A little while ago, I was lucky enough to purchase a bottle of 2007 Dow's Vintage port. Recently declared as the best vintage in Dow's history, it seemed like an opportunity to grab something at a reasonable price (under £45) to lay down until the time is right. Hopefully, the time will be right in 15 or so years and my £45 investment will have paid dividends, in terms of flavour.
1995 was another interesting year for Bordeaux. Mouton Rothschild bottled a superb Pauillac, the vintage gaining the plaudits from both Robert Parker and the queen of the grape herself, Jancis Robinson. But what of 1995 as a vintage for whisky? A quick search of Google reveals that there was a 1995 Highland Park bottling, an Oban and a Glen Spey. All got highly credible reviews from the looks of things, so when a Glenrothes 1995 miniature arrived at our door, I was very excited.
Of course, the fact that other 1995 whiskies were highly commended is fairly meaningless in the whisky world. I suppose the only way to really measure the quality of a vintage is against another vintage from the same distillery.
So, here are our thoughts on both the recently released 1995 release from The Glenrothes and the 1985 release.
The Glenrothes - 1995 Vintage - date filled 26/10/95 - bottled in 2011 - 43%
Nose: Some drying sherry notes, slightly aromatic, a minute whiff of something sulphury/spent match, perhaps. with a dash of water, sugar paper, chopped almonds and white sugar cubes.
Palate: Very dry and aromatic. The drying sherry wood notes recur and there's a hint of malted barley, coupled with some vermouth notes.
Finish: The drying cask influences linger, with a further hint of the malted barley notes.
Overall: A little off key. It isn't as juicy and rich as previous releases, such as the Robur Reserve or the 1991 vintage which were both hugely enjoyable. This one just didn't sing out as loudly or in tune as I'd hoped. A shame really.
Glenrothes 1985 - Date filled - 21/7/85 - bottled in 2005 - 43%
Nose: Coconut flakes, wonderfully zesty blood oranges, sweet fudge/caramel notes and masses of chopped nuts, brazil, hazel and a touch of almond.
Palate: Sweet, very rich and fruity, with a citrus undertone (more of the blood orange), coupled with some lighter, bourbon influenced butteriness, more coconut flakes and a last ditch blast of dried apricot.
Finish: The zest gives way into the dried fruit notes, with a superb length.
Overall: Maybe it's unfair to compare these two whiskies - after all, the 1995 vintage is a clear 5 years younger than the 1985 release (considering when they were both bottled) But there isn't really any competition; the 1985 is a magnificent whisky. It has such weight and depth, but maintains a perfect balance with a bright, zesty zinginess and wonderful sweet fruit. My bottle has been open for nearly 2 years now and it is still as exciting as the day I opened it. The 2005 just can't keep up at all, i'm afraid.
If you haven't had a chance to visit The Glenrothes distillery, take a look at the video below. They might even find a wee dram of the 1985 for you, if you ask nicely...