Gordon + Macphail Connoisseurs Choice – Glendullan, Glenburgie, Caol Ila

We continued our whisky explorations at the Gordon & Macphail stand at Paris Whisky Live, switching gears from their DIscover to Connoisseur Choice range with:

  • Glendullan 12 year (2009 / 2022) 45% (approx Eur 100)
  • Glenburgie 26 year (1995/2022) 1st fill Sherry Puncheon #6349, 56.8% (approx Eur 250)
  • Caol Ila 25 year (1996/2022) 1st fill Sherry Butt #16074, 59.2% (approx Eur 350)

Glendullan 12 year (2009 / 2022) 45% 3245 Bottles.

  • Nose – A burst of berries – sweet and inviting
  • Palate – Strong berry flavours – mostly raspberries with some cassis
  • Finish – Nice sweet and sour cherry plus berry finish

What more do we know? The bottle states that this whisky had its initial maturation in a refilled bourbon barrel, finished in Cote Rotie cask for 3 years. It must be the red wine that brought such distinctive berry flavours to the fore – my tasting notes are merely variations on a berry theme! Their official tasting notes share a bit more with:

Dried strawberry aromas give way to roasted peanuts and crystallised violet. Rasperry compote flavours combine with liquorice and red apple. A medium-bodied finish with citrus and red berries.

Glenburgie 26 year (1995/2022) 1st fill Sherry Puncheon # 6349, 56.8% 564 Bottles.

  • Nose – Beautiful elegant pear, lovely sherry elements, some marmalade
  • Palate – Gorgeous! Lovely balanced palate, complex, nuanced, fruity, yet at the same time “heavy” and nutty
  • Finish – Again – stunning! Full fruit flavours, long, strong with hint of spice

I’m already partial to this Speyside distillery – with Glenburgie fixed in my mind as the “Downton Abbey” of whiskies – something that harkens back to an earlier era, still with some character and spunk but overlaid with a summery elegance. Everything that I love about Glenburgie was evident here – its age merely augmenting all the elements I’ve grown to love.

What more do we know? The label indicates this was a single cask 1st fill Sherry Puncheon – clearly responsible for the full flavours found in this impressive whisky. Their official tasting notes state:

Sweet raisin aromas combine with orange peel and fruitcake. Sultana flavours emerge alongside pepper and toasted hazelnuts. A full finish with spice.

Caol Ila 25 year (1996/2022) 1st fill Sherry Butt #16074, 59.2% 555 bottles

  • Nose – Cured meat, bacon, bonfire, sweet, heavy maple
  • Palate – A proper “campfire” dram – all those meaty aromas and sweet maple combine
  • Finish – An incredibly sweet peat feat! Some chilli chased by sweet cinnamon
  • Water – Whilst I only had a small sample, I added a drop. Wow! Brings such balance to every element – fabulous!

I was careful in my tasting order – sampling all the non-peated whiskies before turning first to the Discovery Range Caol Ila then this Connoisseurs Choice single cask. It made for a nice progression with this 25 year old being absolutely spectacular. Well worth sampling if you have the chance.

The official tasting notes are a great reflection of what to expect:

Raspberry compote aromas give way to festive spices and smoke. Cured meat flavours complement summer fruit and orange peel. A full finish with black pepper and bonfire embers.

Well done Gordon & Macphail with all three! None of the Connoisseurs Choice expressions disappointed and I appreciated that they kept two vintage single casks for the “main floor”, not just featuring such rare whiskies in the VIP section.

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Paris Whisky Live – Gordon + Macphail Discovery Tomatin, Miltonduff+ Caol Ila

In early 2021, I decided to start acquiring some bottles for future tasting sessions and thought it was past time to pick up a few of Gordon & Macphail’s Discovery range of affordable “entry” drams. I picked a Glenrothes & Miltonduff. They have waited patiently in Germany for the right opportunity – either to taste with others there or bring home to India.

However, naturally, I’ve been rather curious and so was happy to have a chance to try one of them at Paris Whisky Live! On my 2nd day, we whetted our tasting appetite with a few French drams then made our way to the Gordon & Macphail stand and kicked off our explorations with this trio…

As shared with the London Whisky Show, the Discovery line was created for a place to begin your discovery of whisky at a reasonable price point, with colour-coded expressions to help guide the approach… In Paris we tried:

  • Green for ex-bourbon casks – Tomatin (2009/2021) 43% (approx Eur 44)
  • Purple for ex-sherry casks – Miltonduff 10 year 43% (approx Eur 55)
  • Grey/off-white for smokey/peaty – Caol Ila 13 year 43% (approx Eur 55)

We followed the suggested order: ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and then peaty….

Tomatin (2009/2021) 43%

  • Nose – Light and classic ex-bourbon style, fresh green apple, pears, vanilla cream
  • Palate – Keeps on the same light, fruity and happy vein, oaky, more vanilla
  • Finish – Gentle – fruity, floral, honey

A rather nice example of ex-bourbon…. call it a perfect aperitif.

What about the sherry expression? We sampled the Miltonduff 10 year 43%

  • Nose – Fruity, orange, woodsy, citrus
  • Palate – Medium-bodied, tasty buttery caramel, marmalade, cinnamon
  • Finish – More of that yummy marmalade

A nice Speyside and I will very much enjoy revisiting it and discovering more when eventually the Gordon & Macphail Discovery range is opened up at home!

Curious to know more? Check out what Gordon & Macphail have to say here.

As for the peaty, they chose a classic Caol Ila 13 year 43%:

  • Nose – Fab peat, banana, sweet grass, maple bacon, cured sweetmeats
  • Palate – Soft, completely peaty, fruity
  • Finish – Long sweet and smoky

Now, this is a “proper” Caol Ila – what fun! You can also find out more about this expression from Gordon & Macphail’s whisky archive here.

What a nice way to whet our appetite for Gordon & Macphail’s Connoisseurs Choice range – which was our next stop!

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Paris Whisky Live 2022 – VIP Gordon + Macphail’s Convalmore + Highland Park

Gordon & Macphail’s Private Collection features rare, old and even closed distilleries, a “must catch” at any whisky festival and a very good reason to go “VIP” for at least one day at Paris Whisky Live.

Featured in 2022 were a closed distillery – Convalmore – and a familiar friend with Highland Park. I had to start with the Convalmore which was approx 40 years patiently maturing in refill American hogshead.

This was my first experience with Convalmore – which was “Victorian” Speyside distillery that spent most of its life in blends. “Mothballed” in 1985, this particular vintage dram came from some of its final years of operations.

Convalmore (1982/2 Mar 2022) Refill American Hogshead #155 55.5% (Gordon & Macphail) 104 bottles

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Delightfully fruity – pears, apples… dripping in sweet honey, shifting into vanilla cream – delicious
  • Palate – Lovely on the palate, soft… continued the fruity element, a bit waxy
  • Finish – Light spice, sweet with a buttery texture

Beautiful! This was so special. Fruity, waxy, subtle, nuanced and supremely sophisticated. Such a lovely whisky… and such a treat to have a chance to try something so rare and lovely from a closed distillery.

The official Gordon & Macphail tasting notes are remarkably similar to my scribbles from a sniff & swish at Paris Whisky Live:

  • Nose – Rich vanilla pod gives way to fresh green apple and orange zest. Honeysuckle notes develop with quince and toasted walnut.
  • Taste – Sweet and smooth exotic fruit flavours accompany poached pear and floral notes. White chocolate comes to the fore alongside baked apple
  • Finish – A medium-bodied finish with guava and sweet honey.

I couldn’t find this exact bottle for sale, however, a related one from 1982 was listed on WhiskyBase for GBP 1,500, which gives you a feel for just how pricey a sip of whisky history can be.


Next up was another vintage dram – also pushing the high side of 30s from Orkney Island with Highland Park. I must admit that this distillery was an early favourite – my ‘gateway” dram to single malts back in the 1990s – particularly the 18 years old. Since then, they have gone all over the place with different approaches, some very “Viking” branding… which made it all the more refreshing to slip back in time to the “original” spirit of their spirits…

Highland Park 37 year (1984 / 31 Dec 2021) Refill American Hogshead #1816 46.3% (Gordon & Macphail) Bottles 116

  • Colour – Gold
  • Nose – Fruitier than expected, sweet lemon/lime-like mosambi, honey sweet and light, with a dash of salted caramel
  • Palate – Incredibly silky smooth, gorgeous and well balanced, with a hint of citrus fruit coming from behind, light peat gives this a lovely dimension
  • Finish – Gentle and subtle

What fun! This was a lovely dram… In some ways reminded me a bit of the much younger Chorlton 15 year Orkney.

And what about the official Gordon & Maphail tasting notes as a reference? Yup! Would certainly agree…

  • Nose – Fragrant lemon aromas intertwine with honeydew melon and sweet Demerara sugar. Red apple notes develop accompanied by grapefruit zest and walnut.
  • Taste – Citrus fruit flavours give way to guava and subtle cured meats. Dried mango comes to the fore alongside toasted almonds and spicy pepper.
  • Finish – Soft smoke lingers on the finish with green apple, poached pear and spice.

I was curious to see what this experience would set you back… and found a bottle currently available through Whic.de for EUR 1,790.

What an interesting pair… and there we have it!

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Remarkable Gordon + Macphail Whisky Ranges

Gordon & Macphail is in a class of their own – with a 125-year history – they are no mere “indie bottler”… With long-term relationships with distilleries, an impressive set-up of their own casks, legendary warehouses with an exceptional range of old and very rare whiskies, this is one area at any whisky show you shouldn’t miss!

So what did we try at the London Whisky Show?

We began with the Discovery range, a newer series launched to introduce accessible, affordable single malts to the world:

  • Green for ex-bourbon casksGlenallachie 14 year 43%This ex-bourbon cask was a nice contrast to the current GlenAllachie sherry or cask finish styles
  • Purple for ex-sherry casksBunnahabhain 11 year 43%A solid expression
  • Grey/off-white for smokey/peaty – Caol Ila 13 year 43% – Skipped as was a bit early for peat!

We then progressed to the Gordon & Macphail’s Distillery Labels with Ardmore with a whiff of sea breeze, soft peat, and sweet!

From there, we got serious with their Connoisseurs Choice range, which has been a consistent series from Gordon & Macphail since 1968. We’ve tried many remarkable drams in this series which showcases various distillery spirits matured in Gordon & Macphail’s own barrels. At Whisky Live 2022, we tried:

We thought this would be the end of our journey…. however then our fabulous Gordon & Macphail’s guide shared a pair from their exceptionally rare Private Collection with:

Wow, wow, wow! What an amazing journey through some fabulous whiskies! And a very clear reminder of why Gordon & Macphail are worthy of slowing down and spending time exploring…

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Lost Lowland – Inverleven 1985 (Gordon + Macphail Private Collection)

One of the best things about a really good Whisky Fair is the opportunity to try something rare and special that you would ordinarily never be able to access or afford – a dream dram. For that reason alone, it is always worth stopping by the Gordon & Macphail section. This year, their offerings at the London Whisky Show were truly exceptional!

After whetting our whistle with the GlenAllachie 14 year & Bunnahabhain 11-year (Discovery range), Ardmore 21-year (Distillery Labels), and progressing into the “extra good stuff” with Old Pulteney 23 year & Tormore 29-year (Connoisseurs Choice), we shifted into rarified realms with a pair from their Private Collection.

This line was created to feature: 

truly exceptional and unique range of greatly aged single malts from a mixture of celebrated, little-known and now closed distilleries across Scotland.

As Stephen Ranking, Director of Prestige puts it:

“When a whisky from our Private Collection leaves it’s spiritual home in Elgin, it’s like saying farewell to a family friend.”

So what about this lost Lowland?

Inverleven 33 year (1985/2018) Refill Bourbon Cask 562 57.4% (G&MP Private Collection) 130 bottles

  • Colour – Burnished gold
  • Nose – Dusty, a touch of solvent, then it slowly started to open with cream, fruity like warmed pineapple
  • Palate – Pure magic! Fruity, then nutty, changing in the most delicious way, like having an indulgent dessert smothered with vanilla custard
  • Finish – Initially thought it was light, then realized it was such a delight with a subtle nuanced sweetness that lingered

Don’t let the 1st whiff put you off! This is an absolutely lovely Lowland and such a treat to try! In a word – wow!

What do the folks at Gordon & MacPhail have to say?

The unique distillation process at this now-silent site produced an aromatic and fruity Lowland dram typified in our Gordon & MacPhail 1985 from Inverleven Distillery. This rare single malt provides a delectable medley of white pepper notes and subtle spicy undertones on the palate, with a long and lingering charred oak finish.

  • Nose – Intense tropical fruit aromas to begin – cooked pineapple, honeydew melon, coconut cream, and little burst of sharp yet sweet lime. A sweet creaminess continues with notes of vanilla ice-cream, sugared red apples, apricot jam, and white chocolate. Hints of overripe cherry and almond marzipan develop into flowering gorse.
  • Palate – Creamy and mouth-coating; warming white pepper notes transform into sweet flambéed banana, madagascan vanilla pod, and salted toffee. subtle spicy undertones remain as toasted malt comes to the fore; a drying cocoa and charred oak edge develops.
  • Finish – A long and lingering charred oak finish with a subtle floral edge.

What more do they share?

A relatively young distillery, Inverleven Distillery was built in 1938, very close to the Lowland and Highland boundary line on the banks of the River Leven in the town of Dumbarton. Established by Hiram Walker and Sons, Inverleven was originally built as a sister site to the Dumbarton grain distillery. Featuring two copper pot stills, Inverleven was thought to be the first distillery to steam-heat both its wash and low wine stills, as opposed to the regular method of the time – direct fire. In 1956, an unusual Lomond Still, which has three perforated plates that can be cooled independently allowing for different styles of whisky to be produced, was added. The stills at Inverleven unfortunately fell silent in 1991 when the distillery closed before the site was demolished in 2002 but under Gordon & MacPhail’s watchful and nurturing eye, the distillery’s legacy lives on.

As for what this would set you back? Well… I knew it was well beyond my budget so didn’t check at the Whisky Show, however, when I later looked online, discovered it seems to now only be available via an auction for around GBP 1,000.

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Unique glass of history – Imperial 1979 (Gordon + Macphail Private Collection)

These days, older whiskies tend to be an exceedingly expensive rarity. This particular whisky featured by Gordon & Macphail at the London Whisky Show was no exception. Retailing at a ‘mere’ GBP 3,000, there were only 61 bottles produced from the cask. Clearly one of those once in a lifetime-type experiences.

Imperial 42 year (1979/16 Dec 2021) Refill American Hogshead Cask 5619 49.2% (G&MP Private Collection)

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Quite Agricole or vegetal and organic at first, then shifted into a tropical fruit basket, it became sweeter and sweeter as it opened… changing character into shortbread, a drizzle of honey
  • Palate – Initially a bit balanced, fruity but fun, hay then nutty, moving all over…
  • Finish – Very dry, peppery with something else

It is indeed incredibly unique – one does not get this kind of curious combination. It comes across as a bit… well… old… almost moldy at first but then it kept evolving in the glass. Becoming more and more interesting. the longer I spent with it…. 

What do the folks at Gordon & MacPhail have to say? Their official tasting notes are:

  • Nose – Sweet honeycomb notes combine with vanilla custard and a subtle hint of beeswax polish. Cocoa powder develops alongside pecans and soft-baked apple.
  • Taste – Ripe red apples intertwine with clove-studded tangerine. Malted biscuit flavours come to the fore accompanied by chocolate-covered hazelnuts and faint Seville orange zest.
  • Finish – A full and long finish with black pepper and light herbal tones.

Whilst I had only a short sniff and swish, however, my scribbles and their notes seem to ‘jibe.’

What more do they have to say about the Imperial distillery?

Founded in 1897 by Thomas MacKenzie, the opening of the rather grandly named ‘Imperial’ distillery coincided with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, no doubt an influencing factor in its naming! Sadly the distillery closed just one year after opening, with a 20 year gap in production.

It kicked back into life again in 1919… this time for only six years. Stop-start production happened throughout the 20th century until it was purchased in 1989 by Allied Distillers who reopened the distillery in 1991. It was mothballed again in 1998 and demolished in 2013.

On the site now sits the impressive, and brand-spanking new Dalmunach distillery, which was opened in 2015.

Now that is indeed a checkered piece of whisky history!

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London Whisky Show – Gordon + Macphail Connoisseurs Choice

Next up in our Gordon & Macphail tastings at the London Whisky Show were offerings from their Connoisseurs Choice range…

We’ve enjoyed several very special whiskies from this range! Including those we tried in London Oct 2022…

Old Pulteney 23 year (2008/ 28 Apr 2022) Refill Bourbon Barrel Cask No. 17603801 56.6% (G&MP Connoisseurs Choice) Batch 22/101, 243 Bottles

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Joy in a glass! Lovely citrus, honey then coconut, chocolate… shifting into apple sauce
  • Palate – Creamy, full, and luscious. Simply gorgeous
  • Finish – Heavy finish, sweet and lightly spicy
  • Water – Amps up the tropical elements like caramelized bananas

It was endlessly complex… absolutely fabulous! Let’s just say, it was everything I appreciate in Old Pulteney, even more exquisite. 

Our fabulous guide shared a refilled Hogshead, retailing for approx GBP 200. As for the official tasting notes? The label shares the following:

Grapefruit and lemon aromas give way to baked apples and freshly cut grass. Honey and banana flavours are balanced by cracked black pepper. A full finish with mixed nuts.

Would I agree? Absolutely!

Tormore 29 year (1993/ 30 May 2022) 1st fill Sherry Butt Cask 5053 54.5%(G&MP Connoisseurs Choice) Batch 22/109, 554 bottles

  • Colour – Rich dark burgundy
  • Nose – Oh wow! No question this Tormore was matured in an ex-sherry cask. Incredibly intense, rich marmalade, with a berry punch,
  • Palate – A proper, mature sherry, dark fruits, rich chocolate
  • Finish – Candied dried fruit, a dash of cinnamon, heavy, burnt molasses

This is the kind of dram that makes you want to slow down and savour… preferably while lounging on a comfy sofa, curled up with a cosy throw, a good book… and all the time in the world to simply enjoy.

Even after the glass was empty, it left such a beautiful aroma… it was a shame to have such a special whisky in the hustle and bustle of a whisky festival.

What about the official tasting notes? Here is what they have to say:

  • Nose – Stewed RED BERRIES complement VANILLA POD and subtle COCOA POWDER. MEDJOOL DATES give way to DARK TREACLE and notes of soft ANISEED.
  • Taste – BAKED APPLE intertwines with CINNAMON and GINGER SPICE. DARK CHOCOLATE leads to subtle CITRUS FRUIT and CHARRED OAK.
  • Finish – Full with lingering SUMMER BERRIES and soft HERBAL notes.

What did we try next? A pair from the rather remarkable and very rare Private Collection range!!

Curious about some earlier Connoisseurs Choice explorations? Here are a few favourites!

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London Whisky Show – Gordon + Macphail Distillery Labels Ardmore

Next up in our Gordon & Macphail tastings at the London Whisky Show were offerings from their Distillery Labels range…

So far from this series, we had a tasting with the Mortlach 15, and I tried their Ardmore and Linkwood at Whisky Live Singapore in 2017. I later acquired the Linkwood 15 year, which is patiently waiting at home in Mumbai for the right tasting opportunity, and the Glenbergie 15 year which is with me in Nurnberg.

However, what did Gordon & Macphail offer from their Distillery Labels range in Oct 2022?

Ardmore (2000/2021) 46% (G&MP Distillery Range)

  • Nose – Starts off with a fresh sea breeze with seaweed and sea salt, with a good dash of smoke and citrus
  • Palate – Oh… what a lovely round soft peat! With the fruits shifting from citrus to apple sauce, then a nice creamy ‘roll around’ your tongue yumminess
  • Finish – Surprisingly strong spice – particularly cracked black peppers – nice!

How delightful! Like all our other sampling, I intended to only sniff, swish, and spit this one… but I must confess, I may have missed that last step! I would certainly be interested in giving this one more time and attention on another occasion….

What more do we know? Our friendly guide shared this Ardmore had the benefit of both ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks, currently retailing for approx GBP 150.

And what do the official Gordon & Macphail official tasting notes say?

  • Nose – Juicy BLOOD ORANGE and CANDIED APPLE aromas combine with a subtle hint of VANILLA. SMOKE features prominently alongside tart GRAPEFRUIT and LEMON PEEL.
  • Taste – Smoky BONFIRE EMBERS complement BAKED APPLE and sweet ORANGE ZEST. Light and spicy; BLACK PEPPER develops alongside flavours of MILK CHOCOLATE with an undertone of ANISEED.
  • Finish – A light and medium-bodied finish with lingering SMOKE and COCOA POWDER. 

As shared, Gordon & Macphail is a “must” stop at any Whisky Festival! If you are curious about previous experiences, read on….

So then… where did our whisky wanderings take us next?? Why on to the Connoisseurs Choice range!!

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London Whisky Show – Gordon + Macphail Discovery

I’m an unabashed Gordon & Macphail fan, so quite early in our explorations at the London Whisky Show, I made a “beeline” to their area! To get the full experience, we started at the beginning…

For the uninitiated, the Discovery line was created for just that – a place to begin your discovery of whisky at a reasonable price point. They colour code their offerings to help guide the approach… On offer was:

  • Green for ex-bourbon casks – Glenallachie 14 year 43% (approx GBP 50)
  • Purple for ex-sherry casks – Bunnahabhain 11 year 43% (approx GBP 46)
  • Grey/off-white for smokey/peaty – Caol Ila 13 year 43%

My starting point was naturally the ex-bourbon expression.

GlenAllachie 14 year 43%

  • Nose – Yum! Initially a bright toffee, cream, and butterscotch… then it was joined by young orchard fruits – like a granny smith apple – some honey then again shifted to vanilla cream
  • Palate – Soft and creamy, like having a delicious cream puff that dissolves, some praline followed by more vanilla and a hint of malt and nuts join the desert approach
  • Finish – Buttery goodness, rewarding with more vanilla with fudge

Having recently had a few newer styled GlenAllachie which tend to have a heavy play with sherry, I could immediately tell this was more “classic” in style. Our tasting guide confirmed this was indeed their approach – hence only ex-bourbon.

For us, this was a delightful ‘day malt” and a lovely way to ease into further whisky explorations. it has a nice ‘clean’ approach and a lovely dram worth repeating in a different environment than sniff, swish, and spit!

What about the sherry expression?

Bunnahabhain 11 year 43%

  • Nose – No doubt there was a sherry stamp! Yet joining it was also vanilla, sweet caramel, and a hint of something like nutmeg, cloves, and a bit more saline or maritime
  • Palate – Quite dry, dark chocolate, cinnamon, dark fruits like figs or plums
  • Finish – Sweet spices, dry fruit

Quite a solid expression. Curious to know more? Check out what Gordon & Macphail have to say here.

I admit that I skipped the Caol Ila as didn’t want to shift into peat so early in the day.

So then… where did our whisky wanderings take us next?? To explore Gordon & Macphail’s Distillery Label series!

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Bonus Glentauchers 2005 43%

Ding dong! Delivery time! This time a trio of Chorlton’s from the Netherland’s Whisky.base… as I unpacked the box, this little mini came tumbling out…

Now a bonus miniature is a kind gesture… however when it is from the fabulously reliable Gordon & Macphail indie bottler and just so happens to be a distillery – Glentauchers – that tends to produce balanced, lightly fruity drams in a “classic” Speyside style…. well this is indeed a welcome gift!

What exactly did they send?

Glentauchers 13/14 year (2005 / 13 Mar 2019) 43% (Gordon & Macphail)

  • Colour – Pale straw
  • Nose – Syrupy, fruity, a bit of caramel, vanilla… then it opened into a fruit basket – ripe pears, a hint of fresh mint, a squirt of citrus
  • Palate – Hmmm….. kumquats, then is that a hint of smoke? It has a nice bitter quality, woodsy spice, and oily, with some of the fruits on the nose adding just a dash of sweetness on the palate
  • Finish – Dry, a bit bitter, more of that curious smoke, surprisingly has a mineral element too

Overall it was a pleasant dram – my description doesn’t really do it justice – in part as I’m still a bit hampered by the post-COVID impact on my sense of smell.

This 2005 Glentauchers was quite reasonably priced at Eur 62.50 – at least here in Europe.

Curious about other brushes with Glentauchers? Check out a few of our tasting experiences over the years:

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