A New House for the Grouse

I’ll never forget one of my earliest whisky memories. I was around 9 or 10 years old, it was Christmas and the smell both of my mum’s mince pies and decades old wooden ornaments sat too close to the gas fire were in the air. The television was on one of the UK terrestrial channels that shows adverts, I can’t remember which. An advert started and I recognised the tune instantly. I knew what was coming having seen this advert several times over the previous weeks. A red bird would waddle across the screen from out of shot looking somewhat mischievous and one of many amusing situations would unfold – you’d never know which one was next on the advert reel. This was of course, the Famous Grouse.

Glenturret distillery, located just outside the town of Creiff was, until recently, the spiritual home of the Famous Grouse. Big brand blends need a home distillery in part to bring punters through the doors but also to give them something of a physical presence. Take fellow highland distillery Blair Athol and Bell’s as another example. Both Glenturret and the Famous Grouse were owned by Edrington, of Macallan and Highland Park fame. That was until recently, when French luxury glass empire Lalique came to the table and bought Glenturret distillery in early 2019. Edrington retained the Famous Grouse.

I feel it would be fair to say that Glenturret has never really reached its potential or had much attention as a Single Malt. This is possibly due to competition but personally what I see as previous lack of investment. I’ve had some bottles of the old 10yr old previously alongside a few fantastic independent releases, including a very well priced and well sherried release from Gordon & Macphail.

The distillery itself, however, has quite a rich and vibrant history. They are home to the Scotch whisky industry’s most successful mouser; Towser. Mice and/or rats (you will rarely have both together) find distilleries particularly comfortable and suitable places to make their home. Plenty of grain, dark corners and old buildings provide the perfect place for them to settle down. Towser, however, wasn’t a fan and she removed around 29,000 mice during her 20 year tenure. In case you haven’t clicked on the link, we’re talking about a cat, not some deranged lady with a broomstick and penchant for hunting rodents. Glenturret is also one of the few distilleries in Scotland to retain a very hands on and manual production process. A prime example being that the mashtun is turned manually by hand using a large wooden paddle!

Glenturret does have a bit of a turbulent history with various closures. This is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland and the claim that it was first founded in 1775 or certainly illicit distilling was carried out nearby.

Back to Lalique. As well as producing glass reproductions of aquatic life, Lalique have dipped their toes in the whisky pool before. Previously, they have provided decanters for distilleries such as Macallan. This is usually for another range of eye-wateringly expensive ‘luxury’ releases that only a pinstriped hedge fund executive who makes £50k before brunch by taking advantage of trickle down economics can afford. Now, however, they’re in it all the way and have released their first range of what they are describing as “maiden” whiskies under new ownership.

Image courtesy of thechinashop.co.uk

Now a disclaimer here; I don’t cope well with change at the minute, there’s enough chaos in the world without switching Abernethy biscuits for digestives. With that in mind the re brand could not be more stark. Admittedly, you could argue that one of the reasons Glenturret was previously a bit forgettable was the lack of marketing and branding as well as it’s visual similarity to it’s competitors. I would say though that I did find the older bottling appearance somewhat comforting and olde worlde. Call me sentimental. The new, towering, hefty and almost art-deco style bottle, alongside a striking but somewhat basic crested label, by comparison feels a bit like plonking the Chrysler Building in the middle of a small village in the Cotswolds. Having looked at the range, comparatively the prices have also increased. Not a massive surprise in today’s market and call me cynical, but with everything put together there’s a slight whiff of gentrification.

The new range features a no age statement Triplewood release, matured in European and American Oak (£55 RRP), a 10yr Old Peat Smoke (RRP £55), a 12yr old (RRP £65) and a 15yr old (RRP circa £110). All whiskies come natural colour and non-chill filtered which is a positive step. What may not be is those prices, they’re pretty heft compared to the competition.

As the middle of the road bottle in terms of age and price, I’ll be looking at their new 12 yr old here.

I was fortunate enough to be included in the Whisky Wire’s recent Tweet Tasting of the Glenturret to road test the new range which is where this sample came from. Thanks to both parties for the inclusion and as I always say on the YouTube channel: Just because a sample has been provided to me does not mean this will receive a favourable review as a result.

Glenturret 12yr Old 46% NCF – Natural Colour – RRP £65

The 12 yr old has been fully matured in European oak and shows a deep amber colour in both the glass and bottle with a slight reddish tinge in the glass.

On the nose the cask influence is apparent off the bat. I’m constantly trying to improve my cooking prowess, I cook (what I think is) tasty food but it takes longer than it should and I cause inexplicable levels of mess and chaos in the process. With this in mind I’m in the kitchen wildly flailing around between appliances and pans, we’re toasting almond flakes with spices, grilling figs, cutting stem ginger and liberally slapping marmalade on smoked roast ham while desperately pulling directly from a bottle of cream sherry.

Rice pudding arrives with grated nutmeg on the top along with a side plate of golden syrup sponge pudding.

The consistency on the palate is spot on. Not too oily and not at all too thin. The palate carries good weight to it, a satisfying heft if you will. Initially a rich sweetness followed by dark chocolate dipped in that marmalade jar we talked about earlier. Black pepper arrives with fanfare alongside espresso gelato and Maltesers before heading into a very long, oak led and warming sweet finish.

This is a lovely whisky, it is clearly a good indication of what Glenturret has been capable of. I won’t factor the price into the score because that’s not the point but that is my only gripe with this release. Competitor 12 yr olds of similar presentation usually span from £35 to £50 so this is a big step up in terms of price point at £65 but this is clearly a quality dram so I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that provides value in your world.

Score: Very Good

Fancy some tunes? The Malt Music for this dram is comes courtesy of French artist Christine and the Queens. Self produced and singing in both her native French as well as English, Chris’ music features flowing and powerful melodies alongside almost entrancing vocals. The song here is iT, the opening track from her self titled 2015 debut studio album.

Scoring Scale:

Holy Grail – Indiana Jones himself can only hope to find such a treasure.
Unbelievable – Among the best I’ve ever had. Must be tried at all costs.
Outstanding – One you should try to get hold of. Qualities in abundance.
Very Good – One to have on the shelf regularly. Provides consistent enjoyment.
Good
– I’d happily drink this. One to buy at the right price.
Solid
– No particular flaws but no wow factor either.
Fine
– There to take the edge off. Good for highballs and won’t need much thought.
Meh
– Somewhat flawed. More of a chore than a pleasure.
Oh Dear
– Consistent flaws. Gets you where you’re going at the speed you want to get there.
Please Make it Stop
– Not one to seek out. Hope for a gift receipt.

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