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Plucked from obscurity and thrust into the limelight of the 'Classic Maltsâ€™ range in 1988, Glenkinchie (pronounced: glen-KIN-chee) has had good fortunes in recent decades. While some despise for being something of a gimmick choice in the CM range. It was chosen over Rosebank for being prettier and many see it as a crime that a distillery as great as Rosebank was overlooked and ultimately lost all because the inferior Glenkinchie was more 'postcard friendlyâ€™. At least that is what some people think. While it is an argument not without basis the truth is that Glenkinchie is a fine dram in its own right and there are a number of excellent examples to be found with the aid of patience and a little digging.
Stills: 1 Wash 1 Spirit
Water Source: Lammermuir Hills and Kinchie Burn
Capacity: 1.7 Million Litres
1960-1975: Modernisation And Lightness
In 1960 the stills at Glenkinchie were converted to mechanical stoking and later in 1972 they would be converted finally to internal steam heating. The floor maltings were also closed in 1968, these were the first essential steps on the road to Glenkinchie becoming a lowlander in the very modern understanding of the word. However back in the late sixties it was a considerably more weighty spirit, still evidently a lowlander but there are several bottlings that reveal a much oilier style of Glenkinchie, one full of coal, soot, fragrant waxiness and honey. The two oldest bottlings are from 1966/1988, one a Moon Import and the other by Cadenheadâ€™s, both are excellent and show a more typically old style of Lowland malt. However the best Glenkinchies are aged examples from 1973 and 1975. A 1973 28yo by Douglas Laing was a flowery, spicy and fruity masterpiece while three 1975s by Dewar Rattray, Malts Of Scotland and Jack Wiebers are big, spice laded power house expressions that offer a glimpse into a rarely seen aged style of Glenkinchie, one where complexity rules.
1975-Present: Big And Spicy Or Soft And Grassy.
In recent years the 10 and later 12yo official expressions of Glenkinchie, along with a lack of independent alternatives, have cemented Glenkinchieâ€™s image in drinkers minds as a very soft, grassy, light, citrusy and buttery spirit. While this is fine if you are in the mood for a summery, light, ice friendly dram, it is also somewhat misleading as, with the right age and treatment, Glenkinchie can show a much ballsier side. This is best evidenced in two great 20yo official expressions that have been released as part of both the 2007 and 2010 special releases. The 2007 release was matured for 10 years in refill then 10 years in ex cognac casks, this kind of 'double maturingâ€™ often works extremely well, much more so than standard finishing. The result was a big, polished spice fest with full on clean oak, green fruits and some nice flinty notes in the background. The 2010 release was entirely matured in America oak and was an excellent example of the modern style of whisky, sweet and luscious with elegant vanilla notes, crÃ¨me brulee, cocoanut, cereals, rich maltiness and good spicy complexity. Both drams are big, uncompromising and full flavoured examples of how good Glenkinchie can be.