Taste Review #42 – Glen Keith Distillers Edition
There are three things always to do in the world of whisky.
1/ Take a chance
2/ Form your own opinion
3/ Keep an open mind.
Well, on this occasion I’ve managed 2 out of 3. And if Meatloaf is correct, that ain’t bad. This is going to be a pretty short review, as although I didn’t manage to keep an open mind, I was proved right in my assessment. I’ve also got to hope that my wife doesn’t read this, as it was a present from her.
Today’s dram is from Glen Keith distillery, owned by Pernod Ricard, one of three distilleries in the Morayshire market town of Keith. The other one owned by Pernod Ricard is the Strathisla distillery, probably one of the prettiest distilleries in the world and one of the oldest in Scotland. Finally, there is the Strathmill distillery, owned by Diageo. Without wanting to be disparaging about Keith, there isn’t really a lot to do, with the Strathisla distillery and the preserved Keith – Dufftown Railway – the northern terminus of the former Strathspey Railway about the only attractions. However, people in Keith are friendly, the chip shop is quite good, and the town is a regular stopping point for me journeying between Aberdeen and home.
Glen Keith is not an old distillery – it was completed in 1960, on the site of a former meal mill. It had the first gas fired stills in Scotland, but three years later steam coils were added.
Production from Glen Keith has mainly been used in blends such as Chivas Regal, Passport, 100 Pipers. There were single malts released in the 1990’s but by 1999 the distillery was mothballed. Reopened again in 2013, production had been doubled to 6 million litres a year. The Distillery Edition was released in 2017 and it is to the tasting we now move.
This whisky has no age statement
A bit sharp. Apple, but mostly malted barley, sweet, toffee vanilla
A bit of a mixed bag. Not too strong in the mouth. A little oil, thinly coating the mouth. Toffee, vanilla, a slight fruitiness. Malt and wood are there.
Very short and sharp. Not smooth at all, a burn down the back of the throat. A quick hint of spice and wood, but within seconds it’s gone.
This is where I can afford to feel smug and have a small ‘told you so’ moment. The one out of the three things I failed to do was not keep an open mind. I saw the lack of an age statement, the 40% strength and the relatively unknown aspect of this distillery, and I thought this won’t be brilliant. And I was right. The good thing was that I wasn’t disappointed.
This is another semi-clumsy release of one of Pernod Ricard’s workhorse distilleries where most of the output is for their blends. The Glenallachie Distillery Edition that was released just before they sold the distillery to Billy Walker was pretty insipid. It seems that the distilling part of it was ok, as Glenallachie has gone onto make some fantastic whisky after the change of management. The Allt-a-Bhainne release didn’t get as well received as hoped, and although I liked it, it was a fairly so-so dram. It just seems that Pernod Ricard can’t handle the release of a normally anonymous ‘blend fodder’ distillery. There is another close by, Glentauchers, but the single malt there is usually released under independent bottlers, although there has been a recent release under the Ballintines branding. Indeed in the case of the Glen Keith, Glenallachie and Allt-a-Bhainne most of the success has been through independent bottlings.
It’s a shame as the packaging actually looks ok. The bottle is well presented. But the we see the 40% abv. That means it’s probably chill filtered, coloured and boring. And that’s at least not a let down, as you expect this. There was no real depth, being as shallow as a parking lot puddle. The absence of any sort of finish was the final bit of rain on my parade ground.
This has to be noted as a pretty poor effort in my honest opinion. As we have seen with my previous review for Glenlivet Captains Reserve, NAS and 40% doesn’t have to mean poor whisky. But on the other end of the scale, there is Jura Journey, a whisky that has its own special place in hell. Glen Keith isn’t as bad as Jura Journey, as it has a nice mouth feel, plus I expected a poor result. I had already bought a bottle, as this was the first permanent NAS as a core bottling, I’d stuck a bottle straight to store. Given its £20 price tag at the local Co-op, it was a no brainer to take the chance, but I might have failed. It’s politely speaking, not very good.
And the price is the crucial point. This is a whisky I feel that has been massacred by the accountants, as it has clearly been made to a price point. Perhaps a bit of finishing may make this spirit more palatable, and water did round out the rougher edges. But at 40% and with a fair bit of young whisky there, it was as rough as an armadillo’s knacker sack.
I see this on sale at other online retailers for £30 or thereabouts. If you pay that, you’ve been ripped off. £20 is about all I’d pay for this. It’s not a whisky I’d buy again, and I’m afraid I’d not recommend for anything else but cooking whisky. I couldn’t even recommend it for beginners as this would put you off. Therefore search for yourselves.
The major bummer about this was smelling the glass post-dram before loading the dishwasher. It was a lovely deep toffee aroma and very pleasant. Just too late. I might be wrong about this whisky; I’ll update the review if I change my opinion, as I seem to have given this dram a fair kicking.
Now it’s time to concoct a story for my wife….. at least she gave me the Captain’s Reserve too.
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