A bizarre set of circumstances has prevented us from covering some of the recent releases from Lady of the Glen. It just seems to be the way of things. Even a recent Zoom tasting invite for this latest outturn we’re covering today, had to be cancelled last minute. Thankfully, the samples mean we can bring you our thoughts the latest outturn.
Just over a year ago, we caught up with Gregor who is responsible for this independent brand. At the turn of the year, the team grew in size with Grace and Paul joining the Lady of the Glen. And a more recent announcement this month, with a warehousing and bottling site being established in Fife. The Kingdom of is becoming a whisky hotspot with distilleries such as Daftmill flying the flag and established bottlers such as Adelphi looking to expand.
It’s fair to say that the recent outturns from Lady of the Glen have been an exploration in sherry and port finishing. The art of finishing, I believe, isn’t something that can be taught by the book; you have to actually do it. Then, monitor the developing situation and know when the time is right. Some of those recent releases were a little too heavily influenced for my own liking but found their own markets. The danger is everyone starts doing the same and the new norm becomes the finish, the heavy sherry or the thud of a wine cask. And that often brings me to one of my favourite lines that less is more. We’re all focused on offering different casks, that we’ve forgotten about the beauty of an untouched ex-bourbon release.
On paper, we have a more balanced outturn here and an interesting array of candidates. A trio of finishes from some unfashionable names. There’s little love out there for Tullibardine, but I have to say watch out for this distillery in the coming years after sizeable investment. The Dailuaine is often overlooked and I’m happy to keep it that way for my own ability to purchase whisky from this classy Speysider. And then, the Tomintoul. A whisky that is often limited by its official range yet harnessed with more precision by independent bottlers.
Beyond this trio, we have the more geriatric casks. The shining light of lost distillery in Caperdonich and then the most marmite distillery of all, in Jura. Given recently, I was obviously hit on the head and gave a 9 to a Jura, anything is possible and every distillery has its day in the single cask format. Which is exactly why I love the rollercoaster of the medium, compared to some of my colleagues who prefer blending or vattings. Let’s explore the extremities and enjoy life while it’s here! The Jura is also bottled close to the wire at 41%, so we’ll see how far its been taken and if such a move was worthwhile.
Perhaps the move to their own warehouse and bottling facility will reduce overheads? As we should mention pricing. After all, this is the most common bit of feedback I receive when talking whisky warts and all, with anyone who strikes up a conversation on Lady of the Glen. Jeez, I am getting old, or maturing well? I can recall when Caperdonich’s retailed for well under £100 and no one paid attention to the distillery. A £400 price tag is a big ask. The whisky itself will have to be of excellent status to justify such a fee. Jealousy? Nah, I lived through the era of cheap Caperdonich’s and enjoyed it, but we do have to question the affordability and validity of such things. It is the Malt de rigueur and on that note, we’ll begin.
Lady of the Glen Caperdonich 1997 – review
Matured in a Bourbon Barrel #19130, this is bottled at 22 years of age and 60.5% strength. This is available from Lady of the Glen for £400.
Colour: a light caramel.
On the nose: this cask must be tighter than Mark’s wallet on a Tormore4 weekend. A punchy arrival before the apples and pears step in. Worn varnish, cinder toffee and butterscotch. I’m getting raspberries beneath this onslaught, there’s something reddish underneath it all, but hard to uncover. There’s a resinous rum-like quality to it with plenty of brown sugar. This is a very good cask on the nose and almost waxy in places. Honey, pencil shavings and a gentle lick of vanilla.
In the mouth: the strength doesn’t really come through until we’re reaching the finish. In some ways, it reminds me of a modern cask strength Benromach and sadly not the 1970s vintages. The complexity on the nose isn’t evident on the palate. This might have benefited from a dash of water. Despite a considerable period in the glass, it still feels sectioned off. Vanilla for Tony, a black tea vibe and black pepper. A robust dram that’s for sure. Plenty of oak and some cardamom alongside hazelnuts and sugar-coated wheat.
Lady of the Glen Dailuaine 2008 – review
This 12 year old resided in a bourbon hogshead #300471, with a 1st fill PX Finish (Cask #19A), providing 270 bottles, at a robust 56.3% and with an asking price of £90.
Colour: dulled gold.
On the nose: first up is tomato vines then fudge and rubbed brass. Apricot and honeycomb follow with a diluted orange sanded wood, lemon oil and time reveals a pleasing vanilla custard.
In the mouth: peppery with more apricots, raisins and other dried fruit. There is a PX effect but it isn’t as aggressive or dominant as we’ve seen deployed by Glenallachie of late. Cigar smoke, tobacco with chocolate and a relaxed finish.
Lady of the Glen Isle of Jura 1992 – review
Matured in an ex-bourbon Barrel, cask #19130 delivered 183 bottles at 28 years of age and 41.2% strength. This release is available directly for £170.
Colour: a cider Adam sent me.
On the nose: Oooh fresh and lively. In other words a promising start. A nice ex-bourbon cask arrival. Lots of freshness including vanilla, icing sugar and a tepid caramel. The soft voice of cinnamon, sawdust, white chocolate buttons and I’m going to say cold shredded chicken. Yeah ok, I should say naked with no seasoning. And we shouldn’t forget the fruits here with your Braeburn apples and Sorrento lemons, but it’s all so leisurely and a Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward malt: stylish without boasting or screaming look at me on IG. Waxy as well it must be said. Gregor, are you sure this isn’t Clynelish and wrongly labelled?
Ok, an excellent bourbon cask, let’s see what the palate gives…
In the mouth: it has that rarely seen classy Jura vibe. The funk that Adam is searching for is evident here yet not to the degree of the aforementioned Chapter 7 release. The finish is a little short. The prior show is thankfully enjoyable. Albeit, the strength limits its gleeful appeal. A touch of smoke, fudge, stale wine gums – so chewier and less fruity. Chocolate again, mossy in parts as well, but not a coastal moss, more suburbian in nature and drying. Possibly fern-like as well; a certain greenness anyway. I’m picking up orange rind, hemp and a Highland toffee. Another high scoring Jura and I need to go for that CT scan.
Lady of the Glen Tomintoul 2005 – review
This 15 year old was originally matured in a bourbon Hogshead, before being finished in 1st fill Amontillado cask. 251 bottles were produced with an asking price of £140.
Colour: cherry wood.
On the nose: one of those beef roasts that you’ve smothered in red wine and retrieved the juices from the oven, 2 hours later. A ball of damp wool and red liquorice. Some melted chocolate, rubbed brass and wild raspberries – remember those? I still know of some locally, but you have to cross some hazardous motorways to reach the ripe fruit. Freshly scraped honeycomb, rubbed mint leaf.
In the mouth: the sherry has certainly done the work here. Amontillado can be more an expression of a midway point than a defined style of sherry. Less utilised in Scotch, but a pleasing gentle presence with leathery qualities, red grapes and a chewy texture. Because this isn’t a smaller cask, the influence isn’t as domineering. I like it. Walnuts, caramel, black peppercorns and refined level of dryness that doesn’t have you sucking in your cheeks in search of some moisture. Does smoked marzipan exist? Well, it does now, on the finish.
Lady of the Glen Tullibardine 2006 – review
This 14 year old was matured in cask #36, a bourbon Hogshead with Rum finish. Bottled at 55.3%, resulting in an outturn of 218 bottles and with a direct price of £85.
Colour: olive oil.
On the nose: you’re greeted by a sugary sweet arrival. Nectarines, lemon drops and caramel. Some star anise, light brown sugar and a buttery candy.
In the mouth: More light sugar vibes and lemons and a bit prickly in places. Memories of cactus juice, fresh limes, Kiwi fruit and clementines.
Before we jump into the whiskies themselves, I feel that there are other aspects worth considering here. But it must be noted this is a good selection from Lady of the Glen overall. People are too quick to complain about increasing prices, yet seem happy to pay £70-£90 for what are essentially a 3 year old whiskies. It doesn’t take an Einstein work out the impact on prices elsewhere, especially from distilleries that have been around a great deal longer and have an established identity already.
We’re also starting to see some consistent form from certain indies such as Chorlton, North Star and quite possibly Lady of the Glen. I’ll hold off for now until the next batch of releases. But there seems to be a real division between those happy to churn out mediocre single malts and those that put a bit more effort into sourcing casks and possibly finishing when required. And that’s exciting as more competition means increased choice and the potential for more memorable whiskies.
The standout here is the Jura. As much as it pains me to say such a thing! It’s a classy whisky with flashes of excellence and a really fun one to explore. I’ll probably purchase a bottle soon. When I first read the Dailuaine had a 1st fill finish, the warning lights started flashing. In reality, the outcome is a solid dram and a release that’ll probably do well. Whereas the Tomintoul came very close to being deducting a point due to the price. There’s fun to be had with that dram, but it is a tough sell at £140 for a teenage whisky, from a relatively obscure distillery.
The Tullibardine felt as if it was cruising in relative comfort without offering too much or too little. The rum cask has brought more to the experience, which makes you question the legacy of the distillery and its prior poor cask management that has resulted in less than stellar releases. If that’s the case, then, the finish has worked and uplifted the whisky itself.
And lastly, the £400 Caperdonich. On paper a hard sell, or at least in my mind. However, I’m proving to be terrible in predictions amidst the current maelstrom we’re living through. It warrants at least a point being deducted, which I’ve done for the entry fee. And a rather difficult Caperdonich it is to grasp. I’ve come across these late 90’s vintages that can be sublime fruity affairs or more challenging beasts. This is certainly the latter and a tough nut to crack for some.
Really, buy the Jura. That’s all I’m saying.
My thanks to Lady of the Glen for the samples and photographs.