Expectedly unexpected

Posted 24 November 2023 by Matt / In Glenkinchie
The Dramble reviews the TWE Black Friday 2023 Edition

Bottle Name: Black Friday 2023 Edition

ABV: 54.2%
Distillery: Glenkinchie
Bottler: The Whisky Exchange
Region: Lowlands Age: 15

Life is all too fleeting – and there’s nothing like a whisky release countdown timer to reinforce that sense of ephemerality. Urgency and scarcity are powerful motivators. Particularly it seems, this year when that clock is striking both at 6am on The Whisky Exchange as normal, but also in an act of complete marketing replication, six hours earlier at 12am on Master of Malt. I’m totally unconvinced that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery here.

I stumbled across a report earlier this week, which suggested that 35% of Black Friday items offer no savings compared to their pre-Black Friday prices. That certainly feels in-step with my perception of whisky Black Friday over the years. Almost across the board, retailers have offered a selection of expected bottles and broadly undesirable booze paraphernalia that they’ve previously failed to shift. And if you wait until after Christmas, you’ll no doubt see those same hard to shift products discounted again once more.

The exception to this depressing trend – at least to my Black Friday adverse nature - has been The Whisky Exchange’s Black Friday Editions. Now into their seventh iteration, over the years, the releases from this series have become expectedly unexpected – usually (but not always) offering a recognisable discount over other indie equivalents and in the case of the 2023 Edition, presenting something that on paper feels a little out of the blue.

Whiskybase lists only 200 bottles total for Glenkinchie – since 1930. Omitting official releases of ‘The Edinburgh Malt’, which are largely made up of reissues of both the official 12 year old and the ‘Distillers Edition’, what you’re left with is something of a uncommon sight – particularly over the last few years. Whilst no one would ever foist Glenkinchie into the annuals of inherently rare, you need to go back to 2016 to find a Glenkinchie bottling from Cadenhead’s and all the way to 2009 to find an SMWS release. This is most certainly not this month's 22nd bottling of Caol Ila.

The two most recent official releases from Glenkinchie have been prohibitively expensive for most people with even a passing interest in this Lowland distillery. Earlier this year the 27 year old ‘Floral Treasure’ featured in the 2023 Special Releases – and in 2020 a 16yo appeared in the Four Corners of Scotland Collection alongside equally overpriced bottles from Cardhu (16yo), Caol Ila (14yo) and Clynelish (16yo).

The Whisky Exchange Black Friday 2023 Edition is a 15 year old Glenkinchie created from a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. It has been bottled at 54.2% (“batch strength”) and the number of bottles available is 2,000. You'll find them - perhaps - I’ve not ideas how quickly this mild oddity will sell – on The Whisky Exchange for £84.95.

Nose: Slices of green apple sit alongside bread dough, croissants and toast. Cut grass and hay are joined by edges of peach and underripe mango, whilst coastal and industrial undertones provide some additional curiosity – lead pencil, iron filings, saline and bearing grease. The addition of water presents cinnamon spice alongside more defined peach character, white grapes and shortbread.

Taste: The arrival is sharp and tart and is both chiselled and fruit-forward. Apple and peach once more, alongside a scattering of hedgerow berries. The development reveals a silky texture with both honey and golden syrup, before prominent cask spicing (hot pepper) tussles with doughy buns, caramel, sultanas and nutty sherry. Again, there’s wider nuance – a tangy industrialness that’s part salt, part lamp oil. Reduction rounds the edges of the piquant spicing, introducing cinnamon, mentholated oak and some old school distillate traces. Pleasingly, dropping the ABV by a few degrees leaves the weight of the whisky intact.

Finish: Quite long. Still lots going on here. Spice is most certainly in command – cinnamon fireballs and crushed black pepper again. However, both the green and stone fruits persist, alongside sufficient sweetness from the sherry influence which is part sugary, part leafy.

This year’s Black Friday Edition is indeed unexpected. It offers considerably more intricacy than you’ll likely find in most similarly aged or younger OB editions. The sherry influence is as part of a wider balancing act - so don't expect the typical notes from this cask type to dominate - they don't. I did prefer this release when taken down a few degrees, to a point where the hotter elements of the wood influence are able to be more easily subsumed into the distillate. Nevertheless, the occasional asides into coastalness/mechanisation are most welcome to a palate like mine. Overall - plenty to like here.

Fans of Glenkinchie will no doubt enjoy this - however, one does wonder quite how many fans of this Lowland distillery there actually are. Is a 'fair' price enough of a Black Friday tempter when partnered with a whisky that isn't commonly independently bottled? I guess we'll all find out.

Score: 86/100

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