Birthday Drams – The Glenrothes Elders’ Reserve 18 year 43%

Many years ago I sampled a bottle of Glenrothes. I found it a rich, robust, heavy sherry whisky… not a daily dram but something for a special evening. Think oversized leather chairs, dusty library, glass in one hand with a cigar in the other accompanied by a roaring fire.

So when wandering through Singapore airport duty free in 2016, I spotted this Elders’ Reserve and picked it up… For years it quietly and patiently waited in the back of my whisky cabinet for the right occasion. In the meantime, our Mumbai tasting groups tried both of the other travel retail Glenrothes Reserve expressions from this set:

Recently I decided enough was enough – it was high time to revisit something from this distillery. What better excuse to open than an evening of belated birthday celebration with our Bombay Cigar & Malt gents! So what did we think?

The Elders’ Reserve 18 year 43% (official bottling)

  • Colour – Golden amber
  • Nose – Oh my! It comes across more like a robust ruby port than whisky! Followed by Christmas pudding, dates – more tart than sweet. Then it shifts into sweeter and sweeter notes with marmalade and ginger spice
  • Palate – Even more port-like… though now more a tawny port style, lots of tannins that cause one to pucker up, raisins, prunes, quite dry… as in incredibly dry on the palate! Coffee and wood, black pepper
  • Finish – The dryness carries though fully into the finish, chewy almost like tobacco leaf

Whilst we kept thinking of port, it wasn’t matured in a Port cask – instead American and Spanish oak casks – presumably ex-bourbon and ex-sherry respectively.

All in all, it has a ‘vintage’ feel like something that is a throwback to another time. Again, not an every day dram… instead this is a deep rich dram for an occasional indulgence. For some, it may even be “too much”… it all depends on palate and preference.

Here’s what the folks over at The Glenrothes have to say:

The Elders of the Kirk are the pillars of society. Highly respected and elected to represent the community, they are looked up to for their knowledge.

Spicy with notes of coffee, wood and polish, this expression shows levels of  complexity that can only be achieved by extended maturation. Matured for a minimum of 18 years in equal proportions of American Oak and Spanish Oak casks, it reflects the wisdom of the Elders of the community of Rothes.

  • Bouquet: Ripe, tropical mango, vanilla pods ginger and toffee apple
  • Palate: Sweet, creamy vanilla ice cream dusted with nutmeg, mixed dried citrus
  • Finish: Sweet vanilla and lingering oakiness

Tasting Elders’ Reserve is like waking to a dawn chorus but instead of a cacophony of bird song it offers flavours and lots of them. The first wave is followed by another and another. These collectively herald the complexity of this delicious dram. The overall result is a pleasing collection of wonderfully mature flavours apparently justifiably proud to be upholding the great name.

This bottle was opened in Mumbai, August 2021. As for where and how this bottle was acquired? It was from back in the days when I regularly commuted back and forth between Mumbai and Singapore… purchased in June 2016 from Changi Airport duty free for SGD 160.

The Whisky Ladies in Mumbai didn’t get a chance to try this one as it remained with our host. However I kept aside samples for our ladies in Paris and then pulled out an old North Star Glenrothes 20 year for the two Mumbai ladies who plan to join us remotely. That tasting experience awaits a date much later in September!

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