Another one of San Francisco’s whisky seasons has come, drunk, and conquered. With events ranging from time-well-spent to a-mediocre-night, I have been remiss in not commenting on a tasting that was decidedly pleasing. Some weeks back, the opportunity to attend a Glenrothes promotional event found me willing and able. The event played out in a private room of Nihon (a local whisky bar of note featuring Japanese fare). The powers that be did more than a few things right to make this event a cut above. Firstly, it was small. This was not a meet-and-greet party for gregarious inebriates sponsored by Glenrothes. While such events can be delightful, it is not always the best circumstances under which to get personal with a whisky. That Glenrothes held the event at Nihon also spoke to the caliber of the event. To revel in a little whisky promotion in the confines of a smaller, cushy chamber of wood and dimmed lighting plays to the strength of whisky sampling and related conversation. The garish lighting of warehouse-events is great for illuminating a huge space and helping you recognize people from across the room, but give me the intimate confines of a little faux candle-lit space with comfy seating (and the knowledge that there is a huge and varied selection of quality liquor downstairs) and I am more than satisfied. Glenrothes’ representative, one Mr. Ronnie Cox, it must be said, sealed the deal. A well-spoken man who is spoken well of, Mr. Cox proved a good host and a superior orator on Glenrothes’ behalf. Prior to the tasting I enjoyed the opportunity to share a beer and a few words with him concerning Glenrothes and whisky in general, as well as some incidental conversation. A seasoned veteran of much alcohol appreciation and promotion, I’m of the opinion that not only has Glenrothes provided Mr. Cox with a respectable product to laud, he has brought to Glenrothes his wide-ranging experience wrapped in a refreshingly mellifluous take on the English language.
And so, to bastardize the Bard (Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Prologue), we lay our scene. Glenrothes straddles a rare whisky ridge, it is well-known but not famous (or infamous, for that matter). You will not find it at a convenience store (don’t get me wrong, many good things are) and you might not even find it at your local bar. You will, however, find it at many a drinking establishment and any liquor store serious about good whisky. Its has a distinctively rotund bottle that steps outside the typical mold, and its had it since before fooling around with bottle shape was cool. A signature look. This coupled with their school report card-inspired label makes for a curious combination of a whisky that is distinct but not in your face… which accurately describes the whiskies themselves (if I can give the whiskies personhood). The age statement on the bottle is a rare and curiously refreshing approach to whisky bottling (one they have been doing for quite a while). They do not release a twelve or eighteen year that is regularly supplemented with like reproductions. Glenrothes places the year of distillation on the label and when that version is gone it is gone. No repeats, just an evolution of what they are aging and outputting. These are Speyside whiskies. These are whiskies that represent the Speyside palate well. These whiskies do not rely upon esoteric barrel agings or experimental approaches. I am crazy about bizarre and eclectic approaches to whisky aging, my taste buds can not get enough of it, be it an Islay finished in a Zinfandel barrel or a lowland in a Bordeaux (or an Ichiro in a port pipe!). But if one looses appreciation for the art, the time-proven work of crafting a traditional Scottish whisky, one is lost.
Glenrothes delivered. Tasting notes? If I had not enjoyed the evening as much as I did, I would probably have better notes to impart, but then if I had not enjoyed it so much I probably would not be writing this. Do your own homework. Try the line-up and you are like to find something more than agreeable. And if you get a chance to try the Editor’s Cask, consider yourself lucky. Cheers to Glenrothes and all those involved for putting on a whisky tasting that stood out not only for its whisky, but for the places and persons involved. –Nate