Speyside distillery Glenrothes produces a veritable cornucopia of bottlings under their ‘Reserve’ brand. Currently there’s a dozen bottlings listed on their website covering a wide range of ages, wood types, styles and price points. Several of these have been produced exclusive for travel retail. The distillery’s first foray into the sometimes anomalous travel retail world came in 2013 with the launch of the Manse Brae collection. A trio of bottlings formed the collection - Manse Reserve (NAS), Elders’ Reserve (18 year old) and Minister’s Reserve (21 year old). These were joined a few years later by Ancestor’s Reserve (25 year old).
The Manse Brae collection is named after the street of the same name which spurs off of New Street (A941) and runs directly through the town of Rothes. Rothes House (otherwise known as the Manse) sits at the end of Manse Brae and was previously the home of the town’s Minister. The town’s elected elders both represent their constituents, as well as led the selection of the Minister of the Kirk. The distillery’s travel exclusive range celebrates this local history and community structure.
Elders’ Reserve is a marriage of 50/50 American and Spanish oak casks (presumably ex-bourbon and ex-sherry). It’s labelled as an 18 year old whisky, though the distillery’s marketing blurb suggests that some proportion of the constituents liquids might be a little older. It’s bottled at 43% ABV and is available via travel retail – currently priced around £85 here in the UK.
Nose: Sweet, spicy and nutty. Leading off with burnt toffee, this quickly reveals a marked ginger aroma – stem ginger, ginger nut biscuits and sticky Jamaican ginger cake. Malts, barley water and oranges provide additional interest. In the background, hazelnuts, and coffee and walnut cake.
Taste: A silky and well-rounded arrival that is both coating, and a touch chewy. Sweet sherry – dried berries, chocolate cake and reduced toffee hits the palate first and is supported by a potent mix of spices – ginger, cinnamon, cloves and some black pepper. Running right through the very heart of the whisky is a big coffee flavour – high quality freshly made filter coffee. Wood is both spicy, but also a little sappy – it brings some vanillins to the party, but these sit nicely with the sweet sherry flavours and pokey spicing. A short period of resting merges the fruits and sugars, leading to bakery and pasty-like flavours.
Finish: Medium to long, a touch malty, but predominantly sweet – toffee, chocolate and cocoa beans. There’s some slight astringency and chalkiness at the dying end.
There’s quite a lot to like about the Elders’ Reserve. The combination of ginger, oranges and coffee flavours all sit together exceptionally well. There’s some good weight for 43%, and the spice underbelly of this whisky balances well with the sweeter sherry elements. Certainly quite the step up from the entry-level Manse Reserve, but likewise, quite the price increase from that bottling also. Travel retail is a funny place, often packed full of marketing-led NAS expressions – the Glenrothes Elders’ Reserve bucks this trend with its 18 year old age statement, and backs it up with some fine qualities.
With thanks to Mark Bickell for the sample.
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