Glentauchers was founded in 1897 by two whisky blenders: James Buchanan and W P Lowrie. Ownership of the distillery has passed between many companies over the years and in 1965 the site was completely rebuilt and the number of stills increased to six. The distillery is now owned by Pernod Ricard with it's production destined for blends such as Ballantine's and Teacher's. In fact, only 1% of Glentauchers finds its way into single malts, barring on release in 2000 of a 15 year old, then are all independently bottled.
Much has, and more than likely will be, written about cask strength whisky – the disgorging and bottling of liquid at its then settled and natural ABV without any further dilution. But, fewer articles focus on the fact that most whisky has indeed been reduced in alcoholic content prior to be being filled into cask. Spirit ABVs vary – from grain to malt and across different equipment setups – what you get out in new make form varies - even between runs if you’re taking a more hands on approach. And yet, there are commonalities with filling strengths, and in malt terms (and particularly across Scotland), 63.5% has been employed as an industry standard for over 70 years. But whilst this diluted ABV is widespread, not every distillery utilises it – indeed, some (particularly in the craft sector) are experimenting with lower filling strengths and their effect on maturation.
A few months ago I dropped in on the excellent Whiskyshop in Dufftown – a veritable treasure trove of original, and independent bottlings. There’s lots to like about this small, but stocked to the rafters store – from the welcoming and friendly staff to the large selection of open bottles which provide visitors with a wealth of opportunities to ‘try before you buy’. I’m all for taking a punt on a bottling once in a while, but given the chance, I'd always recommend pre-sampling if its available – particularly when it comes to the idiosyncrasies of single cask whiskies. Sampling conducted, I walked away with a well-aged bottling of Glentauchers – perhaps I should have bought two?
Youthful Speyside in the form of a 9 year old Glentauchers that’s been matured in a refill ex-Bourbon barrel. One of 124 bottles. Juicy, Oak & Vanilla profile.
Over to the underappreciated Glentauchers for a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel that was laid down for 17 year.
People often confuse popularity with legacy. The renown and reputation of distilleries tends to ebb and flow across the decades – driven by a combination of consumer trends and the ability of producers to tap into whatever the zeitgeist of the day is. A star-quality release can rapidly raise the profile of a distillery up this imagined league table – just as equally as a duff one can send it back down into the relegation zone. Some distilleries appear as deciduous – their spirit coming into bloom during certain periods of time (1995-97 Clynelish for instance – likely to be regarded as a modern golden period for the distillery’s spirit). Others appear near evergreen – regardless of the inherent variances in single releases and shifting enthusiast trends, their status remains largely intact and near monolithic over longer periods of time.
Door number 9 delivers us a Boutique-y Glentauchers. Released around April 2016 it was amount the first bottlings released by Boutique-y that displayed an age-statement – a decision which the company has stuck with ever since.
Reputation waxes and wanes. Whilst some brands seem perennially popular (e.g. Macallan), others have purple patches of production or periods where the product development team hit the nail directly on the head and produce expressions which sing to the needs of the market. Other distilleries (e.g. Brora, Port Ellen etc) only find true fame in death - moving into the spotlight once their inventory is but a permanently shrinking concern. And then there’s everyone else. Riding the waves of production, blending demands and varying consumer trends.
Glentauchers is very rarely seen in single malt form, with virtually all of their annual output being used for blended whisky. From a little Internet research I can see that there was an official distillery bottling of a 15 year old in 2000, but that's it - if you want to explore further you need to check in on your friendly neighbourhood independent bottler. Fortunately, in that regard, you're in luck as there's a few of them.
How big? How long? How much and how strong? The creation of whisky is fundamentally a numbers game – a chemical endeavour where almost every variable can and is monitored, measured and quantified. And similarly, enthusiasts love to enthuse about numbers too. Usually not to the level of being curious about yeast attenuation (though it has been known) – but questions about quantities, percentages and times become easily stitched into the fabric of being a whisky geek. PPMs being a personal bugbear of mine when it comes to incessant enquiry. It's simply an extension of the passion to want to understand ‘why’ and why often means ‘how much?’. But outside of nerd circles, there’s still one number which pervades even the most casual of whisky drinkers – that of the age statement.