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History in a glass (The Glenrothes)

Berry Bros & Rudd organised the ultimate tasting of The Glenrothes, we found out more.
By Martine Nouet
Some events are so special that you know they will never be repeated again, and the tasting of 16 different Vintages, 12 of which are no longer available, or extinct from the award-winning Speyside distillery was just such an event.The Glenrothes team hosted the tasting of all its extinct Vintages in the historic cellars of Berry Bros & Rudd, St James’s, London.Given the scarcity of some of these Vintages – only two bottles of each were opened, all drawn from the private stocks of the owners.The whiskies were arranged chronologically by release date, beginning with the one that started it all, the “Vintage 1979” (launched in 1994) and culminating in the first public appearance of the new 1978 Vintage (bottled in 2008).The Glenrothes launched its Vintages in 1994 with the release of the 1979 Vintage.“The idea behind the Extinct Vintages tasting was two-fold; to reinforce the notion that all Vintages are rare and finite and to demonstrate how each Vintage of The Glenrothes illustrates slightly different characteristics of the same personality.” says Ronnie Cox, director of The Glenrothes.1979/1994 25 per cent first fill sherry American Oak (AO) Nose: Sherried but not in the assertive way. Distinguished,refined. Damp warehouse. Mossy. Vetiver. Candied orange. Something juicy and ripe.Vanilla uplifts the damp cellar aromatic profile Palate: Sweet at first then spicy but the burst is controlled. A bony structure Finish: Tender and bitter too. Drying out on liquorice root Comments: A very amiable dandy who keeps control. Needs time to reveal itself1972/1996 60 per cent first fill sherry Spanish Oak (SO)Nose: Awave of vanilla at start. Pears in a vanilla syrup. Belgian waffles. Hint of vetiver. Tropical fruits Again takes time to open. A slight grassy note (hay ?), then develops on custardy notes and sweet Demerara sugar. Cooked plums and blackcurrant Palate: Large,open. Tropical fruit. Mango again, liquorice and a persistent oaky flavour Finish: Long,liquoriced Comments: Afunny lad. A bit dour at start then opens on a more exuberant nose and such a pleasant fruitiness. An afternoon dram to cool down.1982/1996 15 to 18 per cent first fill sherry (AO) Nose: Floral. Orange blossom. Marmalade,old leather. Very citrussy. Fragrant. Deep Palate: Caressing feel. Tender. Citrus fruit. Candied grapefruit (with the bitterness of the peel) Finish: Calm,relaxing,slightly bitter Comments: Calm,cool and collected. Quite deep. Knows what he is talking of. Easygoing 1984/1996 20 to 25 per cent Sherry first fill (AO) Nose: Atouch of wet cardboard or chalk. Citrus. Bergamot. Geranium. Spicy (pepper). Definite sherry influence. Cooked plums. A touch of mushroom Palate: Sherried,dry. Well structured. Earthy. Quite an oaky grip Finish: Spicy chocolate (chili). Chewy Comments: Quite strict. Does not unwind easily. A minister? An afterdinner dram on a wintery day while reading Descartes’Discours de la Méthode 1985/1997 25 to 30 per cent Sherry first fill (AO)Nose: A touch of paint varnish. Slightly meaty too (oxtail broth). Sherried;toasted nuts; Something odd about this nose Palate: Lots of marmalade and spices. A bit dour Finish: Dry,spicy,toasted nuts Comments: I did not find my marks with this one. Felt uncomfortable. Found it disappointing. I had another memory of the 1985 1981/1998 30 to 35 per cent Sherry first fill (AO) Nose: Malty,hint of animal (straw,cow). Bracken. Peppery. Meadow flowers and hay. Hint of cinnamon. Opens on custardy notes. Vanilla waffle Palate: Very smooth. A veil of sherry. Marasquino cherries. Ripe plums. All spice. On the second sip, more spices. Tabasco Finish: Not very long,quickly fading. Nutty. Walnut. A bitter touch Comments: An“easy dram”. Not very deep but gentle. Though deceiving. Reveals more character at the second sip 1971/1999 100 per cent Sherry First fill (AO) Nose: Heavily sherried. A touch of sulphur. Dark chocolate. Meaty. Sherry overpowers the malt Palate: Sherry,sherry and more sherry. Rubbery. Sweet. Stewed dates. Spicy Finish: Nutmeg,dry,bitter then soothing down on cooked fruit (prunes) Comments: Sherry in disguise. Overpowering for me 1978/1999 40 per cent sherry first fill (mix SO and AO) Nose: Deep oak. The sherry influence is gently hinting. Damson plums. Prunes. Creamy toffee swirling up. A touch of rooty heather then a malty note Palate: Smooth. Oak is perfectly integrated. Chocolate and cherry Finish: Luciously lingering. Touch of pepper. Oaky. Toasted nuts Comments: Discrete,gentle,affectionate. An outdoor dram on a warm autumn afternoon. Comforting 1987/1999 35 to 40 per cent sherry first fill (AO) Nose: Sweet,floral,light. Lively. Honeyed flowers. Tablet. Milk chocolate. Hint of praline. Green fruit. Kiwi,apples. Accomplished and fully delivering Palate: Velvety,smooth. Nice peppery feel. Liquorice toffee. Spices and oak Finish: Long,sweet,fresh. Splendid Comments: Refreshing,alert. Sportive ! A summer outdoor dram. Kicks your heels up 1973/2000 Mix SO and AO (first fill and refill) Nose: Lusciously fragrant. Like walking in a luxurious garden on a summer afternoon. Roses,carnation. Citrus. Tangerine,grapefruit. Rich toffee. Enticing and bewildering at the same time Palate: Smooth,deep,caressing. Lots of liquorice Finish: Fresh,long. Liquorice and a festoon of spices Comments: Elegant,refined,so well educated. Charmingly teasing. So floral,almost heady. Like an elegant lady coming out an old-fashioned perfume shop1989/2000 Mix SO and AO (first fill and refill) Nose: A heavy weight.Lots of toffee and buttery fudge. Liquorice. Orange marmalade. Sherry speaks up. Bracken,rooty. Dusty spices in a jutebag. Apricot,raisins. More and more complex as it opens up. Multilayered Palate: Spicyand fruity. Ginger,dried fruit. Sherry again Finish: Dovetailed. Rich; Encore et encore Comments: Arich large whisky. Mutilayred and displaying his charm. A beaming aristocrat 1974/2003 Racked operation reracked in sherry casks Nose: Verycustardy. Citrus fruit. Grassy. Lemon curd. Appealing. Appetising.getting creamier as it opens. Fulfulling. Orange custard,hint of vetiver. Vanilla curls up. Complex. Aniseed. Wild chervil Palate: Liquoriced. Fresh,round; Mellow,silky. Buttery. Shortbread,oatcakes Finish: Lingering,full.Comments: Like being at the baker’s or in a confectionary shop. Elegant,comforting, conversational. Indoors summer dram (the 1991 has many a similarity with the 1974) 1991/2005 40 per cent sherry AO Nose: Lusciously perfumy. A full citrussy bouquet (orange) with buttery notes in the back. Crêpes suzette,butterscotch. A hint of Earl Grey. A touch of demerara sweetness in the back Palate: Round WYNIWYG delivery (what you nose is what you get). Flowing silky texture yet mouthcoating. Spicier than fruity. With a nutty kick (brazil/hazel nut) Finish: Medium dry,spicy. Powder ginger. A hint of long peppercorn. Sweetens up on a honey touch. Milk and hazelnut chocolate Comments: Like a leisure walk in a luxurious garden on a late summer afternoon. Unwinds smoothly from citrussy flavours (orange soufflé) to a drier spicy development 1975/2006 Blended in 87 – married for 18 years Nose: Outdoor,breezy. Orange,clove. Creamy (morilles in a creamy sauce). Fruit cake Palate: Sweet,velvety. Well balanced. Chocolate and dried fruit . Burnt wood from an extinct bonfire. Sherry is well controlled Finish:long,velvety,spicy. Candied chestnuts. Sherry notes galore Comments: A great character. To be met outside and taken for a walk. Then back indoors to enjoy its richness. To be savoured with a piece of Dundee cake 1994/2006 40 per cent sherry (30 per cent AO,10 per cent SO) Nose: Outdoor. Earthy mushrooms. Scents of a wet wintery day. Damp warehouse; Hint of must. Opening on dark fruit. Plum Chutney. Restrained Palate: Exactly the same profile. Dry,slightly harsh then creamier (Toffee) Finish: Smooth. Medium length. Spicy chocolate.Comments: Quitean assertive and stiff character. Needs time towarm up 1978/2008 Reracked operation married for two years Nose: Oakier than the previous version. More toffee, less sherry. Spicier also. Chestnut purée. A floral touch. Lilac Palate: Smooth but restrained. Then an unexpected spicyoutburst shakes the tastebuds. Fizzy feel. Oak prevails Finish: Slightly astringent. Candied ginger and a sweeter note of dried apricot Comments: Not as integrated as the previous 1978. More oak and spices.WHAT WAS TASTED
The following Vintages were tasted
Vintage Bottled Status
1979 1994 Extinct
1972 1996 Extinct
1982 1996 Extinct
1984 1996 Extinct
1985 1997 Extinct
1981 1998 Extinct
1971 1999 Extinct
1978 1999 Extinct
1987 1999 Fully allocated
1973 2000 Extinct
1989 2000 Extinct
1974 2003 Extinct
1991 2005 On allocation
1975 2006 Fully allocated
1994 2006 On allocation
1978 2008 New release