Taste Review #46 – Glenturret 12 (1980’s)
Welcome to the latest whisky review, and this one comes from a distillery that I have actually visited, probably around the same time as the dram I’m away to try was bottled. This dram comes from the Perthshire town of Crieff, namely the Glenturret Distillery.
The Glenturret distillery is said to be one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, with claims to 1775 but this is just due to the fact there was an illicit still on the site, although legal distillation started in 1818. Regardless it is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries, and only produces around 340,000 litres a year. It is also one of the few distilleries that still use a malting floor, and it was famous at one time for having the oldest working cat and most successful mouser. Of course, having large amounts of grain lying on the floor would attract vermin, and distilleries often had cats. However they never had a cat like Glenturret distillery – Towser the Mouser lived from 1963 – 1987, and was present when I visited the distillery. Her estimated kill tally was some 29,000 mice, based on observation by the Guiness Book of Records over several days.
I made an alternative observation about the distillery cat. Being of a younger, non-drinking age when I visited the distillery, I wondered what would happen if the malt men saw cat foot prints across the malt floor. Would they wonder if the cat had mistaken it for kitty litter? Such are the thoughts of a 12 year old…… I do remember that because I couldn’t get the free sample at the end, I was given a sugar mouse instead. Nice touch.
The Glenturret distillery until recently was owned by the Edrington Group, owners of Highland Park, Glenrothes and Macallan Distillery. The distillery was also home to the Famous Grouse experience, which a brand also owned by Edrington. But by 2018, Edrington announced that it was to sell the Glenturret distillery and the Famous Grouse Experience in its current form was to close. The distillery was bought by Art and Terroir, a company owned by Lalique. The less said about terroir the better, but that will come up in a future article.
We have to come to the point that we are discussing why I am tasting a dram from Glenturret. Well, I am sure you can remember my recent articles on cask purchases. In both these articles, I was assisted by Mark Littler, a whisky broker who made sure that I got my facts right. Well, it turns out that Mark has plenty of other strings on his bow and also runs a company called ‘Cheaper By The Dram’. This is some thing that may be of interest to those of us who cannot afford the expensive bottles at auction, due to flippers or their rarity. Mark was kind enough to offer me a sample to thank me for the mentions and links, and it is with this sample I am going to give more gratuitous links and promotion, as I feel that the concept behind his company is actually a sound one.
Essentially, what Cheaper By The Dram (CBTD to save my typing!) aim to do is bring the normally rare and unobtainable whisky into the reach of the average drinker. Quite often there are rarer or limited whiskies released that are instantly snapped up, often by flippers who are just out to make a profit. However this can seriously distort the secondary market, and often leave a bottle of whisky sitting outside the reach of the person who wants to do what whisky is designed for – drinking!
CBTD works by taking a bottle of whisky and dividing it up in to 30ml portions. This makes a sample more affordable for those of us who can’t afford a full size bottles, or even for people like myself who can’t afford to open some of his collectables! While some of the samples may seem quite expensive for what they are, I can say that they do represent good value – for instance a 23 year old Macallan from 1971 3CL sample was only £25. Just looking at a whisky bar price list now reveals a Macallan 1988 / 28 year old 35ml sample at £35.
The presentation of the dram is also pretty good as well. These come in a stout bespoke cardboard box, which includes a card with the bottle details. The bottle itself has the minimal information required by law, and NOT FOR RESALE clearly marked on it. Indeed, the details I received with the bottle states that should CBTD see one of their bottles for sale, it will do all it can to stop the person it was sold to buying anything again from their site.
This is summed up best in their hashtag #sipdontflip that they are using as part of a campaign to encourage people to enjoy whisky as it was meant to be, rather than flipping it which in turn puts it out of the reach of the average drinker and even some collectors.
So, with all this information in hand – lets move onto the whisky.
12 Years Old
Sweet, Floral, Pear, Green Apple. Slight musky smell that reminded me of carpet and Parade Gloss shoe polish.
Suprisingly in spite of the nose, this one was a short burst of sweetness, followed by sour. However in the background there is a good honey note. It has a strangely mouldy note, but not unpleasant. The sweet, floral note almost reminded me of another 1980’s throwback, Parma Violets.
Mid length. There is a bitterness that is stronger than the sweetness, but the Parma Violet note is still there with a hint of liquorice.
I have to be honest in my assessment here – this is a dram that I thought on initial taste that I was not going to enjoy. The sour note didn’t do it for me. It made me worry about what I was going to write, as it isn’t nice to be supplied with a generous gift, only to be ungrateful about it. But the group of travellers that we are on the whisky road should know that sometimes whisky does behave like wine, and it just needs a little bit of time. Within a couple of sips I had a Parma Violet note, although not as sweet. The sour note then revealed the honey behind it, and once I started picking out flavours, this became a very pleasant dram.
Yes, it wasn’t to my normal taste, but that is what whisky is about. Sometimes we need to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and while this whisky did for me, it put me back into a familiar comfort zone. In this article I have referenced my visit to the distillery – I can now recall that sugar mouse. It made me remember Parma Violets – straight back to the 10p confectionary mix bags we got as kids. And finally, the recognition of Parade Gloss – brought back from when I started attending the Air Cadets in the mid 80’s and when spit and polish wasn’t just a cliche; it was a weekly reality on my boots and parade shoes!
Would I recommend this dram? Yes, I think I would, and not just because of its source. We get our taste notes based on memories of what has gone before, and this is what this dram did for me. And this is the beauty of CBTD. It is one of the drams I wouldn’t necessarily buy at auction to try, but being able to try an older whisky without the commitment to a full bottle is a definite plus, especially amongst the older and more popular drams.
And anything that sticks one in the eyes of flippers gets my vote. #sipdontflip
Many thanks to Mark Littler / Cheaper By The Dram for this very intriguing sample. I am sure to become one of your customers in the near future.
You can reach the CBTD site by clicking here. And don’t worry. Even though this review was endorsing a product I didn’t pay for, if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t be afraid to say so. The review is a genuine reflection of what I thought of the whisky.
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All Photos – Authors Own