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Glenrothes (pronounced: glen-ROTH-es) has always stood slightly apart from the pack. A top quality malt, it is arguably one of the more mass produced whiskies in Scotland given the size and capacity of the distillery. However the frequently delicious bottlings they release often put paid to the myth that smaller means artisanal and better while bigger means mass production and less quality. Glenrothes manages to be a distinctive distillate with many great expressions while still being a very large distillery.
Stills: 5 Wash 5 Spirit
Water Source: Lady’s Well
Capacity: 5.6 Million Litres
Owners: The 1887 Company/Highland Distillers
1963-Present: An Ever Expanding Speysider
Unlike many other distilleries that did all their modernizing in a single swoop, Glenrothes has seemed to just get larger and larger through the years. In 1963 it was expanded from a four still distillery to a six still one, there were additional stills added in 1980 and 1989 bringing the total to ten stills. Large by any standards, the production would also have been brought up to modern standards in the early sixties with the introduction of steam heating and condensers. So the 'organoleptic history’ of Glenrothes is fairly easy to trace and, considering the majority of the bottlings hail from the late sixties onwards, the changes are almost all down the evolution of fermentation practices that have arrested the more overtly fruity aspects of the distillate through the years. A phenomena that is common and has happened to a certain extent at virtually every Scottish distillery.
One of the earliest and best bottlings of Glenrothes is a 1957 22yo by Cadenhead’s. Hailing from the days when Glenrothes was produced in a much more old style fashion, it really shows in the spirit which is full of wax, hessian, minerals, citrus, steel wool and honey. The nest bottlings are a variety of long aged independent ones that hail from the late sixties and early seventies. Like the best Speyside spirits from this era they can be excessively fruity with big notes of honey, cereal, green fruits, wax, candy, occasional smoke and delicate oak or spice. Many are excellent and the best come from Duncan Taylor and the distillery themselves, particularly several great 1972s.
From the mid seventies onwards Glenrothes becomes a more current style of distillate. It is this style that people most readily associate with the distillery. One of rich sherry fruit character, lots of nuts, dried fruits, raisins, cognac aromas, delicate spice, subtle chocolate notes, a big Speyside character with plenty of complexity in other words. Again the distillery bottlings seem to shine most here, they are better than many of the younger independents. Whether this is simply due to careful cask selection and vatting on their behalf, or the fact that Glenrothes doesn’t shine too well in single cask form without much age is not clear. What is certain is that Glenrothes is a fine male that seems set in its ways and is always reliable, I’ve never had a Glenrothes that wasn’t satisfying.