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Old Particular Glen Elgin 12 Years Old

Continuing my exploration of lesser-known and spirit-forward Scotch single malt distilleries finds me taking a better look at the Glen Elgin distillery. Malt is also in dire need of another Glen Elgin review, as the archives say the last review was in 2014.

Frankly, I was giddy when I found out this was locally available. I’ve always wanted to try more bottlings from this distillery. My introduction to this single malt was through the 12 year old distillery bottling close to a decade ago. But I don’t really remember what it was like because I was just new to whisky then. Also, as I look back at those times, I feel like I was unnecessarily lucky to have come across a bottle as I learned that it’s not common in Asia.

Yes, I’m looking at another workhorse and blender’s malt owned by Diageo from Speyside. But this time, it’s one of the few remaining single malt distilleries that use worm tubs (there are only 16 Scotch single malt distilleries left that use this type of condenser). Which kind of makes it a rare treat as there are only 16 left in Scotland.

Being a blender’s malt under Diageo, the distillery bottlings aren’t as widely distributed as the company’s other single malts. The only distillery bottlings I’ve seen are the 12 year and the 18 year. So, you’re likely to only get this whisky from this distillery through independent bottlings (IBs). Despite keeping an eye out for anything from the distillery whenever I travel, I haven’t really seen any at retail stores. It’s mostly at bars in Japan. A lot of what I’ve seen and tried was distilled in the 80s and 90s. This leads me to wonder if Glen Elgin just really isn’t popular in Asia. Or, if our allocation is so little that only those who really know about it hoard it.

So, why am I so interested in distilleries that use worm tubs? Even among Diageo’s blending malts, Glen Elgin doesn’t seem to have a cult following similar to what Mortlach and Clynelish have. It started with my learning that worm tubs are considered inefficient. If you’ve seen the image above, you’ll realize that they’re outside because of how much space they take up compared to shell and tube condensers.

They’re harder to use due to having to regulate the flow of water. The resultant distillate isn’t appealing to the regular drinker because it’s meaty. Hence, it won’t be considered “smooth.” This is why most distilleries are now using shells and tubes, since they produce a lighter and cleaner tasting spirit. The romantic in me tends to believe that inefficient ways usually lead to a tastier product.

Aside from using worm tub condensers, why else am I interested in this distillery? I’m interested in the fact that fermentation time here lasts for 90 hours. Again, I’ll emphasize that longer fermentation times allows for more congeners to form. More congeners lead to more flavor. The other Diageo blender’s malts that use worm tubs like Mortlach and Benrinnes last for a minimum of 53 hours and 60 hours respectively.

The distillery’s washbacks are also all wooden; For me wooden washbacks are like adding a secret mother sauce to a fermentation. This leads to making the end product more interesting. (Thanks to Scotchwhisky.com for this info).

Old Particular Glen Elgin 12 Year Old – Review

Distilled July 2007. Bottled Feb 2020. One of 336 bottles. Refill hogshead. DL#13778. 48.4% ABV. $76locally. €50.67 from Master of Malt.

Color: Hay.

On the nose: A mix of fruitiness, grass and grain. I initially get an intense heat followed by aromas of hay, barley, vanilla pears, and honey. Behind it are milder aromas of dried apricots, sapodilla, nuts, persimmon, and apples. At the end are subtle aromas of leather and mango peel.

In the mouth: A warm and peppery sensation greets me. The tingling sensation from the pepperiness lasts for a while. With it are subtle and lasting tastes of barley, cereal, white tea, vanilla, honey, toffee, golden cherries, pears with skin, lemons, and oleo saccharum. At the very end is a subtle bitter note that makes me think of biting into tea and fruit seeds.

This takes about 30 minutes for the heat to calm down. The sweeter notes progressively become more expressive and lasting, but less coherent. I’d liken enjoying this to getting used to multi-tasking. There’s a lot going on but once you get used to it, everything is enjoyable at once.

Conclusions:

Aside from being spirit-forward, this is also malty. The best thing about this whisky is there’s no dull moment. Flavors just keep on coming but it lacks in flavor variety.

This is certainly not for those who prefer to taste wood in their whisky. Hence, this style of meaty single malts with lesser cask influence isn’t something most whisky beginners will enjoy.

I was hoping for more funk coming from this. But, I find the distillery DNA of this to be surprisingly on the sweeter side, which isn’t that different from other Diageo workhorse malts like Linkwood and Mortlach. If I were to compare this to say the other two, I’d that Glen Elgin is more grainy sweet, while Linkwood is more floral sweet. Mortlach has more tropical fruit notes, but the sweetness isn’t overly sweet like candy, mind you.

Of course, I have to add the caveat that these observations are from single cask expressions. So, the characteristics will vary per cask and type of cask.

Score: 7/10

Lead image of Glen Elgin’s old worm tubs from Whisky.com

CategoriesSingle Malt

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