Thursday, August 11, 2011

Have just tried > Glenburgie 10 years old from Gordon & MacPhail

Glenburgie (pronounced glen-burg-ee) is a little known distillery located in the Speyside whisky region of Scotland. It sits just off the main Aberdeen-Inverness road, between Forres and Elgin. Glenburgie was founded in 1810 by William Paul and was originally named Kilnflat - it was renamed as Glenburgie in 1878. The current owners are Chivas Brothers, part of the larger Pernod Ricard group, and they took control in 2005. The whisky produced at the distillery is one of the major single malts used in their famous and best selling Ballantine’s blended whisky range. Glenburgie has been one of the main single malts used in Ballantine’s since 1935, when the brands owners purchased the distillery so as to secure a regular and consistent supply.

There are no official bottlings of Glenburgie released by the distillery and there are only very occasional releases from independent bottling companies.  Therefore the chance to try any Glenburgie single malt is rare.  This bottling is released by the award winning independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail and has been matured in a combination of first fill and re-fill ex-sherry casks.  It has a strength of 40% ABV and we purchased a 35cl half bottle, which cost around £15.  A full 70cl bottle is available for £25-30. It is available from selected specialist whisky retailers.

Gordon & MacPhail are a company based in the city of Elgin. They still operate from their original premises that were constructed when the company was set up by James Gordon and John Alexander Macphail in 1895. They started off bottling whisky for the numerous local distilleries and also some blending and vatting. Business grew rapidly and they were soon joined by John Urquhart, whose family still own and manage the company today. Gordon & Macphail are one of the largest independent bottlers in Scotland, with over 300 own bottlings in their catalogue. Whiskies are selected from numerous distilleries around Scotland and released in a number of ranges. They also own the Benromach distillery in nearby Forres.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is lovely, interesting and immediately inviting.  There is a strong initial aroma of fudge-like sweetness with some vanilla, honey and robust oak underneath.  With time in the glass, further refined aromas appear - think of hazelnut praline, dried grasses/hay, butter shortbread and hints of orange oil and sultana. On the palate, this feels creamy and lightly oily.  The sweetness again comes first with honey and vanilla particularly prominent.  Notes of buttery shortbread and hazelnut praline add to the feeling of creaminess in the mouth.  Then comes a slightly tangy, slightly astringent yet pleasant hit of oak and wood spice (imagine wood shavings mixed with cinnamon and the tiniest hint of ginger), which dries and cleanses the palate well.  Underneath are delicate notes of coconut, cereal grains, orange oil and hay. The balance is spot on with the sweet, bittersweet and spiced wood elements complimenting each other superbly.  The finish is dripping with honey-like sweetness but turns more bittersweet and oaky as it fades from your taste buds.  There is a final hit of coconut at the death.

What's the verdict?
This is an outstanding whisky and one which demonstrates perfectly the standards that can be achieved by an independent bottling company through the sympathetic use of quality casks for maturation.  Gordon & MacPhail are one of the few independent bottlers who send their own casks to be filled at the distilleries and they pride themselves on the quality of the oak that they source and use for their casks.  When you taste a whisky like this, it makes you wonder why single malt from a little known distillery (in this case Glenburgie) is not more widely available.  This one is worth searching out - it's delicious and a bargain!

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