Glen Elgin (Pronounced: glen EL-gin)
57°36'33.8328 N, 3°16'26.9652 W
Benriach, Coleburn, Longmorn
4 Wash, 3 Spirit (all small stills in an unusual set-up)
1,800,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Diageo > UDV (since 1930)
Longmorn, Elgin, Moray
Yes, including a 12yo and a 16yo
Below, on WhiskyFun and the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2001 - Glen Elgin (briefly) becomes part of the 'Flora & Fauna' range with a 12yo expression.
2002 - The expression of Glen Elgin malt whisky in the 'F&F' range is replaced by a 12yo 'Hidden Malt'.
2005 - Glen Elgin is added to the 'Classic Malts' range of Diageo. This range used to contain only six different single malts - Cragganmore, Dalwinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban & Talisker - when it was introduced in the late 1980's, but in 2005 a bunch of other single malts suddenly became classic, including Caol Ila, Cardhu and Clynelish.
The White Horse Cellar Inn was located near the beginning of the stagecoach route between Edinburgh and London. This journey used to take eight days - provided conditions were favourable.
Next to the White Horse Cellar Inn was the ancestral home of Peter Mackie, who would later inherit the Lagavulin distillery on Islay. Until a few years ago the name 'White Horse' was displayed on the boxes and labels of the 16 years old Lagavulin expression.
Anyway, I'm getting side-tracked; the topic at
hand was Glen Elgin. If my information is correct
Diageo issued a semi-official 'Fauna & Flora'
bottling in 2001; in-between the 'White Horse'
release of the 1990's and the more recent bottle
with the brown box depicted above. This is fairly
unusual because these F&F bottles were usually
reserved for distilleries that didn't release proper
official bottles, like Caol Ila or Royal Brackla.
From there on, things moved more smoothly for Glen Elgin. Apart from a few changes in ownership
little 'constructive' happened until 1964 when Glen Elgin was rebuilt and the number of stills was
extended from two to six. UDV's (i.e. Diageo's) 'sister' distillery Glendullan in the Dufftown region of
Speyside underwent a similar massive refurbishment less than a decade later.
When Glen Elgin distillery was expanded, it was licensed to White Horse Distillers Ltd. in Glasgow.
I'll get back to White Horse in a moment, but I have to pay some more attention to the stills first.
The current distillery configuration at Glen Elgin is quite unusual; they have four wash stills and
three spirit stills (all relaively small in size as well).
That makes Glen Elgin an exception to the rule; in almost all
other cases (well, in Scotland at least) 'pairs' of stills seem to
be more customary. I'm not entirely sure when they added
the seventh still though - after the rebuilding of 1964 they
still had six stills, at least if my information is correct. In any
case, the change probably occurred while Glen Elgin was
licensed to White Horse Distillers - now a part of Diageo.
White Horse is a legendary name
in the Scotch whisky
industry - and as you can see from the picture of the left
they still displayed the 'White Horse' name prominently
on the label of their standard bottling during the 1990's.
Although the White Horse name is less dominant on the labels of the new official
bottles, the logo still adorns the Glen Elgin distillery buildings. The name of the
'White Horse' brand originated in the Canongate district of Edinburgh. That was
where the White Horse Cellar Inn could be found; a historical landmark that got
its name from the white horse that used to belong to Mary, Queen of Scots.
The Glen Elgin
distillery was built between 1898 and 1900 by a
partnership of William Simpson & James Carle. That seems like a
long time, but it was after the 'Pattison Crash'. Production at Glen
Elgin started officially on May 1, 1900. The architect Charles Doig
predicted that no other distillery would be built in Speyside for at
least 50 years and he was right; Tormore wasn't built until 1958.
May 1, 1900 was not one of the most blessed of days, apparently.
The distillery was sold to Glen Elgin-Glenlivet Distillery Co Ltd. in
1901, opened in 1902 but then failed again just five months later.
In 1907 Glen Elgin was acquired by one John J. Balanche, a whisky
merchant from Glasgow.
1) The Glen Elgin malt whisky distillery was built in 1898 and 1900 by a partnership of James Carle and William Simpson - who was a former manager at the relatively nearby Glenfarclas distillery. One of the main reasons for the choice of the location was a local water source. Unfortunately, that source turned out to be unreliable. This presented the owners with a problem; waterworks were not available at the time in the more remote parts of Scotland, but a whisky distillery needs a constant supply of water for its operations.
2) Another problem for the Glen Elgin distillery was the fact that a planned branch of the railroad was never actually constructed. By the end of the Victorian era railways had become very important for the transportation of both raw materials and whisky. In fact, access to the railroad system had grown so important that the Balblair distillery was demolished in 1872, only to be rebuilt brick by brick half a mile down the road where it could benefit from the nearby railway. When the planned branch of the railway didn't materialise, the founders of Glen Elgin had a problem; machinery and lamps had to run on paraffin until the middle of the 20th century. Glen Elgin distillery had one employee who's sole job was keeping all the lights lit - remarkably inefficient of course...
3) The founders had invested 13,000 pounds in the construction of the Glen Elgin distillery, but when they had to sell it a few months later they managed to retrieve only 4,000 pounds of their original investment.
4) The Glen Elgin malt whisky is still an important component of the 'White Horse' blended whiskies, which are sold in more than 200 different countries. Mind you, the same is true of the Johnnie Walker blends.
5) The pot stills which are currently in use at the Glen Elgin distillery were installed in 1992.
Glen Elgin 16yo (58.5%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Balanced but not terribly expressive at first. 'Green'; a whiff of something farmy. Fruity - prune jam?
Powers up in a few minutes; some organics emerge in the background. Grows bigger and bolder over time.
Taste: Soft start, powering up in the centre. Sweetish, malty and hot, not a lot of definition. Gritty finish.
Score: 82 points - I don't know if it's the extra years or the extra proof, but I like it better than the 12yo.
Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Polished and well-rounded. On the edge of nutty. A faint whiff of citrus. After a minute some spices.
The organic citrus becomes chemical. It's not terribly expressive though; you really have to work at it...
Taste: Malty and medium sweet. Great mouth feel. Not quite expressive enough for me to reach the 80's.
A sweetish undercurrent. Fairly solid mouth feel. A good malt whisky without any obvious flaws.
Score: 75 points - a classic example of an 'average' malt whisky. Is citrus a Glen Elgin marker?
Glen Elgin 32yo 1976/2008 'Green Elgin' (40.8%, The Whisky Exchange, C#3544)
Nose: Classic profile like a malt whisky bottled in the 1970's. Wood and furniture polish. Coffee.
Grows more and more complex after some breathing. Bakery aroma's. Loads of lemon.
Taste: Very subtle peat; like the nose reminding me of a whisky that was bottled decades ago.
Beautiful balance with a great balance between fruit, wood and smoke. Liquorice. Touch of peat?
Perfect balance between wood and fruit in the finish. We have a winner with this Glen Elgin!
Score: 91 points - by far the best whisky from Glen Elgin that I ever tried.
Glen Elgin 1978/2005 (47.5%, Adelphi, Cask #4512)
Nose: Very sweet. Faint oil. Organics. Nose-numbing. I'm having a bad nose day; I can't pick up a lot.
Taste: Sweet and very hot. Medicinal? Mighty pleasant, actually. Not a lot of depth or character, though.
Score: 84 points - not a lot of character in the nose but it works great on the palate. Very drinkable.
Revision: During my second try I didn't really found anything to add to my initial comments. 79 points it is.
Glen Elgin 12yo 1991/2004 (46%, Whisky Galore / Duncan Taylor, Sherry)
Nose: Sweet and a little grainy. A bit 'bourbony', but with a fairly solid malty undercurrent.
Faintest hint of glue - no obvious sherry influence. Starts to lean towards the fruitier side later.
It never becomes terribly complex, but it clearly benefits from time. Give this one at least 15 minutes.
Taste: Round and sweet start, growing bitter and a tad chemical in the centre. Good but a bit bland.
An odd little feature that earned it an extra point: a distinct camphor / eucalyptus taste on my lips.
Score: 76 points - a great whisky as a blend-beater, but a tad too generic for my personal tastes.
Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Not a lot of character - malty and quite fruity. Opens up a little after 10 minutes.
Taste: Smooth but very restrained. If you like your malt whiskies neutral, this is your thing.
Score: 65 points - it's certainly not a bad whisky, but I like my malts to show some personality.
Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Malty and sweetish. Some paint thinner in the start. Quite pleasant, but MOTR.
Taste: Pleasant sweetness, but little depth or development. Oily and soapy episodes.
Score: 73 points - A fairly decent single malt, but it just doesn't show enough personality for me.
I imagine this would work a little better in the heat of summer. Right now, I need more heat.
Glen Elgin 22yo 1978/2000 (53,3%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #4589, Velvet Box, 298 Bottles)
Nose: Quite similar in style. to the 12yo 1991 from Whisky Galore, but a tad more sour and fresh.
This one also has the sweetness and the glue, but some more depth. The glue / aceton grows stronger.
Very faint christmas spices in the background. Quite a bit of character compared to the 12yo from DT.
Taste: Oy.... Here the camphor / eaucalyptus is much more obvious. Molasses sweet in the centre.
Based on the nose I could go for the 80's, but the palate is just a little too hot and harsh for me.
Score: 79 points - I can't bring myself to put this sample from Thomas in the 'recommendable' 80's.
Glen Elgin NAS (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997, 75cl)
Nose: A pleasant sweetness. Soft honey with a hint of citrus.
Some interesting ingredients, but all in all too subdued for my taste.
Taste: More sweetness - Toffee. Smooth burn. Some 'orange' character in the taste; honey in the finish.
Very nice, but nothing more; this offers the minimum amount of enjoyment a 'good' single malt should offer.
Score: 70 points - would have scored higher with a bigger nose...
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glen Elgin Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Glen Elgin page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Glen Elgin expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or