*Sincere thanks to NP, LB, and the Anchor Distilling Co. for the sample.
This whisky first appeared in the Glenrothes’ line-up as the Alba Reserve. The line of reasoning for the name seems pretty clear, a whisky matured solely in American White Oak, which carries the latin name Quercus Alba, with “alba” of course meaning “white.” Plus, I guess it sounds cool. The Alba Reserve was around for a few years until earlier in 2016, when it was renamed The Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve. According to The Glenrothes, the expression was renamed “for transparency and simplicity of trade and consumer understanding.”
I for one, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, was thankful for the renaming because I could not for the life of me figure out what the whisky had to do with a particularly saucy bit of Old Occitan lyric poetry also known as the Alba. Just to set the mood, here’s an excerpt from the deftly wielded quill of the French poet, Cadenet:
Be·m plai longa nuegz escura
E·l temps d’ivern on plus dura,
E no m’en lais per freidura
Qu’ieu leials gaita no sia
Per tal que segurs estia
Fins drutz, quan pren jauzimen
De domna valen,
Del ser tro en l’alba.
Along with the Old Occitan poetry, there’s any number of ways to confuse ones consumer understanding with “alba”. Was it referring to the Italian wine-making DOC? The Portuguese car? That fluorescent rabbit? Jessica Alba? I mean, you never know, there’s that whole Mila Kunis-Jim Beam thing, maybe Jessica Alba was initially involved? Maybe, juuuuuust…maybe might there have been some confusion arising from the fact that “Alba” is also the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland?
All that barely humorous stuff aside, The Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve is a far more accurate name for a whisky whose claim to fame is that it’s been aged solely in American White Oak ex-bourbon casks. Quercus Alba is used to make casks for many boozes; bourbon, sherry, port, wine, and beer just to name a few. So calling it Alba Reserve was a little bit like calling it…Oak Reserve. This one is a purely ex-bourbon matured, no age-statement expression from a distillery that’s more well-known for its sherried whiskies and yearly vintages.
The Nose: Young, fresh, straightforward, and a little spirit-y. Initially, floral, slightly earthy honey and sweet toasted grain. Sweet, simple citrus notes of juicy oranges and tangerines with a hint of stewed prunes. Quite a bit of vanilla bean ice cream and whole vanilla beans. Subtle sanded oak, toasted coconut, perfunctory baking spices, and ginger candies. Faintly beery mash notes as well.
The Palate: Hot-ish all the way along, especially for 40% ABV. Thin, slightly oily mouthfeel with more juicy orange citrus and brown sugar to begin with. After that, mild candied nuts and vanilla bean. There’s more oak than the nose, along with burnt sugar, candied ginger, hot cinnamon candies, and even a hint of barrel char.
The Finish: Shortish, with citrus and stone fruit notes, more burnt sugar, candied ginger, and a little ground pepper.
Thoughts: Fine, I guess, and pleasant, I suppose. There’s just nothing here that really wows me. Though there seems to be some new make-ish notes, there’s not much Glenrothes character here. I think if you put this blind in front of knowledgable scotch drinkers they’d say young-ish Speyside, but would be hard pressed to narrow it down more than that. Though it’s balanced and well-enough put together, youth, the ex-bourbon casks, and the low ABV seem to have dumbed this one down. It works nicely as a casual Scotch on the rocks, but unfortunately, there’s just not that much special about it to justify a $50-$60 price tag.