Sometimes you come across a whisky that grabs you by the lapels, shakes you about, and slaps you in the face until you’re a little delirious and dribbling in the corner; but you don’t mind because you’ve found a dram that will some beating to be knocked out of your top five (it’s pretty hard to have an all time forever-and-ever favourite, I’ve still not found mine).
Glenburgie was established in 1810, distilling under the name of Kilnflat until it was closed in 1870. It was resurrected as Glenburgie in 1878, and is now one of the key malts that goes into the Ballantines blend made by Chivas Brothers – incidentally Ballantines 17 yr old is the biggest selling blend in Asia.
As part of this global best-seller Glenburgie doesn’t usually get bottled as a single malt – although independent bottler, Gordon & MacPhail do sell an excellent (my humble opinion) 10 year old.
So, back to the cask strength 15 year old. If you’re interested it was distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2007, and is non chill-filtered*.
At such a high strength it is very hard to catch a lot of the aromas and flavours of the whisky, the alcohol is just too strong. But I’m a patient man. After a while I got hints of fir tree on the nose and a touch of dusty milk chocolate, there was also vanilla custard and a sweetness that coated the alcoholic burn. It took more than a little water for the nose to really open-up. The aromas that first came out of the glass like boozy punch in the face became more balanced and richer, and these were complimented by wild floral notes, fresh timber and stewed apples. There was a cool earthy freshness like a farm yard on a sunny winter morning with a sweet edge of orange zest.
The palate was slightly oily in texture and initially had a milky sourness to it, but this quickly warmed and softened into vanilla, sweet lemon, and fresh flowers. The finish was excellent. It started like salty sea spray with dusty dryness. As it lingered it softened into warm wood that has been baking in the hot sun. This was then followed by a spectacular whack of strong black tea then gently pulling back to subtle dried fruit. It lasted for ages.
This is an excellent whisky, and is another advocate for bottling whisky at cask strength. By doing so it gives you so much room for exploring the whisky, which is all the more enjoyable this time as Glenburgie is such a brilliantly made malt. It’s a shame that there isn’t a standard bottling from this distillery because it would definitely be a staple of my drinks cupboard, but then if it was, you would miss winding your way through Speyside to get it.
*Chill filtration effectively “cleans” the whisky by separating the fatty molecules and removing them from the rest of the liquid. This also means that when water is added to the dram it stays clear, whereas if it is non chill-filtered it can sometimes turn slightly cloudy (don’t panic, this appearance doesn’t unduly affect the flavour!). Some are critical of this process as the fatty molecules contain flavours so the filtration is effectively removing some of the flavours – a chemist friend told me this.