Last week the Malt Nuts gathered once again to meet up with our old friend Glen Elgin who we first met a year ago. That first tasting of this distillery was interesting because I left with mixed feelings about the distillery. The whiskies we tried that night covered a range from B- to B+ so nothing was terrible, but nothing was excellent either. Still, it was a lot of fun getting to know a distillery I knew nothing about until that night.
As always we gathered, ate, toasted our gracious host and then got on about the business of tasting some whisky. We started the night with three new selections from Single Cask Nation, which Jason was happily pouring for us, and then we moved on to tasting the bevy of blinded bottles of Glen Elgin that lay before us. For this evening the whiskies were grouped as follows.
- Cut Glen Elgin Hogsheads
- Cask Strength Glen Elgin 15-18 years
- Cask Strength Glen Elgin 18 – 29 years
- Sherry Glen Elgin + a mystery
One very important thing to note before we head into the tasting is that Glen Elgin got all new stills in 1992 and our tasting that night straddled that line with some being distilled before ’92, some after and one was distilled right before the switch happened. I’ve marked the ones that came from the new still below. Now, on to the Glen Elgin Tasting!
New Single Cask Nation Releases
- Nose: Banana, dried fruit, caramel, marzipan, spice, dried apricots and a touch of sweet herbs.
- Palate: Banana, dried fruit, marzipan, vanilla, spice and a touch of dark sweets and sweet herbs.
- Finish: Banana cream pie, spice, and malty caramel sweetness.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Yum! This is a nice whiskey. There’s something weirdly “savory sweet” about it that I really enjoyed. The term “meaty bananas” kept coming to mind.
Single Cask Nation Cooley 13 years (02-15): 54.8% – Refill Oloroso Sherry Butt
- Nose: Rich buttery orchard fruit, dried dark fruit, bananas and apricots. Notes of honey, malt, hay, spice and a raisiny sweetness. A light herbal nature with some pear and apple juice and a touch of graham cracker.
- Palate: Complex ball of fruit, caramelized fruit, honey, malt, raisiny sweetness and light herbal spice, pear and apple juice sweetness.
- Finish: Caramelized fruit, hay-like malt, spice and a general fruity sweetness.
- Overall: A- (90-93) Without a doubt one of the best Irish Whiskeys I’ve ever tasted. It’s deep, it’s rich, it’s… it’s beautiful man.
Single Cask Nation Undisclosed Islay 7 years (08-15): 57.8% – Refill Bourbon Hogshead
- Nose: Salty, nutty, peaty, sweet, heavy graham and light notes of malt and vanilla taffy.
- Palate: Peat, salt, malt, graham, vanilla taffy and a touch of dried fruit.
- Finish: Peat, salt, vanilla and spice.
- Overall: B (83-86) A good whisky. Tasty combo of sweet and peat from the young malt character and while it wasn’t deep or complex it was nicely balanced. On a side note, we actually tried this one very last, at the end of the evening, so we didn’t peat our palates.
Cut Glen Elgin in Hogsheads
- Nose: Malt, fruit, honey, spice, juicy fruit gum, caramel, graham, floral, and light banana and salt water taffy.
- Palate: Malt, fruit, spice, touch herbal, caramel and some dark sweets and mint.
- Finish: Candy sweetness, malt, honey and fruit.
- Overall: B (83-86) A good amount of sweetness and maltiness coming together. Some interesting notes popping in, but really kind of “meh”. Lower end of the B scale for sure.
1B: Signatory Clynelish 15 years (98-14): 43% – Hogshead
- Nose: Buttery fruity sweetness, butterscotch, floral, oily nuts, fruit, malt and a bit of grassy hay.
- Palate: Mineral water, buttery fruit, dark sweets, spice and a touch of nuts, malt and chocolate.
- Finish: Malt, buttery fruit and hay.
- Overall: B (83-86) Enjoyed the buttery aspect of this whisky and would put it on the upper end of the B scale.
The reason there’s a Clynelish right here is because Barry wanted to test us all and see how similar we though the two were. There’s a thought out there that Glen Elgin and Clynelish are nearly interchangeable and he wanted to test it without us knowing. He asked us how similar we thought they were before the reveal and the answer was a resounding “not at all”. Everyone called it out right away that they tasted so different it was like different distilleries had made them… which they had.
Cask Strength Glen Elgin 15-18 years
2A: Single Cask Nation Glen Elgin 18 years (95-14): 54.9% – Refill Bourbon Hogshead
- Nose: Sweet, spice, malt, buttered popcorn and light touches of fruit, floral and smoke.
- Palate: Malt, floral, spice, toffee, pink peppercorns and a light bit of vanilla taffy.
- Finish: Smarties, floral, malt, spice and toffee.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) A tasty sippable, enjoyable malt. Would never argue about someone pouring me a glass.
2B: Signatory Glen Elgin 15 years (91-06): 59.6% – Refill Butt
- Nose: Malt, fruit, nuts, spice, perfumy with a bit of acetone and astringency.
- Palate: Sour and bitter, cologne, mint and a touch of charred grain.
- Finish: Cologne, bitter, sour, markers and soap.
- Overall: C- (x-x) Hot and sour, but I like the soup more! This was a polarizing whisky with some folks loving it and others, like me, hating it.
Cask Strength Glen Elgin 18 – 29 years
3A: Signatory Glen Elgin 18 years (95-14): 57% – Hogshead – New Stills
- Nose: Fruit, honey, malt, dried apricot, spice and a touch of sweetness.
- Palate: Fruit, cinnamon, honey, malt, dried fruit, grassy malt and a light dark sweets.
- Finish: Fruit, Canadian mints, honey, spice and malt.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) Sweets and fruit with a touch of a minty character that doesn’t manage to fully come together well – a bit off balanced. Water makes it weirder giving it a slight vegetal nature.
3B: Signatory Glen Elgin 24 years (90-15): 50.1% – ex-Bourbon Barrel
- Nose: Fruit, spice (caraway), briny dill, banana, caramel and a touch of a musty character.
- Palate: Spice, bubble gum, fruit, butterscotch and a light bit of musty mint.
- Finish: Solventy – bitter and sour – bananas and earth.
- Overall: C (73-76) A weird combo of banana, spice and solvent that’s been sitting in a musty room. Not a big fan of this one, but it wasn’t utter swill either.
3C: Lombard Jewels of Scotland Glen Elgin 29 years (75-04): 50% – Oakwood Casks
- Nose: Brittle, candied citrus, dried bananas, caramel and a touch of wood.
- Palate: Bananas foster, mineral water, spice, dried fruit and graham.
- Finish: Malt, graham, dried fruit, bananas.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Water brings out a light touch of pepper, but even without it’s still a great dram. Very tasty stuff.
Sherry Glen Elgin + a mystery
- Nose: Dark fruit, nuts, malt, ash, sherry sweetness, citrus peels and a touch of sulfur.
- Palate: Dark fruit, sherry, nuts, malt, chocolate, citrus and light notes of spice and sulfur.
- Finish: Sherry, dried fruit, citrus peels and cherry gummies.
- Overall: A- (90-92) This is awesome. Dynamic, funky, chewy and multi-dimensional. Some good stuff here – a great sherry cask at work.
4B: White Horse NAS (mid-late 80s): 40%
- Nose: Malt, banana, char, smoke, iodione, caramel, spice and a touch of toasted grain.
- Palate: Malt, banana, char, smoke, nuts, iodione, caramel and a touch of toasted grain and spice.
- Finish: Fruity sweetness, salt and nuts with a touch of smoke.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) I was really digging this one that night and was really pleased to see that it was the White Horse during the unveiling. Though having already opened a bottle of this at home I was 99.9% certain it was the White Horse the second I tried it. I could, and have, drink this stuff all night. I’ll be sad when my reserves are gone.
Probably the most surprising thing to me, and seemingly to most in attendance, was how well the White Horse showed in the line up – there was more than one shocked look in the group when it was unveiled that 4B was a mid-80s White Horse. Why you ask was that in the tasting? Because in addition to having Lagavulin as one of its main malts it also uses Glen Elgin. The point of it being included was to see if, at the end of the night, everyone picked it as being a Glen Elgin, or thought it was something else.
I supplied the mid-80s White Horse from my bunker of dusties and it was interesting to hear what people said about it while the bottle was making its way around the table. Some folks picked up some odd sherry and sulfur notes, some picked up the charry smoke, while others picked up on the fruit and spice notes we came to associate with older Glen Elgin over the night. The really interesting thing was that I didn’t hear anyone say they didn’t think it was a Glen Elgin. Someone might have, but I didn’t hear it and more than a couple folks took a second pour after the reveal.
So what was the underlying idea behind throwing something like this in there? Similar to when LAWS had a blind tasting where a Black Bowmore made an appearance, the idea was to completely remove bias by sneaking it in. If you just sat down with this 80s White Horse and a couple of the Glen Elgins you could easily have found similarities because you were searching for them. Setting up a series of references and then unknowingly handing this out gave the Glen Elgin side of the blend a whole new context. It was a fantastic educational experience.
Till next time…. cheers!