Glenkinchie Cask Strength
I love the hunt for difficult to find/rare whiskies. And who doesn’t? Everybody wants what nobody else can have, which is part of what has caused the insanity around Pappy Van Winkle over the past few years. There’s a mentality of scarcity/value that’s created with a limited supply of a product that people just go nuts over. That’s why every year, people worldwide lose their minds trying to hunt down every bottle of American Bourbon’s limited releases, such as the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Four Roses Limited Edition Releases (both single barrel and small batches), Pappy Van Winkle, etc. While many of those whiskies are fantastic – in my opinion they’re not always the best. I’ve had this experience both with distillery exclusive bottles, as well as travel retail exclusives. Again, many are great, but some have had me scratching my head a bit.
This also goes for barrel proof/cask strength whiskies. Yes, they’re the purest form of aged whiskey/whisky (and the ones I usually enjoy the most), but this lends credit to the master distillers and blenders who add water to the juice knowing they can produce an excellent whiskey/whisky by cutting down the proof. Doing so helps to temper the burn of the higher ABV so that you can taste and appreciate the flavors such as caramel, honey, etc.
Rare does not equate to “good.” Case in point – my experience with Glenkinchie’s Cask Strength, only available at the distillery. I was fortunate enough to make a trip to the Glenkinchie Distillery a few years ago during a stay in Scotland. I was still very new to the world of whiskies and only knew that I wanted what others could not get. I must have walked into hundreds of whisky stores talking to shop keepers about what brown liquor was not available back in the US, trying to figure out what I should bring home as trophies. I happened upon a great shop called Cadenhead’s which independently bottles whisky from all over Scotland. I’ll reserve that story for another post, but it was an interesting experience.
Back to Glenkinchie – it was the closest distillery to where I was staying in Edinburgh at only about a 30 minute drive. Given that I already enjoyed the Glenkinchie 12 year expression, I knew this would be a good trip. The distillery itself is very beautiful, if not surprisingly small and simple. They have a good tourist experience inside the distillery talking about the history of the brand and its association with Diageo. The tour itself is informative and it’s cool to see one of the storing warehouses where the whisky ages/rests. You’re then taken to a tasting room where you can sample various ages of Glenkinchie from the standard 12 year old, to the non-age stated Cask Strength – though our bartender informed me that the batch I was sampling was 18 years old. I honestly wasn’t too crazy about it, but the hype in my mind was screaming to buy a bottle since there was only one place in the world that people could buy it! What’s interesting is that the bartender even told me that even though it was rare, it wasn’t the preferred spirit of many people, but I wouldn’t have any of it!
a forensic artist’s real-life rendition of me at the Glenkinchie Distillery
So I bought a bottle and brought it back to the US. I cracked it open with some friends to share and it was…interesting, to say the least. One of my friends loved it and demanded more and more. Me? I was having trouble remembering why I purchased it in the first place as all I could taste was burning. Well, maybe not JUST burning, but it definitely wasn’t great. Here’s my formal review:
Glenkinchie Cask Strength
18 Years Old
Nose: I pick up some floral scents, along with honey, but much of it is masked by hints of metallic, almost copper aromas.
Taste: in the words of Ron Burgundy, this stuff packs a deep burn.
The high proof is such that it’s difficult to pick up the other flavors. The more tastes I give it, I can pick up some of the floral, honey, and subtle peat. I get some of the fruitiness, but again, the burn is just too overpowering and finishes rather bitterly.
In my mind, there is a reason this isn’t released to the general public. I really enjoy the 12 year bottling as it’s one of my go-to single malts, but for me – this bottle is more of a collector’s item. My friend, on the other hand, loved it and has ended up drinking most of it (hence why the bottle is almost finished). It just goes to show how opinions clearly vary between drinkers!
Rating: 2/5 barrels