History The distillery was built in 1878 by James Stuart & Co, who then also worked the nearby Macallan distillery. The first whisky ran off the stills on the 28 December 1879, the same day as the Tay Bridge disaster. The distillery itself had a shaky start and a chequered history. Over-proof whisky is notoriously highly flammable and the distillery has paid the price. Extension work began in 1896 on a second malt kiln, and an increase in stills from two to four but, before the work was finished, a fire in December 1897 caused serious damage. The distillery saw further damage with a serious explosion in 1903. Then, in 1922, a fire in Warehouse Number One caused the loss of 200,000 imperial gallons (910,000 L) of whisky. Another fire in 1962 afforded the opportunity for expansion and a further re-build in 1982 extended the still hall to five wash stills and five spirit stills.
The Glenrothes is different from many other single malts in that since 1993 the bottlings are not determined by age but by vintage. The Glenrothes is also sold as “Select Reserve”, a recently introduced non-vintage line. Special bottlings include “Single Cask” bottles, which are taken from one single cask of whisky from a particular year. In the late 1980s, a few years before Glenrothes Distillery decided to bottle The Glenrothes as vintages, some casks of whisky prior to 1974 were left to mature together. These casks were bottled as a 30-year-old Glenrothes. Only 1134 bottles were produced. The house style is a warming, mouth-coating creamy spirit, with the classic Speyside “pear drop” character. Thanks to its ageing and production, Glenrothes whisky is known for its spicy, rich character. Critic Michael Jackson describes the house style as being “Perfumy, sweet, spicy-fruity. After Dinner”.
The Whiskyphiles tasting notes
- The Glenrothes 1998 Vintage (2014) - Pleasant dram, smooth and sweet and a little lemony, but for me not as much bang per buck as the Glenrothes Select Reserve on which I would rather spend my money. 84/100
- The Glenrothes Alba Reserve (2015) - I found this expression unimpressive, it definitely improved after breathing with some of the spirit/new make elements fading but not as complex or full-bodied as other Glenrothes expressions. 75/100
- The Glenrothes Select Reserve (2014) - This is a very enjoyable, supple, lovely dramming whisky full of delicate vanilla flavours with a little zesty fruits. Reasonably complex and medium bodied, just enough to keep it interesting but so cleverly constructed you could sit and drink it without being challenged to think about it too much either. 84/100
- Glenrothes 25 Years Old 1988 The Fishes of Samoa (2015) - Pleasant and creamy dram, lots of good points, nicely balanced and complimentary flavours. Suffers a little from tired cask which shows as a touch of menthol, thin and vaporous just creeps in towards the finish. Greta nose and palate but let down a little in the finish belying its age. Zingy and refreshing at the end, great aperitif dram. 85/100
- Glenrothes 24 Years Old 1989 Small Batch (2015) - Another Glenrothes that I really like, and again in the 18-25 age group. I feel some of the younger and official bottlings sadly didn't really impress me enough to be memorable. This bourbon barrel vatting from Cadenhead's however has a great depth of woody sugar but a really fresh fruit salad character with intensity and complexity within both those flavours. Good stuff! 89/100
- Glenrothes 11 Years Old 2006 Celebration of the Cask (2018) - Glenrothes 2006 Celebration of the Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review: A very fruity, sweet and spiced sherry influence with hints of some of the more favourable flavours for me such as nut and chocolate. Plenty of spice and sweetness masks any potentially spirit nature and there is far too much going on to overlook the fact this is only 11 years old. In fact its youth helps here as it really is quite a lively character on the palate. 87/100
Gordon & MacPhail
- Glenrothes 1974 Private Collection (2018) - Glenrothes 1974 Private Collection whisky review: A delicious nose and initial palate on this old Glenrothes before the sherry wood really takes over, a shame really as if it reserved a little body and sweetness throughout this could be an amazing dram. 87/100
- Glenrothes 8 Year Old The MacPhail’s Collection (2016) - Youthful and direct, bitter-sweet lemons but quite refreshing and lively/zesty this ended up being relatively one-dimensional 'lemon juice on pancakes' 81/100
- Glenrothes 11 Years Old 2007 Mossburn No. 26 (2021) - Again another insight into unerderlying spirit character with masses of maltiness present from Glenrothes. Slightly less vanilla/wood/cask influence though this is a little younger too.
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
- SMWS 30.77 This is nuts! (2014) - Intense and sadly not all to my liking, I love sherried whisky and up until this one I would have said the more-sherried the better. This cask has gone over to the vinegary/oxidized dark-side and I'm not sure water redeemed it either. Without the acidity there was plenty of great old-sherried notes kicking around in here but it was a real fight trying to find them. Challenging sums it up! 78/100
- SMWS 30.98 Bring on the dancers (2019) - SMWS 30.98 Bring on the dancers whisky review: A fairly true to form Glenrothes, I just noticed I pulled (finally) one of the same tasting notes as on the bottle in caramel apple granny! Diminishes only in the fact that the nose is the best part of this dram, drinking is nothing challenging and all very pleasing. A great example of an aged whisky from SMWS at a sensible price compared to OB's but offering just as much. 86/100
- Glenrothes 23 Years Old 1989 Cask Strength Collection (2014) - A delicious sherry-matured Glenrothes expression that reminded me of Black Forest Gateaux with its mixture of dark cherry and chocolate flavours and creamy texture. 87/100
- Glenrothes 1996 Toasted Anise (2016) - An effervescent dram with real multifactorial qualities, my overall opinion of this reminded me of spice-like popping candy with creamy vanilla in chocolate orange segments. A real smorgasbord of flavours but quite complimentary and integrated. 88/100
- Glenrothes 21 Years Old 1993 Kumquat Cluster (2020) - Glenrothes 21 Years Old 1993 Kumquat Cluster Whisky Review: A superb tropical fruit and cream dessert of a whisky, reminding me of some fantastic home-made cheesecakes. 91/100