Glen Keith 21yo 1992/2014 (57.5%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrels #120566 & #120569, 271 bottles)

Whereas most of the reviews written come from samples accumulated over many years, it doesn’t mean I don’t open any bottles, because I do. Just click on “Whisky from Master Quills Lectern” down below, and in an instant you can see which reviews were written about bottles I have, or had, in my collection. Bottles I believed were worthy of buying, very often without even tasting them. Glen Keith is no stranger on these pages, which is no surprise actually. I rather like my Glen Keiths, and Strathisla, it’s sister distillery. Both reside on the same premises. Pernod Ricard, the owners, aren’t doing very much with Glen Keith (yet), so it is a bit of a hidden treasure, only known to aficionados and connoisseurs (I hate those words). Strathisla’s sister-distillery has been featured already three times before on these pages. One stellar one from the sixties, just as good as the legendary Strathisla’s from that era. Two more were reviewed, both from the nineties: 1990 and even one from 1992, just like this one.

Glen Keith 21yo 1992/2014 (57.5%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrels #120566 & #120569, 271 bottles)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Wonderfully creamy and appealing. Only one sniff suffices to let us know we’ll be enjoy this thoroughly. I can’t imagine anything smelling so nice being not enjoyable to taste. Bourbon barrels so yes, nice vanilla and creamy notes, as well as some tension from woody spices partly young wood. Milk chocolate. Next some nice florality emerges as opposed to fruity notes often found in ex-Bourbon barrels. Fresh, not roasted, nuts. Dusty and vibrant at the same time. Not only floral, but also some acidic fruitiness comes to the fore, just don’t smell it too vigorously, the cream overpowers it then and makes it smell sweet. Enough happening in this one, although it may not be the most complex stuff around.

Taste: Fruity and nutty. Almonds. Waxy and chewy. Delayed pepper. Again with nice chocolate sprinkled wood and just like the nose, it tastes sometimes sappy and young. As if new wood staves were added to a rebuilt barrel. This would be highly unlikely though. Sawdust as well. Plywood? People who read everything on Master Quill, know that I dislike not-so-well integrated acidity that lies on top. Abuelo 12yo comes to mind. This Whisky also has an acidic note that lies on top, only this time it works a bit. Amazing. Just like the nose, the Whisky doesn’t seem to be extremely complex. However, the body of the Whisky is so big, that it manages to deal with the acidic high note.

Sure, reduced Whisky is extremely drinkable, but Cask Strength delivers a punch, but also presents flavours to you on a silver platter. The finish has great length and lingers on, seemingly forever, in the aftertaste. Smells nice, tastes even better. Water enhances the nutty creaminess of the nose and at the same time downplaying the woody aromas, making it even bigger and creamier, but also less sophisticated. In the taste, the acidity is given a lager role to play, which in the end alters the balance of the Whisky, making it less balanced in fact. It also adds some complexity with chili pepper and some mint. The finish is more about milk chocolate than it was before adding water. So it might be fun to experiment a bit with water.

For me, something like this is a no brainer. Its more than 20 years old, came from nice active barrels, and gives you heaps of flavour, and a lot of alcohol to boot, so you can play around with it, adding some water with a pipette. If you can’t find this particular bottling, don’t hesitate buying one by another bottler, or one of it sister casks bottled by Signatory Vintage instead, I understand they are all good, and some even better! Some are still available, so what are you waiting for?

Points: 87

Glen Keith 19yo 1992/2012 (53.8%, Kintra, Bourbon Hogshead #120587, 156 bottles)

Recently I reviewed a Glen Keith by Malts of Scotland (a german bottler) that one was also 19yo (1990) and was quite the surprise. This time another Glen Keith that is 19yo old (1992) and this time by the Dutch bottler Kintra. Glen Keith itself was mothballed for more than a decade (1999-2013), but has restarted recently, Probably the last one of the mothballed distilleries that could have been revived. The rest of the closed distilleries are demolished or used for warehousing or have been turned into apartments or warehouses. It is very unlikely that any other of the closed distilleries will reopen. As of now probably only new distilleries will see the light of day.

Color: Gold

Nose: The nose starts out rather sweetish and slightly soapy. Next up some fresh air and latex paint. This changes seamlessly into a perfect woody touch, that gets spicier with time. Vanilla and ice-cream with cherry bon-bon liquor (without the chocolate). Sometimes it even smells a bit as new wood. Those of you that think that something’s wrong because of the hints of soap and latex paint are mistaken. Pretty neat nose, one to be taken in vigorously, Smelled like this I also get a hint of sweetened yoghurt and some toffee. Later on some hints of dark chocolate and red fruit gello. In no way does is smell like a cask strength Whisky. No, this is a very laid back Glen Keith.

Taste: A perfect balance between the wood and the sweetness. There is a nice caramel like sweetness that underlies the whole experience. Nice and warming, and never bitter. Luckily it is not quite clean. Again some ice-cream, but after the sweet and the vanilla, the wood returns, which makes for nice balance. They play together well. Small hints of lemongrass and some lemon skins, but don’t get the wrong picture, these are only in here in hints, and make the whole even more interesting. It does develop a bit in the glass, more to the woody side and late in the taste a little bitterness does emerge, like walnut skin. That’s no problem.

Compared to the Glen Keith by Malts of Scotland, this is even a better example of a Bourbon matured Glen Keith. Again a bottle that will be finished rather quickly. Nice Pick by Erik Molenaar.

Points: 86

Thanks to Andre and Erik for providing the sample.

Glen Keith 19yo 1990/2010 (52.1%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Barrel #13678, 232 bottles)

Last time around we had a stellar but also antique 1967 Glen Keith bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. This time around we have a more modern expression distilled in 1990 bottled in 2010 by german outfit Malts of Scotland, in a more modern type bottle. Let’s see if a more modern Glen Keith is up to par. We’re now in April 2013 and this should be the month the distillery would be reopened. I have looked around in the media but haven’t found a word about it, so I guess the distillery hasn’t opened yet. I hope I can inform you on the reopening in the next Glen Keith review.

Color: Straw

Nose: Clean wood, overall clean, spicy naked wood or virgin oak as they like to call it. Not a lot of character for something that was 19 years in a barrel. Definitely a refill. a slight hint of vanilla, which can’t be a surprise. Cloves, not very ripe pears and a little bit creamy. Well considering all, clean is the word here, you could almost call this sterile, but I won’t because it isn’t. No faults too. I guess the spirit’s great, but the barrel didn’t do a lot for this Whisky. When warmed up a little, some grassy or hay-like notes appear and it gets slightly perfumy (like soap), mind you it’s not soapy! Maybe we should call this profile ‘honest’.

Taste: Sweet and creamy and actually very drinkable, Small hints of wood which gives the whole some character. Overall creamy, with vanilla and mocha and some ice-cream and clotted cream as well. It has a very confectionery feel to it. The sweetness is sugary, but again there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s quite nice, it’s very simple because there isn’t much to it, but easy drinkable likeable. An easy sipper, and I can imagine people having a lot of fun with this.

Let it breathe to open up. Well its incomparable to the oldies from the sixties and seventies. Those were mostly sherry bottlings to boot. Still this is from a cheap Bourbon Barrel, but it shows us that the spirit is rather good. For a simple refill cask. still it did nothing wrong and makes this a nice sippin’ Whisky. Nice.

Points: 84

Glen Keith 38yo 1967/2006 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, for La Maison Du Whisky, Refill Sherry Butt #3876, 215 bottles)

And then there is Glen Keith. Glen Keith lies a stone’s throw away from Strathisla. The spirit from Strathisla was pumped to Glen Keith for filling into casks, but also the boiler at Glen Keith warms water for Glen Keith’s production. Glen Keith’s production started in 1958 with three stills (triple distillation). In 1970 the first two stills in Scotland that are heated by gas were installed. Soon after that, the distillery stopped the triple distillation. In 1983 a sixth still is installed. The distillery is mothballed since 1999, but plans are to restart the distillery next month (April 2013).

Chivas Brothers (owned by Pernod Ricard) already opened two of their mothballed distilleries. Allt a-Bhainne in May 2005 and Braeval (a.k.a. Braes of Glenlivet) in July 2008. If memory serves me well, Chivas Brothers also have Imperial. Alas, Imperial was considered not economically viable for reopening. (It was “old” and had the ‘wrong’ capacity, to small for a company like Chivas), so Chivas presented plans in 2012 for a new distillery to be built at the site of the old Imperial distillery. So the demolition of Imperial started around december 2012 and is now also gone for good.

Color: Copper, cloudy.

Nose: Musty Sherry with a lot of wood. Dried oranges, and sugared orange skin. Crushed dead insects, well they really don’t make them like this anymore! Cloves which fits the orange skin perfectly. Mocha with orange cordial. A forest in the rain. Oak planks. A Whisky with character.

Taste: Old bottle effect. Very spicy oak but not over oaked. It’s heavy on the wood but that not a bad thing here. A lot of wood and paper. Along comes wood spice and some bitterness. It is so clearly a Whisky from another time, that this one needs it. Luckily the rest of the body is quite ‘heavy’ too, but not in your face. It’s a rather quiet malt. Hot butter, sugared oranges and some coal. It actually is pretty sweet, but the sweetness is hidden well behind the wood and oranges. A bottled antiques shop with a long warming finish.

This is now my favorite Christmas malt. Just smell that dried Orange in combination with the cloves. It’s not a perfect old bottle though, but it’s so clearly a time capsule. It’s impossible to not love this. I was always a big fan of Strathisla of the sixties and seventies and this Glen Keith is therefore really no surprise at all. Merry Christmas everybody!

Points: 92