Glen Moray Masters of Cask

There has been great discussion regarding cask regulations over the past few years as innovative Master Distillers sought to incorporate different barrels into the whisky maturation process.  A milestone in this process was the 1988 United Distillers Classic Malts which paired their classic malts with a range of barrel finishes. Read my comparison of the originals with their modern equivalents.

Historically, the rule was oak barrels with the proviso of ‘sufficient evidence of traditional use.”’ The SWA legal guidance was that this meant; ‘such as ex Bourbon or Sherry’.    As this was only guidance over the period we saw experimentation of different varieties of spirit, wine and beer barrels.  This situation was clarified in June this year 2019 with specific changes to the Scottish Whisky Association regulations Technical Document governing casks:

The spirit must be matured in new oak casks and/or in oak casks which have only been used to mature wine (still or fortified) and/or beer/ale and/or spirits with the exception of: 

  • wine, beer/ale or spirits produced from, or made with, stone fruits;
  • beer/ale to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after fermentation; 
  • spirits to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after distillation and where such previous maturation is part of the traditional processes for those wines, beer/ales or spirits. “

This ratified many of the  experiments already being undertaken and effectively opened the experiment opportunities further, although not far enough for many.  I have greatly enjoyed Glen Moray’s forays into this area so I was delighted to participate in their now annual tweet tasting event featuring a couple of  core range specials and two distillery experimental releases.

Here is what the Scottish Whisky Association Regulations say about Finishing:

Regardless of the type of cask used, the resulting product must have the traditional colour, taste and aroma characteristics of Scotch Whisky. These requirements also apply to any finishing as referred to below. Casks must be empty of their previous contents prior to being filled with Scotch Whisky or with spirit destined to become Scotch Whisky. The type of cask used for maturation will have been determined by the Chief Blender who is seeking a particular character for the final whisky

A finish can be achieved within as little as 200 days but a few years is the more common practice.  Glen Moray have been in my opinion one of the most successful distillers in using a range of different cask and have been particularly successful in the often tricky area of utilising wine casks. To my review of the tweet tasting.

Image courtesy of the Glen Moray

Rhum Agricole Finish 46.3% ABV

Matured in Bourbon Casks and then finished for 2 years in casks which previously held a Rum from Martinique. La Martinequaisse owners of Glen Moray also own St. James rum one of the premier Rhum Agricoles is made from pressed sugar cane rather than Molasses and called Rhum not Rum because it is in French. La Martinequaisse is a very large multinational Drinks company, owners of the Cutty Sark blend.

No doubting the Caribbean influence on this whisky.   A great match for the Speyside spirit.  

On the Nose I get toffee, then a citrus note – grapefruit with caramelised sugar that molasses cane sugar smell  then unmistakable  coconut, pear drops or acetone.

The Palate starts floral then gives strong berry notes, if I had to be specific it is for me  blackberries, the fruitiness continues with pineapple, banana finally spicy black pepper, ginger.  A great overture just adding to my anticipation of the evening, this cask sets off the spirit nicely.  I really enjoyed this whisky. This is one of the best Rum barrel finishes I have tasted.

Image courtesy of the Glen Moray

PortWood 21 year old 46.3% ABV

This new release has been widely anticipated.  I have tasted a number of Port finished whiskies and a port finish can produce shall we say variable  success.  At first nosing I can tell this is at the top of the range of outcomes.  

On the Nose I get something floral or herbal it is lavender or  violets, then the fruits emerge  plums and grapes, then the barrel notes emerge with  vanilla, then rich-tea biscuits. A lovely classy nose which develops more and more over time.

This heralds the Palate which is smooth, with fruit cake, liquorice toffee, milk chocolate,  pepper, chilli and ginger.  It is a very complete whisky with great balance and complexity.  Much more depth of flavour than the light nose might have suggested.

This is an excellent whisky.  One I would recommend.  For a significant number of tasters this was their favourite dram of the evening.   

image courtesy of Glen Moray

Edinburgh Rugby cask Chardonnay 52.8%

I held a season ticket at Edinburgh Rugby for a while and rarely miss following a match so was interested to see what as a sponsor Glen Moray had produced as its Edinburgh Rugby Special.  Cask Strength Glen Morays usually deliver.

 The Nose is a little closed at first but then opens to reveal  orange blossom then I get distinctive heather honey, then pears. There are darker musty notes leather, and dark chocolate,  a hint of smoke but there is lots to enjoy.  

 The Palate is initially a shock – a pleasant one –   very different from the nose, progressing through pear, hazelnuts, cocoa, caramac,  nutmeg and cloves, finally a chilli and  ginger hit.  I enjoyed this limited edition.  More chardonnay on the nose than on the palate, but a good barrel support for the spirit.  I might have ranked this the best of the evening until we moved on…

image by Geoff

2014 Peated Gamay cask 60.4% ABV

There are many reasons the online tasting community eagerly awaits the opportunity to enjoy a Glen Moray tasting. Those in the ‘know’ eagerly anticipate the Glen Moray distillery exclusives which are always special and at cask strength, real quality craft whisky. Glen Moray probably due to the work of Graham Coull and his wife Fay, along with Iain and Emma have engaged more than any other Distillery with the online community.

My expectations are high and from pouring this dram, its provocative aroma mean that I can’t wait to taste it. For a Speyside distillery Glen Moray have a wonderful touch with the use of peated barley.

The previous three whiskies we tasted have finishes but the Peated Gamay was matured for 5 years entirely in Gamay wine casks. Gamay is a fairly soft light bodied red wine similar to Pinot Noir

Nose: Sweet Peat, brandy snaps, cooking apples, a tar note, that interesting sweet burnt smell as you pass a new laid road surface, in no way out of place in this whisky.    

The rather excellent Palate reveals  syrup, gooey, smooth syrup, a fizz of sherbet lemon, then  chocolate, cherries, toast,  liquorice cinnamon and  cloves. A well developed whisky on the palate with the Gamay cask giving more depth of fruit flavour and the well balanced varied peat notes.

This is the best peated Speyside I have tasted. The Gamay adding a fruity spicy balance to the phenol notes.

Highly recommended. I bought a bottle of this for myself and will probably pick up a Rhum Agricole Glen Moray as well. The 21 year old Portwood and Edinburgh special were both excellent whiskies just not a fit for my collection at the moment largely because I am on a warning bot to buy any more whisky with Christmas approaching.

These four whiskies delivered a wonderful tasting experience.  I welcome the move to open up whisky to new paths.  Traditional age statement whisky is a strong enough brand to endure  new ideas and experiments and will I believe probably benefit from this widening of consumers experiences.  Glen Moray’s Elgin Heritage range being a good example of these.

I have tasted tequila cask and calvados cask finishes recently  as well as a range of wine and other finishes.  I love brandy cask finishes with the distinctive Tronçaise oak.  I am not a fan of calvados cask finish! Finishes and novel cask experiments are here to stay and I love the best of these.

Our Scottish Master Distillers expertise deserves to be offered the greatest opportunity to explore and deliver more and more experiences.  I believe that the more you experience the greater your appreciation of the core traditional product.  

Finally word of congratulations, farewell and good luck to Graham Coull  and Fay as they move to pastures new It seems strange to think that we will continue to enjoy Graham’s expertise at Glen Moray for the next, 20, 30, 40 years maybe more. Thank you Graham. I raise a glass and give you both, Bon-Accord, the toast of the city of Aberdeen:

Happy to meet. Sorry to part. Happy to meet again!


Bon – Accord

A word of welcome also to Dr. Kirstie McCallum, recently appointed as the new Head of Whisky Creation at Glen Moray. I look forward to the expressions that you will reveal in future. We have already enjoyed Kirstie’s skills at Distell where she was responsible for the Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory single malts and theDistell’s blends.

Thank you Glen Moray for the samples and to Steve Rush @TheWhiskyWire and @TweetTastings for hosting this event.