It’s a jungle out there. The number of new independent bottlers is growing exponentially. Every person and their dog seems to want to give the independent bottling lark a crack – there’s certainly money to be made. But I wonder how many of these newer bottlers are going to last the distance. There’s countless knackered casks out there ready to be snapped up by an unsuspecting and ill-educated fledgling bottler – and it doesn’t take too many duff releases for reputations to be set across the minds of consumers. But, thinking more widely about the independent bottling world, it is sometimes not just the liquid quality which defines a bottlers fate – visibility in a particularly crowded marketplace is vital.
Some of the larger bottlers have deep enough pockets to flood the market with near countless new bottlings in an attempt to capitalise on whisky fans predisposition for all things new and shiny. Honestly, some of the attention spans I’ve witnessed are dreadful – combine that with FOMO and you’ve got a hotbed ripe for bottle saturation. However, many independent bottlers are either more risk adverse (I.E. what do you do with the bottles which don’t sell) or simply don’t have a big enough bankroll to be releasing a host of expressions every single month. And it's these guys that I feel have to go the extra mile with making what they do release stand out, feel relevant and most importantly be visible.
We all know who the big bottlers are – the frequency of releases is enough to keep them nearly constantly on our radars. But the smaller ones? Some trade on their reputations – either for sourcing high quality liquid, or for offering it at surprisingly reasonable prices (and there’s very few of those left sadly). That’s brings me onto today’s bottler – Gleann Mor. Not a brand I come across with much frequency, but one which I do know and as you’ll see from today’s review a purveyor of some very fine liquid indeed.
I was over on Twitter earlier in the week and spotted Gleann Mor announcing a new 40 year old Bunnahabhain expression for their Rare Find series – and similarly showing off a revised brand and livery. All well and good. But, sadly the communication was to my mind sloppy. No call for action, no actual information on the bottling, its availability or even its price. Now there’s nothing wrong with a ‘tease’ on social media, but posting a whole bottle shot and just ‘leaving it there’ is far from that. Similarly a post from over a week earlier just dropped in a nice photo of a brand new Arran with no information other than its age. This is lazy marketing and not only does it lack imagination, it does the liquid itself a disservice.
A shiny new well-aged bottle of whisky, but announced with barely a fart let alone a fanfare. To some this may put them off – “where can I buy it?” “when is it being released?” “what’s the ABV?” “OK too many questions I’m giving up” The Internet and social media in particularly have very short attention spans – and if you don’t grab that attention folks quickly move on to the next big shiny. I fear that Gleann Mor need some help here – visibility is vital for younger independent bottlers to build up a base of enthusiasm – but so is giving consumers enough information to go on. Promoting a brand is about more than words, but in this instance, a few more wouldn’t go a miss.
Gleann Mor’s A Rare Find 40 year old Blended Malt was released in 2015 (taking us all the way back to 1975 for the origin of the liquid). There’s little information on the bottle itself – and the Interwebs suggest a variety of distillery combinations. The most commonly cited combo is that of Glenrothes, Macallan and Tamdhu – but other sites list this with added Mortlach – a strange Diageo addition to what would be pure Edrington stock. I found one which went to far as to suggest Macallan with Glenturret and Highland Park. All something of a mystery. But personally I’d go with the former suggestion of being a pure Edrington blend.
Similarly whilst this is undoubtedly sherried whisky, there’s not 100% agreement on the web over the number of casks utilised. Most sites suggest, or at least infer by pluralising ‘casks’ that the constituents were aged individually for 40+ years and then brought back together as a blended malt for some period of marrying time. I spotted at least two listings for this whisky which implied it was drawn from a single sherry cask. Honestly I’m far from convinced about that. But, at least all agree on the cask use and bottling ABV – 1st fill and 47%.
The bottling was issued in two styles – in standard glassware (as is shown in the photo, and as is the case with the bottle I possess) and later, repackaged into a squat decanter which looks very similarly in shape to the recent releases of older Littlemill stock. Regardless, both styles are now sold out and you’ll need to frequent some auction sites to find a bottle.
Prices vary greatly for this old blended malt – I nabbed it at £140 (plus fees), but I’ve seen some listings deep into the £300+ mark. As with all things auction-based, do your research and try not to get caught in the cycle of ‘must buy’ – you’ll only end up being one of those people who have paid over the odds through a lack of restaint and/or patience. Or you know, just buy it....it's your money after all.
Nose: Pronounced dunnage – exposed moist soil floors, ancient damp wood and sherry rancio. Intensely jammy red berries and old orange liqueurs provide a fruity backbone, whilst cigar wrappers and leather satchels sit alongside dark chocolate. Spicing is prominent and is formed of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves alongside a gentle green leafiness. Resting unsurprisingly benefits this old-timer – Expressive walnuts and chopped almonds alongside unrefined brown sugars, coffee ground and a slice of rich dried fruit cake. Reduction expresses the wood – mirror sheened, polished and well-lacquered – and adds additional fruitiness from juicy pineapple, mango slices, mandarins and clementines, whilst also pronouncing sugariness from toffee brittle.
Taste: Rich and full-bodied with wood and spice right up front. Old dunnage, garden sheds and venerable libraries (some combination of the above) are joined by antique polished tables and leather saddlebags. Cinnamon and nutmeg push through quickly, alongside reduced red berries (redcurrants and cranberries), damsons and plums. Orange cordial joins bitter chocolate in the back-palate, before brown sugars and pepperiness are tempered by an ashy cigar and charred oak.
Finish: Quite long with deep red and black fruits fading. A progressive dryness from the wood sits with a sustained spiciness.
A Rare Find 40 year old Blended Malt possesses many of the long-maturation cues I look for – intense jammy fruits, deep sugars and plenty of wood polish and dunnage influence. Here they are exceptionally well combined, especially given the cask(s) which has provided just the right amount of active maturation over the lifecycle of the whisky to as not leave it feeling overwrought and bloated. A few drops of water works similarly works wonders here – unlocking bright juicy fruitiness which plays exceptionally well with the backdrop of old, venerable wood. Excellent blending and well worth looking out for – at the right price of course.
But don't take our word for it..
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