In this article, we are focusing on a whisky brand that takes the sun as its biggest inspiration for the various expressions it has on offer. With the “Soleo collection”, The Glenrothes offers us five unique solar venerations, all considered culminations of an intense care to distill the best possible product in the most natural way. Article by Mickaël.
It was the poet Dylan Thomas who penned down the now-famous stanzas “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, thereby creating a poetic image of death as the figurative dying of light, the setting of the sun, the arrival of ever-lasting night. As whisky is a distilled alcohol, which was known in Latin as ‘the water of life’ (aqua vitae), it is only a small step to consider whisky as ‘a metaphorical way to keep the darkness at bay’. If not, have a dram and try again.
The Soleo collection
In the more than capable hands of Edrington, The Glenrothes has moved away from a focus on vintage whiskies by releasing its Soleo collection, a love letter to the Andalusian sun, which not only influences the aroma and taste of their whiskies, but also their distinct color. Linguists with an affinity for the Spanish language undoubtedly know that “soleo” is the first person singular of the verb “solear”, which means “to sunbathe”, but also “to put in the sun”.
In that sense, The Glenrothes made sure that the sun is ultimately ever-present in their range. The five expressions are homages to the sun-dried grapes that are used to create high-quality sherry in the Jerez region of Spain, which in their turn provide The Glenrothes with a selection of exquisite sherry casks.
The continued quest to distill a high-quality product that is completely natural has not limited The Glenrothes, and it has certainly not stopped them from trying new combinations. Every expression of their collection has been matured on sherry casks, some exclusively on casks made from European oak or American oak, others on a combination of the two. Incidentally, all sherry casks that are used in the maturation of The Glenrothes have been specifically made for them. Added to that, the whisky makers also have the option to use sherry casks that up to then have only contained sherry, which obviously greatly influences the aroma and taste of the individual expressions.
The maturation on only the best sherry casks also influences the color of the whiskies, and the five expressions visualize the daily journey of the sun, from midday to the final beams of light right before sunset. In this sense, the 10 year old expression symbolizes the sun at its brightest: summer is here, and there’s not a cloud to be seen. The 18 year old is its counterpart, the last light before nightfall, autumn has passed, and the time has come to look up that armchair in front of the fireplace.
The Tasting Session
During the Spirits in the Sky festival a couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to attend the masterclass tasting of The Glenrothes, during which we inspected, sniffed, and experienced five distinct drams. Our tasting notes can be found below.
The Glenrothes 10 Year Old (ABV: 40%)
The first expression in the Soleo Collection is the 10 year old, which is a whisky best described as quick, reliable, and easy–going. The subtle vanilla notes are easy to spot, and there is some shortbread and a hint of lemon peel readily available. This is no-nonsense whisky in the collection. It’s easy on the nose and palate, and easy to pass around during a get-together.
The Glenrothes 12 Year Old (ABV: 40%)
Next up is the 12 Year Old, a whisky that should be named the ‘backbone of the brand’. With its vanilla, subtle spiciness, and notes of banana and melon, this dram has everything to entertain your palate. As aftertaste, the spiciness is still there, but accompanied by cinnamon. The 12 Year Old would be the whisky we recommend to people who want to enjoy a whisky that is both accessible and suitable for the more experienced whisky lover. Pass the bottle around, yes, but make sure there is something left for you!
The Glenrothes Whisky Maker’s Cut (ABV: 48.80%)
The Whisky Maker’s Cut distinguishes itself from the other whiskies in the Soleo Collection in a variety of ways. First of all, the label boldly leaves out any age statement. Connoisseurs know that no age statements sometimes are a way of hiding a mediocre whisky, though this is certainly not the case with this whisky. A higher alcohol percentage, combined with maturation on first–fill sherry casks only provide for a strong, well-balanced dram that gave us notes of nutmeg and orange peels while nosing. We tasted spicy vanilla, blended with orange peels, and were left with, again, nutmeg as an aftertaste. Undoubtedly, the Whisky Maker’s Cut is a favorite of ours: well-balanced, full of flavor, a dram to cherish.
The Glenrothes 18 Year Old (ABV: 43%)
The penultimate dram we tasted was the 18 Year Old, The Glenrothes’ expression of sophistication and complexity. Matured on mostly first-fill sherry casks, the nose hints at almonds and pear, although ever so delicately. While tasting, we discovered multiple layers of tastes, ranging from rose water, vanilla, pear, and a tingling hint of ginger as aftertaste. Difficult to figure out from the first sip, this is a whisky to experience. Enjoy the well-balanced liquid, which shifts from one flavor to the next.
The Glenrothes 25 Year Old (ABV: 43%)
The odd-one out in the Soleo collection is the 25 Year Old expression, as this is the only whisky that is still slightly influenced by the previous practice of maturation on bourbon casks, as it is obviously the oldest one of the expressions. However, the 25 year old was the first one to be matured predominantly on first-fill cherry casks. Our nosing revealed notes of tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple, but also cedar wood and coriander. Salted caramel dominates from the start, but interacts surprisingly well with the coriander seeds, which linger on the back of the palate, with some citrus and floral notes as aftertaste. It is best to take your time and explore this whisky. Let it breathe, and be amazed by how the nose and taste subtly seem to change after a while. This is a dram that keeps surprising, from first sip to last!
ConclusionThe Glenrothes Soleo Collection contains five distinct expressions, all 100% natural, and all matured on sherry casks. It came as a surprise to taste five drams that are so varied in nose and taste, and we have come to believe that every whisky enthusiast will be able to find a dram to his or her liking in the Soleo collection. If we had to decide, we would prefer the Whisky Maker’s Cut for the weekends, and the 25 Year Old for those special occasions. The Glenrothes brand has a great future on the horizon!