Updated: Jan 18, 2022
This is a 24-year-old Glen Elgin bottled by the Highlander Inn. Highlander Inn is a rest stop with a hotel and a world class whisky bar, run by the affable Mr Tatsuya Minagawa, located at the heart of the Scotch Whisky trail, in Craigellachie.
Tatsuya-san has been running three collections under the Highlander Inn brand - (1) the Highlander Inn Single Cask Annual Releases, (2) Maggie’s Collection and (3) Oishii Wisukii.
This bottle is part of the first - the annual Single Cask bottling. It is a 24-year-old single cask whisky from Glen Elgin Distillery, distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2020.
This was matured in a single American bourbon hogshead and bottled at 50.7% Abv. From the colour and lightness, this is probably a refill cask that is ideal for longer-term maturation.
(image Source: Anne Burgess)
Glen Elgin is a well-regarded Speyside malt distillery that has been trusted by Scotch blenders for many years. A major component of Diageo’s White Horse blend is made of Glen Elgin’s spirit.
(Image Source: Diageo)
The establishment of Glen Elgin in 1898 marks a turning point in the history of Scotch single malt. In the late 1800s, the Scotch whisky industry was experiencing a period of market exuberance. Distilleries were expanding capacities, producing massive amounts of whisky and even geting listed on public stock exchanges. Unfortunately, this bubble burst at the beginning of the 1900s, sending the Scotch industry into a dark chapter in whisky history known as the “Pattison Crash”.
Charles Doig, the architect of Glen Elgin Distillery, he remarked that this would probably be the final distillery to open in Speyside for the next 50 years. Then the Pattison Crash occured shortly after, sending the industry into a death spiral that would take decades to recover.
Charles Doig’s prophesy was remarkably accurate. The next distillery to be built after Glen Elgin in Speyside would be Tormore in 1958 - 60 years after the establishment of Glen Elgin.
Pattison, Elder & Co. was a major whisky seller that manipulated the prices of whisky-backed securities. This ultimately triggered the crash.
The typical character of a Glen Elgin bright fruitiness and sweetness, and a medium-thick texture. This flavour and texture is achieved by longer fermentation periods and the use of “worm tubs” in the distillation process.
The worm tub is an old invention that consists of a tub of cool water with an immersed serpentine copper tube that collects distilled vapours and rapidly cools down the vapours to obtain the resulting spirit. (Image Source: The Factory Audio)
With the introduction out of the way, let’s taste the stuff!
Colour: White wine with quick legs.
Nose: Subtly sweet, perfumed and thick. Then notes are very gentle, friendly, honeyed and floral, but the intensity of the aroma suggests a really thick mouthfeel. Opens with brighter tropical fruits such as bananas and pineapples. Develops into a sweet and thick (but still very friendly) almond cream and marzipan note.
Behind the layer of fruit and marzipan are more sweet, syrupy notes. There’s a bright and sugary sarsaparilla note reminiscent of Dr Pepper, before developing into a smooth creamy sensation of Dutch Lady Chocolate Milk.
Palate: Bright, syrupy, well-balanced and with a moderately oily mouthfeel. Plays just about the same notes as the nose, but the palate is a little lighter in intensity. Opens with pleasant and soft notes of tropical fruits- “just ripe” bananas, yellow kiwi fruit (of the much sweeter, less acidic variety) and light notes of fresh apricot.
The cask influence is felt very much later. As fruitiness recedes towards Act 2 of the 3-act play, we begin to get more notes from the refill oak on the back. Now there is some creamy vanilla ice cream notes, fresh fruit pavlova, ice cream soda and a slight chocolatey bitterness.
Finish: The finish is medium length, and a pleasant note of creamy ice cream soda endures throughout. There is a slight crushed almond and hazelnuts undertone.
As the thicker notes dissipate, spice and heat begins to build towards the end with a mild bite of pepper and some star anise on the back palate.
This is a rather well-aged Glen Elgin that exhibits the distillery’s signature soft fruits, and adds a light touch of oak.
The use of a refill cask was clearly intended to provide less oak influence, and permit the rather shy notes of fruits to come forth. The light bite of the pepper at the end also adds a nice touch of complexity.
This bottle is another great sipping whisky and reliable post-meal companion.
Europeans may find this refreshing dram a great apéritif to open up their palates before a meal. If you’re Asian and don’t have the habit of drinking before a meal, this is just as enjoyable after.