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Issue 36 - A lord among malts (Glenrothes)

Whisky Magazine Issue 36
December 2003


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A lord among malts (Glenrothes)

Glenrothes has a formidable reputation as a single malt and is a key component in the internationally renowned Cutty Sark. Tom Bruce-Gardyne visited the distillery

Glenrothes single malt from Speyside slipped onto the market fairly late in the day. It was only in 1987 that the decision was taken to release a limited amount as a 12 year-old.

The big names of the region, whiskies such as The Macallan and The Glenlivet, were by then fully established and starting to challenge the world-wide supremacy of leading malt Glenfiddich.

Meanwhile Guinness-UDV was poised to unleash its 'Classic Malts' and introduce the whole concept of regionality.

Soon after that came the start of the great stampede to the coast as malt whisky lovers headed west to soak up the rugged, uncompromising flavours of Islay.

Given the circumstances, Glenrothes, one of the five distilleries in Rothes, could have easily slipped off the radar as far as malt drinkers were concerned.

Such a fate would have been in keeping with its somewhat sleepy setting down in a dip beside the Burn of Rothes opposite the town cemetery.

With views up the tree-lined glen to the smooth-backed hills beyond, it is pretty rather than dramatic when compared to one of those storm-tossed island distilleries, strung out on Scotland's edge.

Yet if sales of Glenrothes 12 year-old were to trickle out slowly this probably suited its owners, Highland Distillers, just fine.

As the backbone of Cutty Sark and a key filling in a wide range of other blends, including Famous Grouse, there was hardly a surfeit of casks of fully matured malt begging to be bottled.

Besides Highland had other pri...

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