Glen Elgin: A Speyside Story unlike Any Other

Among a number of reactions that the mention of Glen Elgin garners, a common one is respect to its amalgam of the Scotch traditions and the modern ideas of distilling fine varieties of single malt whisky. It continues to have a cult appeal among whisky lovers from around the world. Though it has changed rather frequently, the quality has never really dipped, making it a favourite among single malt whisky aficionados for its richness. Glen Elgin loyalists consider their blends distinctive for a number of reasons, one of which is their use of water from the pristine springs of Millbuise Loch, not far from the distillery.

Respecting the Conventions

In 1898, at the very end of the whisky boom, James Carle and William Simpson founded the Glen Elgin distillery at the heart of Speyside. The architect was the revered Charles Doig, and the location was chosen for its proximity to the water source and the railway lines. The initial years saw Glen Elgin struggle to keep pace with the changing times, resulting in the original owners letting go of the distillery for a loss, primarily due to permissions of using the railway being denied. Glen Elgin-Glenlivet Distillery Cofor acquired it in 1901 and kept the struggle on till 1906, when wine producer JJ Blanche & Co. acquired the distillery and restarted production. In 1930, on Blanche’s demise, the distillery was acquired by Scottish Malt Distillers for their White Horse brand, and over the next three decades the new owners used the brand for greater outreach. The distillery grew in size as the demand started shooting. By 1964, the number of stills was increased to six from two, and some of Glen Elgin’s blends gathered great momentum, especially in Italy and Japan. In 1992, the distillery closed operations in order to modernise itself. Since the acquisition of the distillery by Diageo in 1997, Glen Elgin has further flourished without compromising on its tradition of delivering the rich and fine whiskies that the distillery is synonymous to.

For those who love the sepia pages of history, Glen Elgin has more to offer than just fine whiskies. The distillery was entirely lit by paraffin till the early 1950s, while the engines were run by a water turbine. The distillery, to this day, remains a fairly small unit with a perfect combination of old and new. Conventional wooden wash backs remain present, as does the traditional worm tubs. The use of worm tubs instead of condensers for the purpose of cooling gives the spirit its distinctive richness. What also adds to the experience is presence of fresh water shrimps in abundance in the tubs. Also worth noting is that the Glen Elgin distillery is one of the very few distilleries that still houses copper worms. Though a Diageo product now, Glen Elgin’s labels still portray the White Horse emblem.

Keeping it Real

Glen Elgin’s 12 Year Old is the most-produced whisky by the distillery and it has gained in popularity over the years. Apart from the flagship, Glen Elgin also releases limited editions of some of the older whiskies, which have naturally gone on to demand collectors’ attention and admiration. Whiskies currently being bottled and shipped by Glen Elgin range between 12-year-old and 26-year-old, and Diageo has been steadfast in promoting Glen Elgin as a limited producer with a quality to swear by.

The 12-year-old variant has been lapped up by single malt whisky lovers from around the world. Given the distillery’s rich heritage and the conventional means of production, this whisky hasn’t disappointed. A radiant amber hue, a creamy texture and a rich taste are some of the salient qualities of this whisky that makes it stand out. The nose is rich with malt, cereals, honeycomb and coffee, giving it a rather interesting twist. The palate gets even more interesting with generous notes of butter on loaf, honey and a touch of tiramisu. As a result of such a simple yet well-crafted palate, the drink leaves the mouth in a state of creamy delight. The finish is long and notes of toasted oats and smoky embers linger on for quite some time.

The nature of Glen Elgin 12 Year Old is such that it is a quintessential drink. Though a Speyside old timer, it strikes a chord with bourbon lovers as well for its smooth, creamy texture. At 43% ABV, this whisky is neither too strong nor too light, making it delectable drink for a cross section of whisky loyalists. It can be had neat, but a few drops of water will only amplify its nature. Given the honey, coffee and buttery notes, it can also be had in form of creative cocktails. In the end, Glen Elgin’s untiring commitment to its century-old legacy makes its whiskies a connoisseur’s delight.