The Glen Moray distillery started out as the West Brewery (founded in
1828), but in 1897 it was converted into a whisky distillery with two stills.
Glen Moray was operational until 1910 when it was closed.
In 1920 Macdonald & Muir (who already owned a share in the
Glenmorangie distillery) bought Glen Moray after the distillery found
itself confronted with financial problems. The new owners (who were
offered to buy Aberlour at the same time but chose Glen Moray)
managed to resume production in 1923. With the exception of the year
1932 when no whisky was produced at all, the distillery remained in
production until 1958 when it was reconstructed.
When the Glen Moray distillery was rebuilt in 1958 the traditional floor
maltings were replaced with a so-called Saladin box - which remained
in use for two decades. In 1978 the malting at the distillery ceased
altogether and one year later the number of stills was expanded from
two to four.
It was briefly reopened in 1912 but closed again the same year,
after which the distillery remained silent for almost a decade.
In 1996 Macdonald & Muir Ltd. changed their name to Glenmorangie plc.
This was indicative for a stronger focus on the Glenmorangie brand, a focus that grew even stronger when
Glenmorangie plc was sold to purveyors of luxury products Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey in 2004. So, it didn't
really come as a surprise when Louis Vuitton announced in 2008 that they wanted to withdraw from the production
of malt whisky for blends altogether. In 2008 French company La Martiniquaise bought Glen Moray.
When Glenmorangie and Glen Moray were still owned by the same company,
Glen Moray's portfolio was expanded along the lines of earlier Glenmorangie
brand extensions; 'finished' whiskies. Some five years after Glenmorangie
launched its Port, Madeira & Sherry finishes in 1994, Glen Moray followed
suit with a Chardonnay finished bottling without an age statement and two
Chenin Blanc versions, one 12yo and the other slightly older at 16yo.
I have to admit that it was around the same time that I fell out of love with
Glen Moray. During the 1990's I have consumed many bottles of the regular
Glen Moray 12yo, depicted at the right. It wasn't a 'high flyer', but a very
decent malt whisky with a very decent price tag.
The friendly price guaranteed the regular Glen Moray 12yo a spot on my
Bang-For-Your-Buck List of single malt whiskies with a the best relation
between price and quality. However, by the turn of the millennium the
aforementioned 'finishes' appeared and most of the Glen Moray portfolio
lost its charm for me. The recent releases (especially the younger ones)
simply didn't excite me quite as much as they used to.
What's more, due to their focus on producing affordable whiskies they
never laid down large stocks of older casks of Glen Moray malt whisky.
There have only been a handful of older releases, there's a 30yo OB
and 1963 and 1964 vintages were released in 2006.
Glen Moray's portfolio was rejuvenated as well.
If I'm not mistaken, the 12 years old OB depicted at the left was the youngest bottle in the range
during the 1990's, but these days the standard Glen Moray is the 'classic'. It doesn’t have a
proper age statement, but it’s presumably circa eight years old. This fits with ongoing attempts
from 'the industry' to try to encourage consumers to get accustomed to younger and blander
whiskies. They're not upfront about this, though. In 2008 the Glen Moray website said;
"Glen Moray Distillery nestles on the banks of the River Lossie in the city of Elgin, the capital of Speyside, a region synonymous with malt whisky. Glen Moray Single Malt Whisky has been distilled here since 1897 by a small dedicated team of craftsmen. In over a century of distilling at Glen Moray, much has changed, however the ingredients, processes and skills of those responsible for producing Glen Moray remain constant."
Well, that's the romantic fairy tale - or, to be more frank, a big fat fib!
For one thing, it's highly likely that the ingredients have indeed changed; more and more of
the barley to make 'Scotch' whisky is shipped in from abroad. And as far as the processes
are concerned: those MOST DEFINITELY did not include the deliberate finishing of whisky
in 'maturing' wine casks - this is a fairly recent invention. In the past second hand wine
casks (which were originally used to transport wine) may have been used accidentally, but
‘finishing’ was never a regular industry practice.
Last but not least: when I checked it out in 2018, prices for Glen Moray were still friendly.
The Glen Moray distillery is located in the ‘Lossie’ area of Speyside,
named after the Lossie River that runs through it. Nearby distilleries
include Benriach, Glenburgie, Glenlossie, Linkwood and Miltonduff.
The Lossie River is also the water source for Glen Moray.
The area around the town of Elgin (the ‘capital’ of Speyside) is beautiful,
so that makes Glen Moray an excellent destination for a distillery visit.
The distillery is open on weekdays from 9:00 AM to 17:00 PM.
The normal ‘dry’ tour costs only 5 pounds (which makes it cheaper than most other distilleries) and for an extra
fiver you get to sample four drams from Glen Moray’s ‘Classic Collection’. So, that’s great value for money...
1) The Glen Moray distillery is located near the historical
Fort George, just below the Gallowcrook Hill (where, until
the end of the 17th century, executions were carried out).
2) The original road into Elgin (the capital of Speyside)
passes through the distillery grounds. This used to be an
important road and some historical figures are said to have
travelled along it, including Macbeth, Saint Columba,
King Duncan and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
3) According to their website, Glen Moray exclusively uses
ex-bourbon barrels from North America to mature the Glen
Moray malt whisky. These are said to produce a whisky with
rich and spicy characteristics, delivering a superior product
that has a smooth and well-rounded taste. (Well, obviously
they use other types of casks for their ‘finishes’ as well...)
4) New French owners La Martiniquaise already owned
several blend brands - including Glen Turner & Label 5.
These brands are not available in many whisky markets, but
in France they are among the most common blended whiskies.
5) The last time that new pot stills were installed at Glen Moray distillery was in 1992.
6) Glen Moray is located on the coast of the Moray Firth - the bay between Inverness and the North Sea.
2004 - For a long time, Glen Moray has been the
'sister distillery' of Glenmorangie, under the same
ownership. Both distilleries came under new
ownership when Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy
from France acquired their mother company
Glenmorangie plc (which had operated under
the name Macdonald & Muir Ltd. until 1996).
2009 - For the first time in its history, Glen Moray
produces a batch of peated spirit (at 40 PPM).
2013 - Until now most ‘finishes’ by Glen Moray were fairly young, but now a 25yo Port Finish is released.
2018 - In order to celebrate Glen Moray’s 120th birthday, Master Distiller Graham Coull decided to commission
artist Daniel Fairbairn to produce three paintings for the tasting room of the distillery.
2006 - French company La Martiniquaise shows
interest in the distillery and a so-called 'Heads of
Terms agreement' for the sale of Glen Moray is
signed. The deal went ahead and the sale was
completed on October 31, 2008.
Glen Moray 24yo 1986/2011 (51.7%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, C#2306, 249 Bts.)
Nose: Organics and spices right away. Coconut - the liquorice all sorts variety rather than the real stuff.
Quite lovely. String beans. Echoes of the organics I found in the start. A lovely and evolving complexity.
Taste: Fairly mellow and not as 'fresh' as the nose. Menthol. A gentle but very long, cool finish.
The tannins hang around extremely long. Touch of pine. Vanilla too - I usually have a blind spot for that.
Score: 85 points - this one was pushed into the shadows a bit at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2011.
Glen Moray 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007)
Nose: Prickly. Chloride. Some subtle fruits (kiwi) emerges after a while. Not as 'round' as it used to be.
Taste: Chalk and yoghurt - I'm afraid that's all my notes say. So, not too expressive I guess.
Score: 70 points - this old favourite has now ended up at the bottom of the 'average' bracket.
Glen Moray NAS 'Chardonnay' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001)
Nose: Sweet and sour. Yeast or dough? Some oil in the background as well. It has a very distinct fruity element.
It reminds me of a young white wine or grappa. Smokier, spicier and peatier after five minutes.
Taste: Sweet and malty on the palate. A little nutty. Not very powerful.
Alcoholic. Quite flat, to tell you the truth. Dry and winey finish. An unbalanced bottling of Glen Moray.
Score: 71 points - Nice, but it lacks depth and complexity. Light and accessible.
Glen Moray 12yo 'Chenin Blanc' (40%, OB, 'Mellowed in Wine Barrels', Bottled +/- 2001)
Nose: Faintly oily with a few woody notes. Soft sweetness. Peppery.
Some salt after a while. More 'winey' after a few minutes. Oily with something reminding me of sweet cakes.
Taste: Round and smooth at first. Some sweetness. Then bitter and sour. Oaky - more so than the 'classic'.
Very dry finish, a little gritty. This stuff makes you thirsty and go for a quick refill.
Score: 72 points - the finish of the Chenin Blanc version is oakier than that of the older 'classic' version.
Glen Moray 12yo 'Elgin Classic' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Heather with a dash of sherry. Some smoke; a little peat later on. Slightly smoky?
Sweet. Grassy? Some very faint citrus notes after 10 minutes. Really opens up.
Taste: A warm glow; very malty. Rather smooth and creamy. A little too dry in the finish.
Score: 75 points - too bad this whisky was replaced with the 'Chenin Blanc' version.
Glen Moray 12yo 'Elgin Classic' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1995, 70cl)
Nose: It displayed a fresh and round aroma. Sweets?
The bouquet of this Glen Moray triggered an overpowering flashback of heather in August.
Taste: Fresh and spicy, but unfortunately it disappeared too soon. Quite dry.
Score: 75 points - a nice autumn-malt by Glen Moray at a very nice price, too.
The Glen Moray 13yo 1980/1993 (43%, Master of Malt, Cask #80/81)
Nose: Grainy and a little oily - but altogether not very expressive. Something dusty?
Much lighter than any of the OB's I've tried - it has none of the 'malty' character.
Taste: Oy! A little soapy at first. Then sweeter and fruitier, followed by smoke.
Hmmm, despite a weak start it grows on me very quickly. Very pleasant mouth feel.
Score: 72 points - not a bad malt whisky, but it loses points in the nose AND on the palate.
The nose has none of the warm and fuzzy maltiness I found in the old OB's of the 1990's.
Glen Moray 10yo (70° Proof, OB, Black label with vintage in red square, Bottled +/- 1980)
Nose: Sweet with a hint of raspberry. Very elegant. Drops off relatively quickly, though... Chartreuse.
Taste: Hmmm... Something 'herbal' (Jagermeister) I'm not too crazy about. Incredible body. Bitter finish.
Score: 80 points - making it the best Glen Moray I've tried so far. Gradually loses a few points over time.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glen Moray malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glen Moray I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glen Moray.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.