Category Archives: Glenrothes

Advent Day 23: 1988 “Ginger Spice” Glenrothes 24 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 23 – December 23rd005

1988 “Ginger Spice” Glenrothes 24 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Cask #4249 Sherry Butt

46% abv

Score:  90/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition.

Glenrothes has to be one of my least favorite Speyside distilleries.  Ironically, if you peruse the site here you’ll find some rather high scores for various ‘Rothes releases.  Here’s the issue though:  Those high flying ~90 pointers are all from the 1970s.  Their contemporary releases are anything but magic.  Almost like the Ron Weasley of magic actually.  I find their NAS (Select and Alba) to be middling at best, and almost magnetically repelling when I’m out bottle shopping.  Additionally, any of the vintage releases where you do occasionally find some quality (I said “some”) start to creep up into the >two digit pricing spheres.

You can only imagine my delight, then, upon cracking open door number 23’s 1988 ‘Rothes only to find out my lowered expectations were all for nigh.  Not messing with ya.  This is one of the most enjoyable Glenrothes releases I’ve ever found.  It’s complex, harmonious and most importantly…actually quite seductive.  I’m guessing this was a second fill butt, by its subtlety and nuance.  There is no over-the-top sherry whomp; just a sweet and balanced malt perfectly suited to evening dramming with a good book or chunk o’ dark chocolate.

Nose:  Orange marmalade.  Slightly jammy.  Cinnamon-spiced molasses cookies.  Bread dough.  The longer it settles down in the glass, the more aromatically balanced it gets.  Very nice nose.  Slight floral background.  Easier on the sherry influence than I’d expected.

Palate:  Very soft and pleasant delivery.  Extremely gentle sherry.  Some orange notes show through.  Crispy, browned sugar cookies.  Stays sweet and syrupy throughout, but has a perfect spice blend too.  Great long finish.  Never dries out.  Leaves beautiful sweet apple-ish notes.

Thoughts:  I’d almost not guess this was a sherry butt.  Certainly not first fill.  One of the most enjoyable Glenrothes releases I’ve ever tried.  Also…one of the most fun in the whole calendar.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Glenrothes 1975 Limited Release Review

Glenrothes 1975 Limited Release

43% abv

Score:  89.5/100


Ok. Tackling one more ’70s vintage Glenrothes release here.  1975 this time.  These Limited Release expressions are quite delicious as a rule, and this ‘ere is no exception.  Not my favorite, I’ll concede, but a lovely well-made dram nevertheless.

By no means the sherry bomb one might expect in a whisky from this distillery, I can only speculate that this would have been a lovely fiery dram if it had been bottled at cask strength.  To my dying day I will never understand the rationale to bottle an older malt at anything less than natural cask strength.  Stretching your stocks is understandable in terms of profit concerns, but seriously…jack your prices a little and give us this malt at a higher strength, please and thank you.


A fine nose here.  Old and mature latex notes, telling the tale of seasons spent mellowing away in the cask are front and center.  A fantastic fruity melange follows, built of layers of cherry and raspberry, and then an orange tang.  A smooth and creamy vanilla cake-like lightness, not necessarily too far off from notes of crème caramel or toffee pudding as well.

Old latex notes again (not a bad thing!) and faux sour cherry hit the tongue first.  From here the malt kinda bitters a bit.  A pleasant pungent earthiness too.  The nose would have scored it higher, but it kinda hits some sharper bitter notes on the palate that kept me honest in terms of scoring.  Still a great drink though.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Glenrothes John Ramsay Review

Glenrothes John Ramsay

46.7% abv

Score:  90.5/100


To celebrate his pending retirement, Glenrothes’ ‘Malt Master’ (what does one have to do to earn a title like that?!) john Ramsay put together this rather special vatting of sherried single malt.  A range of casks dating between 1973 and 1987 were selected as special vintage, married together and re-racked into sherry butts for a further period of integration.  Two of these butts were then vatted, with an output of 1400 bottles, to make up the Glenrothes John Ramsay Legacy.

Going out on your own terms is something very few of us ever get the opportunity to do in life.  To go out on your own terms and have your swan song be something like this?  Not bad, John.  Not bad at all, sir.

A lovely nose.  As to be expected from a distillery famous for its sherried drams, the primaries here are…well…very typical sherry characteristics.  Sweet and tangy, dark fruit and spice.  Citrus zest (somewhere between orange and grapefruit), French vanilla cream, faded potpourri, sage, eucalyptus and some lovely ‘inexplicable’ fruits.

The palate is tannic and drying with flavours of wine gums and a warming spiciness (clove and ginger, methinks).  On into an almost tangerine note and further into the spices.  There is a creamy sweetness here too that I can only compare to adding honey to tea.  Imagine a spoonful of honey that has only half melted off into the hot liquid before you pull it out and taste the warm sweet melt on your tongue.  A very downhome old school licorice-ness to it as well.  Long and lingering.

I’d love to sip this one late one snowy eve by the fireplace.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Glenrothes 1978 Review

Glenrothes 1978

43% abv

Score:  90.5/100


Another great ’70s Glenrothes release.  This time from my birth year.  (Please keep all snarky comments to yourself, thank you very much).

With the ‘Rothes producing upwards of five and a half million litres annually, only a small portion of their distillate actually ends up in either one of their ‘vintage’ releases (i.e. with a year on it) or more likely, in their ‘Select Reserve’ entry level malt.  It is reassuring to note that once you move away from their blend fodder, or this rather mundane entry level whisky into some of the older vintages, you will find some real gems.

Here’s just such a one.

Aromas of raspberry jam and the best of Christmas cakes.  Fruits and fruits and more fresh fruits.  Big vanillins and a bit of caramel courtesy of cask-leeching.  Restrained honey and cinnamon stick, soft nuts, artificial cherry.  Quite a marriage.  Familiar and comfortable.

Sweet, fruity mouth-watering delivery.  Slightly wine-ish, with some nice spice dustings.  Again…jammy.  Dries into nice mellow oaky notes and fresh apple.

A lot of good things came out of 1978.  Just saying.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Glenrothes 1972 Limited Release Review

Glenrothes 1972 Limited Release

43% abv

Score:  91.5/100


The ’70s are generally regarding as the true apex of whisky making.  Malts from this age have a certain something that is intangibly fantastic.  The flavour profiles, while not consistent from distillery to distillery, are very specific to this era.  These whiskies scoop awards, command hefty sums and stun the palates of those fortunate enough to partake.

Glenrothes, on the other hand, is not a distillery that I hold dear.  Not bad, by any means (‘bad’ being an adjective I reserve for very few drams), but ‘underwhelming’ would perhaps be the most choice work to describe.  It’s that terrible Catch-22 type situation, where the best of the distillery’s malts are old and rare, but of course the distillery needs to turn bottles at a younger vintage in order to maintain cash flow.  And obviously…to attract a younger or more cash-conscious demographic.  Let’s be realistic; not everyone can afford three figure bottles.

In this lovely old limited release 1972:  Dusty and old jams n’ jellies.  Spicy oak notes, empty cigar boxes and honey nougat (the stuff of Toblerone).  Fruits are primarily of the dehydrated and dessicated sort…mainly dried apricot.  After it sat a bit, I got the faintest coal notes.

The palate is mixed dried fruit, but primarily prune and apricot.  Cloves and wet wood.  Takes us into granny smith apple territory towards the end.  Mature and lovely.  Great depth and flavors that bend and transform over time on the palate.

One of the best ‘Rothes I’ve tried.  …So far.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Glenrothes 1988 Review

Glenrothes 1988

43% abv

Score:  80/100


I don’t think I’m being an age elitist or anything here (hopefully faithful readers will know by now how much I enjoy some of my spirits quite young), but I truly haven’t found a Glenrothes I’ve enjoyed that came from anything later than the ’70s.  Honestly.  Age does not equal greatness, it’s true, but there is simply no denying that there were a lot of great malts casked in the 70s, and time has been kind to more than a few of them.  Glenrothes falls nicely into this band.

The flipside, unfortunately, is as I stated.  I have not found much to celebrate in the distillery’s more recent output.  Wood policy?  Cask selection?  Vatting inconsistencies?  Who knows.  I would be speculating, and I’d rather not do so.  Suffice it to say that more often than not Aberlour, Glenfarclas and Glendronach get my dollars when it comes to this region/profile.

The nose here is quite unforgiving.  Sharp, floral and slightly bitter.  For this age I would expect a little more subtlety and grace.  The oak is heavy and plodding, while the sherry is aggressive, and not altogether charming, in a rum-soaked Christmas cake way.  Notes of spiced apple and orange tucked way in the back are pleasant, but there is a yeasty bread dough character that works to muffle these.

Barley cuts through the sherry on the palate.  Spiced fruit, apple and notes of damp wood are loud and seemingly in charge immediately on delivery.  Again…slightly yeasty as well.  As expected, it is warming and the finish is moderate and meh…unoffensive.

A disappointing expression, to be sure.  Especially at 20 years on.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Glenrothes: A Tasting Through The Seventies



Two from 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, Three from 1979 and John Ramsay (73-87)


1969 saw the zenith of man’s achievements in Apollo 11, Whisky and Woodstock.  Enter the seventies.  Whisky is booming and single malts are starting to become popular, but great rock stars like Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix are removed from the collective genius that is rock.  Whisky and Rock are still at the top but ,like a foreign species invasion, disco and rum are emerging in the void created by the passing of rock superstars and the break up of so many great rock bands.

An Irish political philosopher, Edmund Burke, said it best with this variant quote “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil rum is that good whisky makers do nothing”.  Fortunately distilleries like Glenrothes continued to produce fantastic whiskies throughout the seventies.  This foresight by Glenrothes to continue the production of great whiskies allowed rock music to once again flourish into the eighties and undo the devolution which was the stain of the late seventies caused by the intoxicated rum driven disco craze.

To honor Glenrothes for their contribution towards the demise of disco the ‘gang of four’, named after a failed attempt to take control of Diageo a few years ago, sat down to a tasting of ten seventies Glenrothes malts.  Eight of which were elegant and floral and two sherry bombs.  We found all the malts enjoyable and very similar (excluding the two sherry bombs), but only noted our top four.

1972 Restricted Release November 2, 1972 – March 26, 1996 43% ABV 

NOSE:  Tropical fruit, honey and spice.

TASTE:  Chewy, dark chocolate, hazel nuts.

FINISH:  Medium – long.

ASSESSMENT:  I need you, by me, beside me, because when you’re bad, you’re so so good.  Run away favorite and number one of the night.  Rumor mill – this was removed from Canada because of the levels of carcinogens in the malt. Observation -why is it that every time I like something it’s bad for me?!

1972 Limited Release December 5, 1972 – March 29, 2004 43% ABV Bottle # 05091

NOSE:  Eucalyptus, apples, herbal.

TASTE:  Pears, vanilla and dark chocolate.

FINISH:  Short to Medium.  Bit oily.

ASSESSMENT:  Now it’s all right, it’s ok, just not a good as the other 1972.

1973   March 16, 1973 – July 5, 2000 ABV 43%

NOSE:  Ripe oranges, pears and honey.

TASTE:  Raisins, toffee.  Bit oaky.

FINISH:  Medium.  Very dry.

ASSESSMENT:  Won’t you take me to funky town.  Not in the top four, but has some nice qualities.

30 Year Old Limited Release August 15, 1974 – November 8, 2004 50.2 ABV # 967 of 1134 Bottles

NOSE:  Oranges, cherries and honey.

TASTE:  Citrus, vanilla and almonds.  Malty.

FINISH:  Medium.  Uber elegant

ASSESSMENT:  Oh, that’s the way; uh-huh uh-huh I like it, uh-huh uh- huh.  It really is a wonderful malt and finished in the top four.



1975 Vintage Release August 1975 – April 25, 2006 43 % ABV Bottle # 1581 of 3708 Bottles

NOSE:  Toffee, cherries, honey.

TASTE:  Coffee bean, nutty.

FINISH:  Medium. Very soft.

ASSESSMENT:  Looking for some hot stuff baby this evening.  Just finished out of the top four.

1978 Vintage Release November 3, 1978 – July 1, 2008 43% ABV 

NOSE:  Floral, jammy, cherries and vanilla.

TASTE:  Spicy, apples and marzipan.

FINISH:  Medium.  Soft for the nose and very drinkable.

ASSESSMENT:  There’s a party going on right here.  Finished in the top four.  Could sip this malt all night long.

1979 General Release November 24, 1979 – February 13, 2002 43 % ABV 

NOSE:  Grapefruit, oranges and floral.

TASTE:  Apples, sweet, red liquorice.

FINISH:  Medium to long. Warming and bit dry.

ASSESSMENT:  I love to love you baby.  Used to be one of my favorites when it was released, but fails to make the top four in this range taste.

John Ramsay  Legacy  46.7% ABV   # 1228 of 1400 Bottles Bottled 2009 .Vatted from 2nd fill American oak sherry casks from 1973, 1978 , 1979 , 1982 , 1985 , 1986 , 1987

NOSE:  Floral, ripe sweet oranges, vanilla and a trace of mint.

TASTE:  Grapefruit, nuts, malty.

FINISH:  Medium to long.  Demure and understated.

ASSESSMENT:  If I can’t have you, I don’t want no other baby. This is good stuff, hats off to the mad vatter. Finished second behind the restricted release 1972

1979 Single Cask # 13458 1979 – June 7, 2000 57 % ABV Bottle # 35 of 519 Bottles

NOSE:  Oranges, raisins, mellow spice, cinnamon and little sulfur.

TASTE:  Chewy, cappuccino.  Sticky sweet port.

FINISH:  Long and intense.

ASSESSMENT:  First I was afraid, I was petrified, kept thinking of the sulfur that Jim Murray had testified.  This, in my not so humble opinion, is not a wrecked cask.  Has less sulphur than cask #13459.

1979 Single Cask # 13459 1979 – May 4, 2006 56.6 % ABV # 96 of 492 Bottles

NOSE:  Sharp spice, sulphur, raisins, dark chocolate and bananas.

TASTE:  Robust and chewy.  Liquorice, raspberry jam.

FINISH:  Long.  Warming and very intense.

ASSESSMENT:  Burn baby burn.  Satisfaction came in a chain reaction of chewy spice and all things nice.

– Maltmonster

The Subversive’s Guide To Sherry Bomb Defusing & Disposal

–  BOMB –


It occurred to me while on page 124,754 of my personal manifesto that the world would be a better place if more people were disposing of bombs.  It was Che Guevara that said “Deje el mundo cambiarle y usted puede cambiar mundo”, which has inspired me through my experiences to help change the world for the better.

There are two schools of thought on defusing a sherry bomb.  The old school approach is to cut the foil around the bottle between the neck and the cork, which would allow you to remove the foil around the cork and leave the foil on the bottle.  The down side to this is you can cut your finger slicing around the neck.

The approach I like is to take the knife and cut up the side of the bottle, away from your body and remove the foil from both the bottle and the cork.  This will allow you to see the cork and see if there are any problems occurring.  Also for the benefit of the rum drinkers out there you won’t cut your lip swilling from the bottle using this method.

As for bomb disposal, I think the phrase “many hands or mouths make light work” would apply here.  So gather your friends, pour a large dram, repeat your favorite toast  (“I drink to your health when I’m with you, I drink to your health when I’m alone, I drink to your health so often, I’m starting to worry about my own!”)  and do a world of good and start disposing.

Tullibardine 1966

August, 2008.  49.9% ABV.  Cask # 3509.  Bottle 29 of 246.  Bottled for WP – Calgary.

NOSE:  Toffee, raisins and chocolate.

TASTE:  Very silky, not the usually spice parade.  Stewed fruits, maybe a bit jammy and some sweet port.

FINISH:  Very smooth and long.

ASSESSMENT:  Not a hint of sulfur and quite mellow for an older sherry cask. Very different from the 1966 world edition which had way more spice

1966 Tullibardine

Longmorn 1973

April 30, 1973 – May 26, 2006.  Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail.  54 % ABV.  Cask # 3650.

NOSE:  Coffee, sweet notes and some subtle fruit.

TASTE:  Apples and oranges.  Fruit cake with a little cinnamon and some marzipan.

FINISH:  Long and heavy.  Warming at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  Bam, green eggs and ham…this is a great first fill sherry bomb.  Right in the middle between the silky Tullibarine and the spicy Glenrothes.

G&M Longmorn 1973

Glenrothes 1979

1979 – 2006  56.6 % ABV  Cask # 13459 bottle # 246 of 492

NOSE:  Sharp hot spice, and yes some sulphur notes in the mix.  Raisins and dark chocolate with some bananas at the back end.

TASTE:  Robust and chewy.  Liquorice, raspberry jam.

FINISH:  Intense to say the least.  Long and warming.

ASSESSMENT:  First things first,rant…get rid of the packaging (not the bottles, love the holy hand grenade thing): heavy, sharp wood edges; bottles fall out; hard to store; almost impossible to get out of the cardboard box.  I mean really…who designed this?  Some rum lover or a single malt sadist?

This is a single glass per night after dinner drink.  Maybe a little long in the cask but still good…but you need to love scary sherry to drink this.

Glenrothes 1979