Just as I have finished writing about a previous (and excellent!) Tweet Tasting, time for another one! The life of an amateur whisky blogger (it may sound pompous but well, I do have a blog about whisky so I guess that’s what I am?) is really hard, I know. This time, we don’t follow a specific distillery nor a specific bottler, but something new again: a person! Indeed, our guest was Gregg Glass, from Whyte & Mackay, as we tasted four whiskies he was deeply involved in creating or bottling. So as I said, time not for a distillery Tweet Tasting, but a Gregg Glass Whisky Tweet Tasting!
Gregg Glass started as a seasonal tour guide at his local distillery, Glen Ord, back in 1999, for a few years. He also worked as a Store Assistant for a year at Inverness’ Whisky Shop, before being a Tour guide at Dalmore distillery during the spring of 2005. Then, his life in the industry changed quite a bit, as he joined Compass Box in May 2005. There, he started first as a Sales, Marketing and Business assistant, then an assistant whiskymaker, focusing on cask selection, quality control and whisky creation, before becoming a “full-fledged” whiskymaker. In 2016, Glass achieved a general certificate in distilling and whisky production at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London, and started learning for a level 2 diploma in distilling just after that.
Then, on the 1st of December 2016, Glass joined Whyte & Mackay to work alongside Richard Paterson as a blender and whisky maker. Almost immediately, he had a conversation at Whyte & Mackay about what he wanted to build and what would be the best way to make things happen. A bit of time later, that “innovation hub”, with complete freedom, was created inside the structure of Whyte & Mackay. The Whisky Works became a way for Richard Paterson and Gregg Glass to experiment concepts at a small scale with limited but responsible risk taking within Whyte & Mackay and be allowed to focus on the creation of unique and different characteristics “both from a flavour point of view and methodology in making whisky through new innovative practices”.
The first creation of The Whisky Works is the King of Trees 10yo Highland blended malt whisky that we will taste and review in a moment.
Gregg Glass Whisky Tweet Tasting
As usual, as part of this Tweet Tasting organized by Steve Rush, we (the gang of lucky people selected for the tasting) received a package with four 50ml samples. These were received for free, and as I have said before, this won’t have any influence of what I think and what I write about the whiskies tasted, as you’ll be able to read in a few moments.
Jura Seven Wood
We started with Jura Seven Wood, a single malt matured in… seven types of cask, seven types of wood, you’ll have guessed that. What wood you will ask? Here we go: American white oak ex-Bourbon for its first maturation, then a finish in French new oak casks from 6 different origins: Limousin, Tronçais, Allier, Vosges, Jupilles, and Les Bertranges. This single malt is coloured, chill-filtered, and bottled at 42% abv. You can buy it easily, in the UK for example at Tyndrum Whisky for £49 or at Master of Malt for just under £55, or in France, at Drinks & Co for €53.90 or a costly €69.90 at La Maison Du Whisky (are they serious?)
Old Sauternes, too bad it’s fake.
Some sherry funk, a bit of cheese, wood, fruits with pear and apricot, some light maritime notes, and something a bit strange like linseed oil? After some time in the glass, tropical fruits with a bit of passion fruits and bananas appear on their toes, very discreetly. Bug something’s off.
Thin arrival, woody, a bit sweet and not much. Wood, very small pinch of pepper, wood, a bit of wood shavings, some fudge. Wood. A few drops of lemon juice, wood and distant sherry notes. Everything is very reserved and watery. And woody.
Pepper, green apple and wood, with a medium length.
On Jura’s website, there’s a quote from Gregg Glass saying this:
For me, creating an expression such as Jura Seven Wood is like creating a special meal. It’s essential to understand how the combination of woods can create these compelling flavours. At the heart of Seven Wood, we are accentuating the DNA of Jura’s light character; the oak types should not dominate but enhance the natural qualities of Jura while imparting some of their flavour on our single malt. Balance is crucial.Gregg Glass, Jura Seven Wood webpage, https://jurawhisky.com/en/jura-seven-wood/
Unfortunately, I don’t agree with him: the oak, the seven ones even, do dominate the spirit, before everything is completely washed down by a way too strong dilution. It feels like drinking from the water puddle that forms next to a pile of oak logs after a big rain.
The Whisky Works King of Trees 10-year-old
King of Trees 10yo is the first creation of The Whisky Works. The concept behind it began with the thought of using native Scottish oak. This would not be the first time someone used Scottish oak, but it was something Gregg Glass wanted to experiment with. He went to sawmills in the Highlands to learn more about it, and spent some time to research and source Scottish oak. The goal was to use Scottish oak for a finish and not a full maturation. They used two windfall trees from a single estate in the Highlands, aged between 160 and 220 years old. Why windfall trees? Because they didn’t want to cut down trees unless necessary. Scottish Oak rarely yields the knot-free staves needed for making a cask, but these fallen elder trees provided suitable timber for just one single cask.
Consequently, after a first maturation in first fill Bourbon barrels and refill American oak casks, a portion of the whisky was finished in this single Native Scottish oak cask. The outturn gave 2157 bottles at 46.5% abv, unchill-filtered and without added colouring. At the time of writing, in the UK, it’s on offer at Drambusters for £55, or at about RRP of £73.95 at The Whisky Exchange. In France, LMDW will charge a steep €95 for this.
White fruits (pear, white grapes, apricot), mint tea with two sugars, sap, candle wax, this is fresh and lovely. Time enhances the citrus notes of lemon peels, marzipan, almost “Calisson d’Aix” sweets (mostly marzipan, sugar, melon confit).
Sweet and spicy with a bit of chilli pepper tingling on the tongue. Very crisp. Orchard fruits (pear, apple) and lemon play well with a gentle pinch of pepper and some caramel and vanilla extract. A bit of wood dryness but quite soft.
Lemon juice, pinch of cracked pepper. A bit too short unfortunately, I wouldn’t have minded this to last longer.
Fresh, crisp, flavourful as promised by the idea behind The Whisky Works, I think they did transform their first try. The goal for Gregg Glass was to obtain a lovely freshness allowing the core orchard fruits characters to come through, using Highland oak to accentuate that without overpowering the recipe. I think it’s mission complete. The orchard fruits are really here, complemented by mint and lemon juice on the nose, and lemon again but with a bit of chilli on the palate, and the wood being noticeable without being overpowering as he wanted. This is well done and I like it a lot.
The Whisky Works Speyside 20-year-old
We moved afterwards to the third dram of the evening, back to a single malt from a closed and undisclosed Speyside distillery. The Whisky Works say on their website that it was distilled end of 1998 during one of the last production runs of the distillery before it fell silent. That makes me think it comes from the Imperial distillery, as this distillery was definitely mothballed at the end of 1998. Several friends confirmed it, so I guess it must really be from Imperial.
It matured for 20 years in classic American white oak casks, before a 7 months finish in casks that held Cognac itself distilled in 1998, from the Bourgoin estate in France. The fun fact is this project was actually destined for a project Glass had planned for 2025, but this whisky reached a surprising peak quicker than anticipated, and so it was released in 2020. It had an outturn of 1593 bottles (the label says 1593, the website 1618, who knows) filled at 47.1%, unchill-filtered and without colouring. In the UK, you can find it on offer at Drambusters at £115, while you’ll have to pay around £150 at Hard To Find Whisky or The Whisky Exchange. Prepare to pay €164 in France at LMDW.
The nose is fruity with fresh banana, melon and lemon juice. Mint tea aromas give out a fresh bitterness, completed by the very sweet smell of toothpaste for kids and the herbal fragrance of eucalyptus. Floral notes of white roses and jasmine.
Spicy, fruity, floral, it makes me think of an edible and peppery flower called “capucine” in France, or nasturtium in Shakespeare’s wordification. Cough syrup, ginger, mint again (almost peppermint), wood, caramel concentrate, with a buttery mouthfeel. I don’t drink Cognac often, but I do retrieve some grape flavours making me think of this double-distilled grape must eau-de-vie that is Cognac.
A medium long finish on lemon, peppermint, with a slight sawdust dryness.
This is very good. Beautiful multilayered nose, fruity, fresh, herbal and floral. A palate that delivers, spicy but not too much, rich, with the Cognac finish providing notes of grapes. Did that change the Imperial whisky characteristics much? I honestly don’t know, this was my first Imperial ever. But most importantly, is it good? Oh yes it is, very. Worth £150? Not sure. But the £115 on offer? Yes, dear reader.
Final dram of the night and another new distillery for me to tick on the long list of past and present Scottish distilleries: Fettercairn. This Speyside distillery is located midway between Dundee and Aberdeen on the east coast. This single malt has been matured for 22 years in American ex-bourbon casks. It may be chill-filtered and coloured as it doesn’t seem to be saying otherwise and is bottled at 47% abv. You can buy this whisky in the UK around £195 at Hedonism Wines to £200 at Master of Malt and in France exclusively at Comptoir Irlandais for €225.
Amontillado but probably coloured.
A bit closed at first even after a good moment in the glass, but I’m getting fresh laundry, hay, orchard fruits (peach, apricot), tropical fruits (pineapple, mango and a couple passion fruits) and vanilla.
Way more open than the nose. Orchard and tropical fruits (especially over-ripe passion fruits) from the nose are here with a bang, citrus-a-plenty, coffee beans, then it moves to the bitterness of grapefruit and raw wood.
Citrus, ginger, passion fruits, vanilla and oak, with a medium length.
Another good surprise. I didn’t know what to expect from this dram as I had read mixed reviews (some eulogistic, some way less so) about previous Fettercairn releases. Participating in this tasting was the occasion for me to start making my own opinion, tasting their juice myself. And what a pleasant surprise it was. I love tropical fruits, especially pineapple and passion fruits, and I have been more than satisfied here. The nose takes its sweet time to open but is very fruity once it does, and the palate cranks those fruits to eleven. This is very tasty. Better than the Speyside 20yo from just before? Not for me, and the nose is too shy. But it’s still pretty good whisky, no doubt. I’ll expect good things of the next ones I’ll be able to taste.
The Jura was clearly not for me. It’s just woody water and a mess, I’ll pass, but now I know why many don’t like it (I do know many do like it too, every palate is different, yet another proof). On the other hand, the two Whisky Works are really good. The Speyside 20yo is delicious, and the King of Trees was surprisingly fresh and crisp, I loved it too. The Fettercairn 22yo was the first one for me from this distillery and a pleasant surprise, very fruity. By the ratings you’ll know what was my order of preference, but we had three really good drams and one… really not to my palate.
But don’t take our word for it…
As usual, these reviews are the author’s opinion and his alone. Every palate is different, so where I like or don’t like something, others may have a completely different take. So go read what a few friends thought about one or more of these whiskies: Wim @Dram_Gazette reviewed the King of Trees 10yo, the Speyside 20yo and the Fettercairn 22yo, Matt @thedramble reviewed the King of Trees back in July, and my favourite grumpies from Malt reviewed the Jura Seven Wood.