The hunt for amazing Glenrothes

Glenrothes has always been “there”. It’s not typically on any (in my whisky group) “must buy” list, their OBs don’t really excite too many people (typically, and again, just from what I’ve read, YMMV), but they have their fans. I’m sure of it. Why? Because I’ve had them poured for me. And based on reviews, people enjoy that sweet tobacco flavour that can pop up in them.

And as someone who doesn’t do well with tobacco, at all, it’s not in my wheelhouse. Or any of the homes I have for parts of cars.

However I’m reminded of a younger TOModera who took a year to revisit all the things he had “written off”. So I went back to McDonalds, Subway, karaoke, dancing, a variety of people, and even yogurt. Some were good, some were better as ingredients (looking at you yogurt), and others are forever dead to me (fuck off and die karaoke[I should say that I have no issue with karaoke in general, I just really hate hardcore karaoke fans who yell at you to sing or they don’t have a good night]).

So if younger me was able to try things again, why not older? And here we are, collecting some Glenrothes to see if I’m missing out. Perhaps I’ve changed. Perhaps I have not. Let’s see, shall we?

Glenrothes 21 1997 Cadenhead Wood Range – Sherry starts us off. Alright, what do we have here then? Glenrothes? Good, I didn’t write a random review in the middle of a series. Cadenhead? Great, love them, don’t love the lack of cask strength options from discontinuing the Small Batch series, but I guess they don’t like my money as much anymore.

Sherry cask? Alright, nice. Cask strength? Even better. Inexpensive? Alright, now we’re talking, let’s do this.

Too good to be true, right? Maybe, let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Price: € 99.00

Region: Speyside

Vintage: 1997

Bottled: 2019

Cask Type: Sherry Butt

No. of Bottles: 510

Abv: 57.1%

Colour: 2.5Y 5/8

Nose: Honey, oak, floral, red foot candy, grass, cotton, peanut

Light floral and oak that leads to an extreme amount of sugar and more grassy notes. It’s like finding a candy store in a field and I swear officer, I didn’t take any illegal substances. Let’s move on with the review.

Taste: Red licorice, anise, butter, pineapple, tobacco (soft floral)

More sweet, less complexity, tropical fruit instead of grass, and all of the flowers have been smoked. And totally not the kind I prefer either.

Strong tobacco here, you know I’m not a fan, let’s move on.

Finish: Anise, peach, oak, peanut butter, apple

Spice, more oak, and sweet. But simpler.

Conclusion: Solid dram, really. The nose is what really draws you in, the taste is alright. If you’re drinking it to find a typical Glenrothes, it’s not going to do it. It’s an overly sherried whisky that doesn’t go over the top and the finish is way too simple.

Look, we had to start off with something fun. Something okay. A nice, gentle walk down the street, away from the officer and his dog who are looking at me funny.


I bought a bottle of Glenrothes 21 1996 The Whisky Agency. And I’m still taking the time to figure out why. Yes, I am a fan of The Whisky Agency and I know the person who picks them out. It’s cask strength, decent age, and it was something I could bring to a tasting.

On the other hand, I’m not a Glenrothes fan and not stupid rich.

Nonetheless, I bit the bullet. Gotta try new things and make mistakes, as long as those mistakes don’t end up as humans.

Use protection. Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Price: $200 CAD

Region: Speyside

Distilled: 1996

Bottled: 2017

Aged: 21 years

Abv: 51.3%

Colour: 5Y 7/8

Nose: Toffee, cereal, mineral, lemongrass, char

Initial nose of toffee and cereal, some mineral, some grass citrus. It’s not really screaming “21 years”. It’s more screaming “kinda generic plus lemongrass”. Water isn’t opening it up too much.

Taste: Fruit gummies, anise, chicory, butter, mango

Sweet and spicy, though the sweet takes some time to be proper sweet and not simple sweet. I like the spice, I’m happy it’s branching out, but the spice does doniate.

Finish: Mango, nutmeg, char, tobacco (anise & spicy earthy notes)

Hey, there’s the tobacco, some more good base notes and then you end up saying “Now what?”, kinda like when the lights come on at the bar.

Tobacco notes continue on the spice, there’s more spice, and more char and tropical.

Conclusion: To quote /u/devoz [+2] “This is a sheet-pan cake without toppings”. It’s a good base, but I keep looking for “what else”. The nose is simple, the taste is spice heavy, and the finish is a good base.

I get why some people finish whisky at this age. There’s no guarantees that whisky will develop. We have many ugly ducklings and not as many swans. This isn’t a bad dram to have. There’s no issue with having it to sip. But given the promise and what I’m going for, I really do wish they could have had a chance to switch the cask. But they didn’t. Oh well.


Thanks for this mystery from Herr_Maltenburg .

Glenrothes Whisky Maker’s Cut: The Soleo Collection was handed to me along with a bunch of Macallans. That’ll be important later.

I did not know what it was. Never had that before. Turns out it’s an OB from Glenrothes. Aged totally in First Fill Casks. Which, not gonna lie, is my jam. You tell me it’s a first-fill cask, I don’t really care what the type is, I’m interested. Also if you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll note if it’s an OB, I don’t typically drink them.

The Whisky Maker and his cut here is either they did a different cut coming from the still. I didn’t read anything like that, so I think it’s more so that they bottled it at the Whisky Maker’s preferred strength for this dram (as opposed to the accountant’s preferred strength, 40%).

FInally the whole Soleo Collection is made of whiskies aged from 10 to 25 years old and are meant to show off what Sherry casks can do.

All good things. And I drank it blind, so I didn’t feel my initial cynicism towards OBs. So let’s see how it tastes, shall we?

Price: £ 44.94

Region: Speyside

Bottled: 2018

Cask Type: First Fill Sherry Casks

Abv: 48.8%

Colour: 7.5 YR 6/10

Nose: Apple, heather, cinnamon, daisy, butter

Clean, honey, apple, and lots of butter. Sherry doesn’t dominate, spice is there. I don’t mind sipping it. It’s not doing anything too crazy, but there’s no tobacco at all.

Taste: Papaya, cloves, caramel, hazelnut

Tropical and spice. Whereas the taste of the one above was total spices, this has some equally strong flavours. Water brings out some nuttiness.

It’s interesting if simple. Think if someone thought it was a good idea to take tropical fruit and use it like stone fruit in a North American dessert. It works, though not totally. Also with time the cloves multiply.

Finish: Cinnamon, cloves, apple, raisin

Spice, more fruit, and rich flavours. Immediately I think of a sherried Speyside, nothing more or less. The spice starts taking over at this point.

Conclusion: Strong, big flavours. Really similar to Macallan. Sadly the sheer amount of spice leaves the other flavours in the dust.

Glenrothes is spicy. Sherry casks give some spice. First-fill sherry casks amp up the fruit. We’re left with toppings for the cake but they dominate a bit too much.


Guess: Speyside, ex-Bourbon (though frankly I thought sherry at first but since my wife didn’t hate it I changed this), 49%, 15-17 years old, maybe Linkwood or Macallan?

Actually: Glenrothes Whisky Makers Cut

Glenrothes 25 1988 The Whisky Agency is from a few years ago, 2013 to be exact. And with all things you have to live in the moment. You gotta be present.

So yes, we’ve already reviewed a Whisky Agency Glenrothes. But it could have been someone else 7 years earlier. Maybe they needed more money. Maybe they needed less.

Not to mention we have a different vintage. Perhaps Glenrothes was in a different place at the time. Perhaps the casks were different.

So this is a cask strength refill butt Glenrothes at cask strength aged for a few more years. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?

Price: Sold out

Region: Speyside

Vintage: 1988

Bottled: 2013

Cask Type: Refill Butt

Number of bottles: 181

Abv: 53.8%

Colour: 10YR 6/8

Nose: Mango, brown sugar, vanilla, cloves, ginger

Tropical and sweet, nice influence of floral, spice, and vanilla from the ex-bourbon cask. Takes quite a while to pull out, like my friends who now have kids.

This nose is basically like an army bunk made right: Nothing out of place or you’ll be broken down and remade into something useful. But it’s done well, so there’s no yelling or screaming, it’s just there.

Taste: Mango pudding, cereal, candied ginger, mint ice cream, cream

Creamy, more tropical notes, some stronger ginger/sweets, and this lovely cream continues into the mint. Water… sadly wipes out some of that connection.

Reminds me of having dessert at our local ACE sushi place: It’s not bad, not great, but it’s nice to have mango pudding or ginger ice cream.

Finish: Crystallized ginger, apple, brown bread, plum syrup, lemon

More ginger, just in case you haven’t had any recently. Cereal goes to a brown bread, quite sweet, and a nice acidic balance.

Conclusion: Nose is really shy, however if you get by that you end up with a fun, if lacking complexity (for it’s age).

I feel this was sitting and people were waiting and waiting for something that didn’t come. The taste is great, the finish has some fun aspects, and any fan of ex-bourbon whiskies would enjoy it.

That all said, it’s an upgrade from the other Whisky Agency above: Another sheet pan without toppings, save this time it’s a spice cake without icing. Which is nice, but as a generic white basic person, I do enjoy the icing.


Glenrothes 9 2011 Strictly Limited is a young Glenrothes. I’m biased towards younger whiskies. Full stop. Why?

Because I can afford younger whiskies. And if you spend money on a younger whisky and don’t like it, then you haven’t lost that much money.

“But TOModera, what about those amazing complexities you can get from more time in the cask?”

You’re right, random passerby as I type this: Older whiskies can have that greater complexity. Sadly those are very expensive and you can’t always buy them. Oh, and because they are expensive, more people don’t review them, and you have to take a greater chance.

So now we’re going to try a younger Glenrothes that’s down to a decent abv., in an ex-Sherry cask, and now going in my face hole. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?

Price: € 62.50

Region: Speyside

Distillation Date: 2011

Bottled: 2020

Cask type: Sherry cask

Abv: 47.5%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/4

Nose: Butterscotch, apple, ginger, floral

Simpler notes, not unsurprising. Apple and floral dominate, the other aspects try to back it all up and are like friends with back problems during a move: Not as helpful as they could be.

Taste: Anise, caramel, apple, sunflower seeds

Alright, spice gets strong, and apple sticks around, and it’s basically going back to the baseball diamond as a kid, but with more booze this time. Your parents may still be disappointed in you though.

Finish: Caramel, peanuts, ginger, grass

Hey, the apple left… so now it’s just vegetal and nutty. Pass.

Conclusion: Doesn’t really go anywhere. Just kinda stays in an apple and vegetal thing and sticks with that. I could see sipping this on a camping trip, or maybe just added to a mixer. The spice would be nice.

By itself? I am not angry, I’m just not finding much. And that’s okay. Because that’s what happens. I only ended up with a sample. If I had a bottle I’d pour it every so often.


So I just lectured everyone about drinking younger whiskies and sticking to them and how I have a bias against older whiskies. Of course that means I’m about to flip flop like a politician who reincarnates as a piece of summer footwear.

Glenrothes 30 1986 The Whisky Company is a 30 year old sherry cask aged, full strength release from 4 years ago, when we thought things were really bad because we’re bad at the future sight.

So we’re getting into the 30s for age, and that’s when you start getting some idea on what to do. Whisky, on the other hand, may as well be on a mountain top and doling out wisdom.

So let’s see how this stacks up, shall we?

Price: € 239.90

Region: Speyside

Vintage: 1986

Bottled: 2017

Cask type: Sherry Hogshead

Cask number 100247

Abv: 53.9%

Colour: 5YR 2/6

Nose: Apricot jam, burnt leaves, raspberry tart, Werthers, red licorice

Holy fruity, sweet, and fruity. Nothing simple here: Vegetal? No. Leaves? Only kind. Burnt leaves. Now we’re talking. Seriously, even the candy, sugary notes have complexity.

Now we’re talking the best of the bunch, let’s do this!

Taste: Papaya, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon crunch toast, tobacco (earthy, spice, brown sugar)

Oh fuck I don’t like tobacco. Alright, I can do this. This has hallmarks of things I like. Burnt cinnamon, tropical fruit, spices that I’ll sail around the horn of Africa to get, and even some brown sugar.

On the other hand… dammit I hate that tobacco taste. I’m trying here people, but… dammit. Okay, maybe it’s just on the taste.

Finish: Ginger, peach, oak, tannic, tobacco (earth, cinnamon), molasses

Alright, stone fruit reminiscent of growing up near farm country, good tannic complexity, lovely molasses, and basically a simpler but still fun version of the taste… including tobacco.

I’m not gonna waste your time here, just go to the conclusion.

Conclusion: Tobacco dram, pure and simple. There’s going to be people who will kick down the door for this whisky and I’m gonna take a step back for them. If you like cigars add 4 points onto my score and find this. That’s it.

If you’re like me you’ll be able to identify this whisky as really complex but not yours. I feel bad, really, because this is what I was looking for, save I suck at tasting tobacco. Oh well, moving on.

(It is a really cracking dram and one I’d recommend if you don’t mind tobacco)


Glenrothes 17 1997 Signatory Cask Strength was packaged for Spec’s Texas and originally picked by Signatory.

Constant readers who search my trash for old socks just to smell me will tell you that I’m a big fan of Signatory, however my experience with Spec’s Texas, being on the opposite side of our two countries, is limited. Turns out I can’t just pop down across 5 states and one international border.

Sorry Spec’s, there’s been something going on. Guess I’ll just enjoy Universal Healthcare and a lack of gun violence and apologize.

So can Spec’s pick a Glenrothes? Let’s see, shall we?

Price: Couldn’t find it.

Region: Speyside

Vintage: 02.06.1997

Bottled: 03.03.2015

Cask type Refill Sherry Butt

Cask number 9256

Number of bottles 535

Bottled for Specs Texas

Abv: 55.2%

Colour: 10YR 7/10

Nose: Unripe raspberry, butter, peach, oak, honey melon

Interesting bittersweet nose that goes a tad generic. That tartness really carries it, as otherwise I’m getting some generic notes here. Not bad notes mind you, but we’re talking a CS whisky with some age on it, not some OB release that they had to fight to release at a proper abv. of 46%.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, or any part of the bath.

Taste: Butter, anise, unripe raspberry, herbal, cotton candy

Buttery, spicey, and delves into that bitter/sweet side. The herbal may stick out like a sore thumb but isn’t a bad time. Certainly better than the nose, much more going on here that’s unique, and thus why you pick out a store pick/single cask/cask strength whisky.

Finish: Anise, caramel, oak, herbal

Nice clean finish with some spice. Bit short and simple, again, but no rough notes.

Conclusion: Clean, spicy, and a nice bump up from what you’d get from the standard offerings, probably at a cheaper price than those standard offerings. Does it drink like it’s age? Not really, it’s hit that “easy drinking, almost [word redacted]” level (the word starts with S and has what a cow says in it).

That said there’s elements that pop up and interest me. The spice and unripe raspberry were quite nice. However don’t go thinking this is a must busy, and if you see it on secondary, hope that the price isn’t too high (given the complexity).


Scotch review #1362-8, Speyside review #373-9, Whisky Network review #2038-44

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