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Glen Elgin (pronounced: glen ELG-in) is one of Diageos cross over distilleries, an important component in blends it is also promoted to a certain degree as a single malt and has enjoyed modest success in that category. This is not surprising, its easy drinking yet aromatic profile is one that attracts many drinkers.
Glen Elgin Distillery
Stills: 4 Wash 3 Spirit
Water Source: Local Sources
Capacity: 1.8 Million Litres
1964-1980: Expansion and Change.
Glen Elgin was modernised slowly by comparison so other distilleries. It began in 1964 with the introduction of four new stills bringing the total to six. They were all fitted with new condensers but they would remain direct fired until 1970 when they were all eventually converted to steam. At some point after the rebuilding a seventh still was added making a total of four wash and three spirit stills. This is an unusual setup, especially considering that even with seven stills the capacity is only 1.8 million litres. This is largely due to the fact that the stills are very small, which also accounts for the distinctive sinewy maltiness that abounds in the spirit.
There are relatively few bottings from this early era in Glen Elgins history. A 12yo expression from the 1970s was bold, metallic, smoky and full of rich earthy characteristics, in short a much bigger style of whisky than todays Glen Elgin. The profile of the official 12yo in 80s is fairly similar with these big smoky tea notes and more odd aspects like dried mushrooms and meaty qualities, excellent whiskies for sure. There are also some excellent old Cadenhead bottlings dating from the mid sixties that show what a big and often coastal dram Glen Elgin used to be. Big notes of salt, menthol, wax, honey, nuts and herbs are common in Glen Elgin of this period.
More bottlings start to appear from the start of the 1970s. In particular a stunning 1971 by Samaroli for his Fragments Of Scotland series, this one is very in keeping with the sixties style with lots of rich coastal aspects, minerals, smoke and wax. Again showing how Glen Elgin has been quite considerably tamed over the years. Other exemplary bottlings from the mid seventies onwards were done by Berry Bros, Speciality Drinks and Adelphi.
1980-Present: A Gentler Side Of The Glen
Glen Elgin has been tamed in recent years, probably due to the increasing demands and production techniques of modernisation. Current offical bottlings show a much more classical Speyside distillate with rich, biscuity maltiness, delicate garden fruits, a lick of smoke and some cereal notes to boot. It is a fine dram with a very approachable profile that has won it many followers.
However there are cask strength versions that show more muscular characteristics like the official 16yo sherry edition. This is a great example of modern Glen Elgin with rich sherry, thick meaty qualities and dense, dried fruit notes. It is interesting to see how different Glen Elgin can be at diluted and cask strengths. Both offer very attractive profiles but it seems that it is a distillate that is particularly susceptible to the influence of water. This is something that serves to make Glen Elgin a very entertaining malt to play around with and compare to other bottlings. Lets hope the independents can keep providing us with interesting alternatives to the standard bottlings.