First of all, this is not a lesson on what the Vs and Ss and assorted letters on a bottle of whiskey mean. Nor am I going to debate the distillation process, spelling, or origins of ‘proper’ whiskey. We are only talking about one thing here. Glenrothes Scotch. Scotch being the kind of whiskey made in Scotland. Almost everything else about Scotch can and is heavily argued over passionately drawn lines.
Our liquor cabinet is home to a varied assortment of excellent bottles of fine alcohol and wine, moderate every-day options, and the scurf of questionable stuff re-gifted during the holidays or left over after a party. You can usually measure our enjoyment of it by how much dust has settled on the bottle. There’s usually a respectable bottle of scotch nestled in with the Bombay Sapphire Gin and whatever vodka I am drinking at the moment.
The Man has been a big fan of Glenfiddich for a while, but from time to time, he splashes out on something else. We have a Glenlivet bottle and a Clynelish bottle now edging out the port bottle’s space. The obviously absent bottle is the Glenrothes. It was quickly shared with friends and finished off.
We came across the Glenrothes Select Reserve at Dorn’s–a short, stubby bottle in a sea of glamorously tall scotch bottles–and at a price just shy of $60, The Man decided life was too short to be boring. On the way home, we stopped and shared a first glass with a friend on his back patio. Enduring the early summer humidity and meditating on life as a grown-up while you wait for your ice to melt is not at all a terrible way to spend an afternoon.
The Select Reserve is a non-vintage-specific “house” bottle created by their in-house Malt Master. It is a surprisingly young- and bright-tasting blend, with citrus and vanilla high notes and a lingering orange liqueur fragrance that oddly reminds me of Halloween. Unlike our usual Glenfiddich, the Glenrothes has very little of the smoky peat flavor that is a signature of many traditional scotch makers. But it lacks that rough edge that sub-par scotch often has. It is smooth and caramel-creamy, with a buttery mouth feel that slides into a breathy finish.
Not only does Glenrothes reuse American and Spanish oak casks (sherry and/or bourbon) as is tradition, they have a cooperage on site where they rebuild, check, and mix planks from casks so the interaction between the wood and whiskey create unique flavors and characters. On their website, they have a collection of videos that elaborate on the scotch making process and Glenrothes’ style of processing, which I recommend if you have any spare time. These are scotch geeks, if there is such a thing.
Glenrothes produces a variety of vintages (their Malt Master has since retired, so there’s no telling what will happen long-term to the brand), and they seem to stick to their recognizable stubby round bottle. We returned to Dorn’s to scout out another bottle of the Select Reserve without any luck. They did have a bottle of what was possibly the ‘John Ramsay’ vintage behind the counter for $500, but that was a little too pricey for us. Maybe after we win the lottery.
750 mL bottle, $45-65