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Glen Moray. For so long it has labored under an image blighted by NAS liter bottles on sale in supermarkets. For so long ignored by so many, an unloved and underappreciated malt that has suffered a great deal from careless and misplaced marketing promotions. Bottlings of Glen Moray (pronounced: glen MOR-ay) are relatively plentiful and often quite cheap, it seems like a hard sell to most people. A sad state of affairs for any distillery you might think? Normally Id be inclined to agree but on this occasion I couldnt be happier. Long may the days of ignorance and cheapo prices continue for Glen Moray I say! You see the reason is that Glen Moray is secretly a beautiful whisky, classically Speyside, complex, fruity, charming, robust, capable of spectacular aging and able to show well at a variety of ages. Long may people forget about this glorious distillery, the more that do the cheaper it will be for me and my chums to buy all the great bottlings.
Glen Moray Distillery
Stills: 2 Wash 2 Spirit
Water Source: Lossie River
Capacity: 2 Million Litres
Owners: La Martiniquaise
1958-1979: Quiet Determination.
Glen Moray was rebuilt in 1958 and had its single pair of stills refitted with condensers and steam heating. The floor maltings were also replaced with a Saladin box system. After this brief flurry of activity very little changed at Glen Moray for the next twenty years until the Saladin box was decommissioned and, a year later, a second pair of stills were added. Glen Moray bottlings that hail from these two decades, while not plentiful, are almost all beautiful. They are often rich in polished oak, soft, luscious fruits, a thick spicy note and many, many sub complexities that flesh them out beautifully. Excellent examples are a pair of 1962s, one an official sherry matured one that was polished, sherried perfection and one a 42yo, bourbon matured stunner by Murray McDavid under the Celtic Heartland label. There was also a beautiful sherried official 1960 vintage release from the early nineties along with other excellent vintage releases. A Managers Choice OB from 1974 was also fantastic. However, the finest (and unfortunately most expensive) was the OB 1959 40yo, a thrilling and beautiful dram that displayed perfectly poised, aromatic, mineral studded sherry with bags of fruit, polish, clean oak and spicy complexity. Some of these bottlings can still be found at great prices and examples are still released occasionally, there was a pair of casks from 1973 and 75 bottled last year by Duncan Taylor, both were exemplary examples of the make.
1980-Present: Highs And Lows.
Glen Moray has shot itself in the foot on a few occasions in recent decades. While it was in the same stable as Glenmorangie in the late nineties it was subjected to similar wine finishes only with much less care paid to the results. Bottlings like the NAS chardonnay and chenin blanc finishes were utter disasters for its image and reputation, despite the fact that the regular 12yo has always been a solid and dependably good quality dram.
Despite the odd awful bottling when it was allowed to shine naturally without silly wood tech behind it Glen Moray could still deliver some stunning bottlings. The OB 30yo, while not as spectacular as other aged examples, was a wonderfully uncomplicated, fruity and spicy example of a flawless aged malt for simple dramming purposes. There was also a black sherried Managers Dram 1981 cask that was a powerhouse, super clean sherry monster. A great 1986 single cask that showed without a doubt that Glen Moray still produced an awesomely flavoursome malt, all be it with a few more modern touches, it was a flawlessly constructed, beautiful whisky. All the while the standard bottlings maintained their solid consistency with examples at 12, 16 and 20 years of age showing a fresh, malty, well honied and consistently classical Speyside style malt.
We dont yet know what new ownership will spell for Glen Moray (it was sold to La Martiniquaise in 2008) but hopefully they will focus more on the natural qualities of Glen Moray and give it the respectable marketing it deserves. There is still great whisky being made at this distillery and hopefully there are still some great old casks still to be released, so the future should be good for Glen Moray lovers. All five of us.