If there was a bottle that was a complete pain to procure for the 1983 tasting series, it had to be Glenlochy. It’s inevitable that some of these old distilleries that produced whisky almost completely for blending purposes would disappear from the independent bottling scene sooner or later, and Glenlochy seems to be fading.
Signatory is the only bottler who seems to bring out bottles with any regularity – the bottle I am reviewing today is a Signatory Vintage decanter; K&L’s exclusive cask is a signatory, and the UK seems to get a slow trickle of Signatory Glenlochy releases. If you think Port Ellen or Brora are the top of the heap, Glenlochy prices will come as a surprise. If you can find one, you are going to pay north of $400 as a resident of the US. Even the route of picking an old Connoisseur’s Choice bottle won’t work: the ones I found were right around $400 with shipping.
This was the last bottle I acquired for the tasting (though not the last in the series) – they weren’t common and were always high in price. I kept waiting for a deal to show up, but in the over two years I watched prices, there wasn’t anything resembling a reasonably priced Glenlochy. My advice if you’ve considered buying a bottle is to just pull the trigger now, because there’s fairly a firm floor at $400 and they’re only going to increase.
This was the second Glenlochy I’ve tried – the first I had was actually the K&L cask, which David OG provided a small sample of at a tasting that included some of their other whiskies. I didn’t take notes on it at the time, but it’s remained a fairly distinct point of reference in the last few months, especially knowing that I’d have another in reasonably short order.
It seems that the history of the Glenlochy distillery is relatively unremarkable – no flaming rivers of whisky that were then consumed by livestock. I won’t even bore with details; in this case, if you’re interested in Glenlochy, you might be best advised to visit the site of one Glenlochy enthusiast.
This particular cask from Signatory, distilled in 1980, bottled at 31 years old at 53.1% from cask 3021, leads with a peppery kick, mixing white ad black peppers, more heavily on black. Vanilla and malt follow behind that, with gentle and slightly watery fruit notes – primarily white peach and a hint of apricot. It’s pinned down with a nicely subtle honey body.
The palate is slightly woody but with the maltiness and honey from the nose. It’s slightly thinner than a medium mouthfeel, but definitely not “thin”. Again, white pepper shows up as does a dab of cayenne. There’s some dryness and bitterness on the palate with a moment’s rest, and it gets a touch earthy.
It finishes with malt and pepper, honey, and then it all kind of falls into a buttermilk biscuit with honey vibe. Really nice…. until it dries more and it’s an earthy cantaloupe rind. Not so great.
For me, this particular Glenlochy is somewhat off balance – the peppery notes were prevalent to me and a little too assertive. If the malt and honey qualities weren’t overpowered by pepper, then they have a tendency to dry towards bitterness and mustiness. If you’re an addict for scratching closed distilleries off the list, it’s worth a try, but this particular bottle was definitely not one that by any means would be a must-hit. Save your “rare whisky” allowance for a nice Port Ellen or Brora, in my opinion, if this bottle was your sole option.
But, it’s not. The K&L bottle, to my recollection, was a little more forward with the stone fruit qualities and had the malty sweetness. However, I had it after a few other whiskies that were fairly strong in their character, so it’s not an impression I’d feel comfortable making a recommendation on. My impression though favored the K&L bottle, bearing that caveat in mind. (As I said, no notes were taken, just my general thoughts, and I didn’t score, nor would I publish a score in this case if I had). Is it worth the $450 they’re asking? I’m not sure. If you want a big, massive, bold whisky I would be considering something other then Glenlochy in general though.
It’s a fun whisky to have on the checklist and unlike many bottles released these days, but I don’t know that I see myself forking over the asking price these days based on what I’ve had.
At a glance:
Glenlochy 1980 – Signatory Vintage, 31y, #3021 – 53.1% ABV
Nose: A little peppery kick initially, a mix of black & white peppers (heavier on black). Behind it is vanilla and malt. Gentle and slightly watery fruit notes; white peach, a hint of apricot. Nice subtle honey.
Palate: Slightly woody mixed with malt and light honey, a slightly thinner mouthfeel. Pepper again; this time white pepper with a faint dab of cayenne. Gets a little dry and slightly bitter. A bit earthy.
Finish: Malty with slight pepper; honey, a little buttermilk biscuit with the honey for a second but it fades in favor of an earthy cantaloupe rind finish.
Comment: This is a touch oddly-balanced; the pepper is a bit assertive and overpowers the fruit, as does the slightly bitter and musty side of things.