Since we started our single cask program several years ago, we have brought back some deliciously unique whiskies from Scotland to a very appreciative audience. Casks from The Isle of Arran, Glendronach and Caol Ila distilleries were devoured with gusto, so with our supply all but exhausted in early 2016, I made another pilgrimage back to Scotland to hunt for more great malt whisky. My journey took me to the little town of Pitlochry in Scotland’s southern Highlands to meet with Des McCagherty of Signatory Vintage at the tiny Edradour Distillery. Des is a legend in these parts and oversees both the distillery and Signatory’s single cask program. Signatory is an independent bottler with a great reputation worldwide, so the opportunity to start doing business with them in selecting single casks for Vine & Table was very appealing to me. Signatory has an extensive selection of whiskies from distilleries big and small, open and closed, and from every corner of Scotland. What I love about Signatory is that by doing a bit of homework and legwork (in going to the source), you can find some real treasures for reasonable prices and that was my mission this year: to bring back single malts that were unique, tasted great, had good age to them, and that were not going to be out of the stratosphere in terms of price. And our first cask of 2016 is just that.
Distilled on the 5th of June, 1991, at the Glen Keith Distillery in the heart of Speyside, this is a spectacular malt that will appeal to every Scotch drinker out there. While many people may not have heard of Glen Keith, as official distillery release bottles are few and far between, the distillery’s whisky is a key component in one of the biggest-selling Scotch brands in the world: Chivas Regal. Glen Keith’s malt whisky is highly sought after not just for Chivas Regal, but for 100 Pipers and many other blended Scotches. With a light and fruity flavor profile, the spirit brings the floral notes and delicacy that blenders look for when filling orders for their whisky creations.
My choice of Glen Keith, aged for nearly a quarter of a century in a bourbon barrel, beautifully demonstrates this profile. The nose is elegant, with aromas of tinned pears in syrup, citrus pith, Boland’s Orange Creams, hazelnut, sandalwood and vanilla bean. The palate is soft and malty with golden raisins, boiled candy, a hint of licorice and a lovely interplay of spice, leading into a solid finish. The beauty of Glen Keith’s spirit shines in this single cask, and while it has good age with solid flavors it also has a lightness that pulls you in for another sip. When you consider what some whisky companies are charging these days for whiskies that are far younger than this, this bottle could be one of the best deals in single malt Scotch period.
The barrel yielded just 171 bottles and all were bottled directly from the cask, without chill filtration, caramel coloring, or the addition of water.