Is forethought helpful or hindering? I’m sure we’d agree it’s highly situational.
When I was a wee lad, I liked to play chess. The process of looking beyond what was in front of you and “finding the right path” on the board was exhilarating. I played frequently, and in doing so, I started to game things out off the board.
This is not always a wise practice.
Sometimes I’d miss out on opportunities because I couldn’t see far enough ahead and other activities became joyless because I analyzed them too much. It is for this reason I sometimes wish not to know the technical info of a whisky. It is a bell that can’t be un-rung. With certain pieces of information registered in my head, I begin to cobble together what the hypothetical whisky might taste and smell like.
I wish I didn’t do this. Sometimes, you’d much rather someone slide you a glass and say, “You gotta taste this,” that’s all. No specs, just a dram.
When I first wrote about Glenburgie, I mentioned that years ago a whisky friend steered me towards bottles distilled before 2004. Past that point, the distillery was demolished and refurbished to expand production. Like many distilleries today, it became fully automated as well. Naturally, as a modern consumer, I would much rather hear “artisanal” over “automated.”
So, between learning that and the warning received from my friend (who had tasted more Glenburgie than I), I refrained from buying any of their stuff from the late aughts and beyond. I’d see new outrun on shelves and quickly pivot to something else, much like avoiding the sequel to a movie that didn’t need one.
Recently, fate decided to test my stubbornness.
A friend who was decluttering her place found a bottle and brought it to me. She had received it on a trip but didn’t have much of a taste for whisky. As it turns out, it was new Glenburgie, aged entirely in a Sherry Butt, and bottled young. At this point, the hypothetical whisky being assembled in my head didn’t seem very tempting. However, this was essentially someone sliding me that free taste, and I was not about to reject that kindness.
Like almost all Glenburgie this is independently bottled under the Càrn Mòr (meaning Big Pile) label, started by Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers. Morrison is a company that began in the 18th century as a grocer, but later grew into every branch of the whisky business. Càrn Mòr’s “Strictly Limited” series is for single cask or small batch whiskies.
I worry the information on the label has already doomed this whisky to a rotten score. Hopefully I can look past my own bias.
Càrn Mòr Strictly Limited Glenburgie 7 Year – Review
Distilled in 2011 and bottled at 46% ABV in 2019. 670 bottles produced from one cask.
Colour: Pale gold/hay.
On the nose: This is almost entirely about the sherry cask. Soaked fruit, marzipan, roasted meat, and biscuits. This transitions and tapers off with snuffed candles. That said, these sherry notes are delicate and not as bombastic as I expected them to be. So, while sulphur is definitely in the air, it offers some romanticism to the experience, like a candlelit dinner that’s just finished. It’s also worth noting that this is a bit thin and simple in a cold glass but cupping your drink with both hands for the better part of a minute really helps the whisky open up.
In the mouth: Happily, Glenburgie’s creamy texture is what I noticed first. This compliments the rich fruit, syrup, and char that you taste upfront. The mid-palate does get a little prickly due to alcoholic heat, but not too much. The finish is simple with a bit of almond sweetness. This is less articulate than the aroma but stays true to what it promises.
Not a lot of the Glenburgie character gets through the sherry cask influence. However, the bit that does get through helps accentuate the sherry notes that are being served up. The distillate does play a background role, but a useful one. It’s not just floundering, or worse, working against the sherry influence.
As I’ve said, sometimes I get ahead of myself. I’ll let my suspicions and prior experience color what’s in front of me. This is something I’ll continue to work on, especially when it comes to whisky. Because while this wasn’t the Glenburgie of old, it wasn’t a total stranger either.
For a young whisky to show some distillery character, and not be entirely swallowed by the ketchup-y influence of a sherry cask, is impressive. What’s more, most retailers still selling this, price it at around €50 (which shakes out to about the same in dollars). Not an unreasonable price for a hard-to-find single malt.
I have hope for the new Glenburgie. The new automated operation has not (yet) homogenized or steamrolled it into a cookie cutter malt with no unique qualities. I am looking forward to finding new ‘Burgie once again, which is the best possible result when a friend offers you a dram.