tartaned” ambassador was describing a bottle entombed in a posh glass case to some German visitors. Not once did he mention the age, the type of maturation casks or what it actually tasted like. However he seemed very pleased with himself telling them several times how many thousands of pounds it was on sale for and how it would no doubt be bought by some Chinese businessman. I was tempted to interrupt and say if he had any sense he would just buy the Nadurra.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Darren

      Great that the whisky compelled you to make a pilgrimage of sorts. These lost distilleries do have that compelling nature. The irony of Diageo today boasting about saving Port Ellen and Brora isn’t lost on me, give the body count of distilleries they’ve racked up over the decades.

      As for Glenlivet. When the T4 resided on Speyside, they all refused to step into the place!

      Cheers, Jason.

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