Glenburgie is one of those distilleries with a severe lack of love from their owner company for the brand as a single malt. Glenburgie is currently owned by Chivas Brothers (Pernod-Ricard) and has been for a long time one of the main components of the world’s second best-selling Blended Scotch whisky, Ballantine’s. They don’t have a dedicated website for the distillery, nor a visitor centre at the distillery. The only current official bottlings are branded with the blend name: two Glenburgie 15 and 18 years old from the Ballantine’s Signature Malt range, also having two of its other main components, also owned by Chivas: Miltonduff and Glentauchers. But they’re bottled at 40%. It seems cheap but very hard to find, the only shops I could find for this being in Greece and Germany. So, it means that Glenburgie fans must turn to independent bottlers, as luckily, they don’t seem to run out of good Glenburgie casks to bottle, allowing us to have a ‘burgie fix. And let’s have our fix today, with three independent bottling of Glenburgie, all in their twenties.
A Quick Glenburgie History
Glenburgie is not the original name of this distillery that convinced those “in the know”. In 1810, a man named William Paul founded the Kilnflat Distillery in Forres, in Morayshire. However, the production only started in 1829, but then in 1870, the distillery closed. It reopened eight years later under the name Glenburgie-Glenlivet, thanks to Charles Hay, its licensee. Afterwards, as usual, it changed hands several times until 1927, where it’s inactive again. In 1930 Hiram Walker buys 60% of Glenburgie’s owner company, but the distillery stays inactive , until October 1936 when Hiram Walker buys the rest of the distillery and resumes production. Then, 1958 saw quite a change for the distillery, with the installation of two Lomond stills. If you don’t know what’s special about them, I suggest you go read my review of an indy Croftengea as this Loch Lomond whisky is distilled using Lomond stills, and I ask a few questions to Loch Lomond’s Master Blender Michael Henry about those stills. In short, on a Lomond still, the swan neck is replaced by a short column with a few adjustable plates inside to change the rectification. Back to Glenburgie, these Lomond stills were operational from 1958 to 1981, and the whisky from these stills was known as Glencraig. But in 1981, those Lomond stills were decommissioned and replaced by conventional stills.
In 2004, a heavy refurbishment and reconstruction was made and the year after, Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) became the owner, as they bought Allied Domecq, the company owning Hiram Walker. And in 2006, capacity was increased with the arrival of two stills in addition to the four existing ones. As I said above, Glenburgie’s current official range is just comprised of two 40% 15 and 18 year old whiskies, both matured in ex-bourbon casks, as well as a 17yo cask strength one, only available at Chivas’ visitor centres.
Now let’s try older ones, all indies.
Glenburgie 21-years-old “Black Friday 2019 Edition” Elixir Distillers Review
That’s a long title. Each year, The Whisky Exchange bottles, through its Elixir Distillers independent bottler branch, a whisky from an undisclosed distillery, for Black Friday. In 2019, it was coming from Speyside, and enough hints were floating around to get that it was coming from Glenburgie distillery. Matured for 21 years in Refill Bourbon Hogsheads, it was bottled into the beautiful black bottles Elixir Distillers use for their Black Friday bottling, at the cask strength of 53.1%, with an outturn of 1800 bottles. Price at the time was an extremely attractive £79.95 but if you want one now, you’ll have to turn to the secondary market and will have to be prepared to pay quite a premium over the initial price.
Neat: the nose is extremely fruity, with a mix of tropical and orchard fruits: pineapple, apricot, mango, pink grapefruit, plum… Warm spices lurk in the back with mostly cinnamon. Custard cream, and almost no trace of wood.
With water: a pinch of cocoa powder, dusty books and traces of wood.
Neat: Slightly drying, the arrival is thick and creamy. It’s even more fruity than the nose, with apricot, pineapple, grapefruit, mango, passion fruit, plum and green apples. It’s also warmer, with cinnamon but also a soft heat from black pepper and candied ginger. A few drops of orange juice give a bit of punch while mint provide something refreshing. Nice polished oak, showing the whisky age.
Reduction adds a layer of sweetness with icing sugar and vanilla without breaking the balance.
Grapefruit and polished oak, mint, eucalyptus, cocoa powder. Quite long.
I don’t know what is the equivalent recommendation is elsewhere, but in France, there’s a recommendation of eating at least five fruits or vegetables a day. With a glass of this Glenburgie, clearly, no need for vegetables, you have your five fruits and then some. It’s a festival of fruits on the nose and even more so on the palate, it’s warm, it’s balanced, and the alcohol is perfectly integrated. Beautiful whisky. And at the initial price (£80), clearly great value for money!
Glenburgie 1998 The Single Malts of Scotland Review
Next, we have a Glenburgie slightly older, also coming from Elixir Distillers, but this time in their Single Malts of Scotland range. Distilled on the 8th of October 1998, it was bottled at 22 years of age by ElD on the 22nd of October 2020 (so it’s a 22 years and 2 weeks old!), after having spent that time in a single hogshead. The cask, numbered 900902, gave 271 bottles at 54.5% abv, filled without chill filtration nor addition of caramel for the colour. It’s sold out everywhere as far as I know.
Neat: very fruity like the Black Friday one. Take all the fruits mentioned above (pineapple, apricot, mango, pink grapefruit, plum) and add melon, banana and papaya. There are hints of Jamaican rum, it makes me think of Hampden, though without the funk. There are also some floral and vegetal notes, it’s slightly grassy.
With water: some warm oak spices, wood polish, limestone.
It starts, how to say, kind of darker than the BF2019. The fruits are there, with apricots, a bit more pink grapefruit and passion fruit, banana, pineapple, but also a bit of blood oranges. Some dark chocolate and mint (but way better than an After-Eight), and toast with honey.
With water: More chocolate, milk one this time, half a coffee bean, this is glorious.
Tropical fruits, grist, candied ginger,
This one feels slightly “darker” than the Black Friday 2019. It’s hard to explain, maybe this one feels a bit warmer and for the autumn while the BF is lighter and fresher and for the summer? It’s not so far from the Black Friday but at the same time it’s a bit more. And water allows it to go a step above, it’s a stunning whisky.
Glenburgie 1995 Signatory Vintage Review
The last, but not the least, Glenburgie for today is a 1995 bottled by Signatory Vintage for the 20 rue d’Anjou range from La Maison Du Whisky. Distillation occurred on the 15th of June 1995 and it was bottled, after a 25 months finish in First Fill Sherry, on the 29th of September 2020. It was bottled to celebrate the 25 years of Jean-Marc Bélier as the manager for the historic 20 rue d’Anjou (Paris) shop of La Maison Du Whisky. The 683 bottles (so I wonder if it was two hogsheads combined in a sherry butt for the finish or if another butt was used for the initial maturation) were filled at cask strength – 53.7% abv – and without chill filtration nor colouring. It seems sold out in France but you might get one from a Polish shop, Dunder Store, for 260€.
Neat: oh sweet mother of J. The nose is rich and warm, old leather, dusty old books, dried figs, and a beautiful rancio (stewed cherry with brandy, apricots, plum). It makes me think of an old cognac. Turpentine, salted butter caramel, quince jelly (but one that wouldn’t be overly sweet).
With water: more turpentine, touches of lemon peels, perhaps a bit of wood.
Neat: Nice voluptuous mouthfeel. The sherry left a nice imprint over the signature fruitiness of Glenburgie, adding dried fruits, redcurrant and strawberry to the tropical fruits and apricot. Salted butter caramel, candied ginger, a pinch of pepper, icing sugar, vanilla extract, this is also quite chocolatey. Leather arm chair.
With water: creamier mouthfeel, slightly more drying. More ginger and pepper, chocolate and fig biscuits.
Never-ending finish on salted butter caramel, chocolate, dried apricots and malt. Drying on the gums.
At the first sniff it was instant love. Its richness, its warmth, the rancio… The quince jelly on the nose made me think of the one my grandmother used to make from the quince growing in her property and just for that I’m forever grateful to this whisky. But fond memories aside, both nose and palate are brilliant, the finish well… never does. Water is not mandatory, I think it’s as good without water, at least it doesn’t make me want to add an extra point. But it doesn’t need one, because it’s already a beauty, deserving a nice, fat…