Distillery: Glen Elgin
Age: 12 years old
Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, Glen Elgin distillery was initially off to an ignominious start. Although plans for the distillery were drawn up when confidence was still high, by the time construction finished, the whisky bubble had burst and the industry was in a death spiral. Glen Elgin distillery opened in May 1900, and filed bankruptcy just six months later, selling at a fraction of the price it had cost to construct the distillery. It would remain closed for much of the next three decades, until Glen Elgin passed into the ownership of DCL, the forerunner of Diageo. The distillery continued to limp on in relative obscurity, until in 1964, the number of stills was tripled to six, and Glen Elgin began distilling the raw materials for the White Horse blend. Until this day, Glen Elgin’s fate has remained largely the same, with most of the distillery’s production disappearing into Diageo’s blends. However, Diageo does bottle a widely available 12 year old malt whisky, as well as several other releases that are a lot harder to come by (including an excellent 16 year old). The 12 year old happens to be the first malt whisky I ever drank, so I’ve always had a soft spot for Glen Elgin and I make sure to always have a bottle on my shelf. Lucky then that Glen Elgin 12 happens to be so affordable, this dram represents great value for money!
Colour: Honey gold
Nose: Like walking through the woods on a sunny autumn day. Leafy, earthy notes intertwine with aromas of candied fruit. Scents of heather and raisins give way to fresh forest fruits and a touch of cinnamon. Underneath, honeyed barley beckons. Friendly and inviting, this dram just pulls you in.
Palate: Soft and almost creamy, with plenty of honeycomb. Fragrant and floral, it’s like this whisky is itself in bloom. Fresh wood shavings are accompanied by a distinctly malty character, with cereal and shortbread coming to mind. Belatedly, spicy flavours open up, with chili peppers slowly making way for hazelnut praline. Easy yet engaging, this dram is classic Speyside.
Finish: Soft but quite long, with a pleasantly dry aftertaste of toasted barley.
Verdict: Perhaps I’ve allowed nostalgia to cloud my judgement, but I do think this is one of the most underrated whiskies on the market. Glen Elgin 12 effortlessly combines sweet, floral Speyside characteristics with heaps of richly malted flavours. Compared to some of its more mature counterparts, you may argue that Glen Elgin 12 is nothing spectacular. You’d be right of course, but at this price point it’s a real winner. At just €30, this dram deserves much more attention, and how Glen Elgin is not Diageo’s flagship Speyside whisky is quite beyond me. Then again, maybe that’s for the best… let hidden gems stay hidden 😉