Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Whisky Review: A Tale of Two Glen Elgins - Duncan Taylor vs. Signatory

Some time ago I mentioned on Twitter that there was an older Glen Elgin available at close-out prices in Oregon. After chatting with Tim Read, we established that it was one he had tried before. And loathed, utterly. He offered me a sample to experience it first hand and I accepted, with a certain amount of trepidation. Being the great guy that he is, he also included a sample of a much better Glen Elgin.

Duncan Taylor Glen Elgin 19 Year, 1991/2010, Cask #6347 - 53.6%

Nose: peculiar - almost peaty - funk layered over elderly women's hair product, Glenmorangie-style marshmallow-y sherry that is thrown off by the funk, baseball card bubblegum, malt hiding way in the back, slightly vegetal, very pink, 3 Musketeers bars/nougat. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes more sherry-focused, a bit sweeter/brighter, chocolate/nougat notes are stronger, soapy vanilla comes out, the vegetal notes tuck inside the sherry, there's a touch of low-grade incense smoke, and the sherry improves a bit with time.

Taste: starts with malty cask strength sweetness tinged with sherry, bubblegum notes build towards the back alongside growing plastic/artificial/funk, and there's a noticeable lack of oak. After dilution, there is malt/wood sweetness throughout, the oak finally makes itself known but comes to a bad/bitter end, the sherry is a dank gloss over everything, cheap imitation vanilla comes out, there's some raisin residue and cheap floral perfume at the back, with a thicker mouthfeel overall.

Finish: hints of oak, off-notes, sherry

What on god's green earth is wrong with this thing? I tried to find as much good in this as I could, but it's just not right. I can only guess that Duncan Taylor discovered that the cask had gone bad and decided to bottle it on the assumption that it wasn't going to get any better. I can sort of see what they were hoping for - something kind of like Glenmorangie Lasanta (which is a problem in and of itself for me), but they should be ashamed of having put something like this onto the market. One should expect more from a well-established independent bottler. Charging money for this whisky is just plain wrong.

It is hands down one of the worst whiskies I've ever had the misfortune to taste. I made it through half of the sample without too much trouble, but had to throw away the second half after the bizarre hair product notes became overwhelming. Seriously, don't drink this. Despite the fact that it can still be purchased, I would recommend any and all bottles be destroyed. I'm very glad that Tim was able to warn me away from this before I took a crack at it on the strength of the stats.

Signatory Cask Strength Glen Elgin 15 Year - 1991/2006

Nose: very noticeable alcohol (calms down a bit with time), moderately sherried with a slight vinegar edge, malty, not a lot of oak, kind of green, creamy. After adding a few drops of water, the alcohol tones down a bit but is still rather present, the malt gains some ground on the sherry, and a little toasted oak pops out.

Taste: rather hot throughout, mildly sherried, not a ton of oak, malt shows up near the back. After dilution, the mouthfeel becomes much thicker with a lot of sucrose/malt sweetness, and the sherry backs off a bit.

Finish: lots of heat, rather vegetal, green malt, light sherry, almost no oak, peculiar Glen Elgin funk

While not patently offensive like the Duncan Taylor, this one didn't sit well with me either. On the surface it seems like a fairly non-descript sherried Speysider. But the surprisingly high proof for its age that gives it so much heat isn't balanced by sufficiently strong flavors. Additionally, I found that it had an off-putting finish, which would have made it seem kind of immature. Part of me wonders if it would have been better off bottled at 46%, as a heavier hand with water seems to settle it down a lot, but only to the level of OK rather than great.

With that said, the crew at LAWS really enjoyed this one, so results may vary if you can still find a bottle floating around.

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