*Sincere thanks to NP, LB, and the Anchor Distilling Co. for the sample.
I’m always on the lookout for a good backstory about a whisky or a distillery in an effort to distract my dear readers from my wordy tasting notes. By saucing up a lengthy preamble, I’m hopefully driving the reader to drink, to bed, or to a website with more pictures and fewer words. So it was, that in poking about for some Glenrothes subject matter, I found brief mention of one of the distillery’s water sources, The Lady’s Well (or the Ladies’ Well) which, apparently, was long ago the scene of a murder. This sounded juicy, so with nimbleness rarely seen in men my age, I leapt into action, hunting down more details…only to find that very few details existed. After a thorough search lasting nearly 20 minutes, I found the following paragraph in the Glenrothes section of Charles MacLean’s “Whiskypedia” from 2010:
The Ladies’ Well, from which the distillery draws its process water, was the site of a murder in the thirteenth century. Mary Leslie, daughter of the Earl of Rothes, was killed by the notorious Wolf of Badenoch (Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, and son of the King of the Scots) while trying to protect her lover.
See, juicy, right? Jealous lovers, murder, royalty…process water, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Or so I thought. Diving deeper into history, I found these “facts”:
- The thirteenth century covers the years 1201 AD to 1300 AD.
- Alexander Stewart was renowned for not really being a very nice guy at all. He was born in 1343 and died in 1405.
- The first Earl of Rothes was George Leslie who was born between 1406 and 1417 and died in 1490. The peerage title “Earl of Rothes” was created for him in 1458. George Leslie had five children named, George, Christian Leslie, Andrew, Elizabeth, and John.
While historical records from this time could accurately be described as spotty, and the sources I perused had a few inconsistencies between them, the names and the dates were all similar enough to make MacLean’s story look a little silly. While he might have been an asshole, the Wolf of Badenoch died before the first Earl of Leslie was born, making his murder of a daughter the Earl may or may not have had…really pretty unlikely, especially since this all supposedly went down in the century before the Wolf himself was born. So, yeah, most likely this particular back story of the Ladies’ Well seems just a little far-fetched…unless there’s a more accurate telling someplace else. To be fair, this myth isn’t part of the Glenrothes’ marketing. Maybe they play it up on a tour at the distillery, but there’s no mention of the story on the brand’s website. Really, that quoted paragraph from MacLean’s book was the single largest source of info I found on the subject. And who knows where he got the story from, there are certainly more founts of information in the world than just Wikipedia. In any case, this isn’t a serious indictment of The Glenrothes or the MacLean, I just love all the fact and fiction surrounding the whisky industry, and I love poking fun and poking holes when the opportunity arises.
Now that the opportunity has arisen and hopefully settled back down, we can get on with the whisky. The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve is another non-age statement bearing part of the Glenrothes’ core “Reserve” line, and is a completely made up of first fill ex-sherry casks. The casks used are a combination of American White Oak and European Oak, with, reportedly, the European Oak making up the majority.
The Nose: Yep, that’s a sherry cask whisky, but not an especially expressive one. Lots of dark brown sugar, plump, cooked raisins in rice pudding, spiced prunes, rhubarb crumble, and amber honey. Nutty, youthful rancio notes of salted cashews, cocoa powder, and vanilla bean. Quite a bit of spice, mostly of the baking variety; cinnamon stick, clove, allspice berries, and faint nutmeg along with youngish sawn oak.
The Palate: A bit more complex fruit here, more raisins and plum, a hint of light molasses, grilled pineapple, and hints of red fruits…Bing cherries perhaps. That evolves to include orgeat, chocolate covered almonds, bourbon vanilla bean, and a little Christmas fruitcake. Raw, mildly grippy oak, and more baking spices with the addition of a bit candied ginger and ground pepper. There’s a young edge towards the end that sharpens the spice a bit too much.
The Finish: That young edge carries over with tannic oak, hot cinnamon, pepper, ginger lingering the longest after a last hit of honey and brown sugar.
Thoughts: A decent, if perhaps just a bit uninspired intro to sherried malt whisky. This one hits many of the right notes, and progresses nicely enough, but it does so without a lot of mature depth. There are some youthful touches here and there, but I suppose that’s to be expected. There’s an attractive complexity, but it’s slightly subdued, especially on the nose…it’s just lacking a bit of rich elegance. This definitely has a place with other good “intro to sherry casks” like the Macallan 12, Tamdhu 10, and Aberlour 12. With a price tag ranging from $45 to $60, the call on value varies; on the low end – perhaps worth checking out, on the high end – perhaps not as much.
- “Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 July 2016.
- “Earl of Rothes.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 July 2016.
- MacLean, Charles. “Glenrothes.” Whiskypedia: A Gazetteer of Scotch Whisky. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2011. 197. Print.
- “George Leslie, 1st Earl of Rothes.” Geni_family_tree. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2016.