Spotlight on: Glenburgie, Part 1/2

It’s easy to loose sight of the fact that whisky – sales of – and the history of whisky at large, has predominantly been about blends and blending, and that the growing global interest for single malt whisky is still in its infancy. Tonight, we – the Sussex Whisky Appreciation Group – take a look at Chivas [Pernod Ricard]-owned Glenburgie, a distillery I’ve had little exposure to. Closed to the general public, Glenburgie’s output is destined for the world’s second highest selling blend, Ballantine’s. ‘Glenburgie’s one of their [Pernod Ricard’s] faithful workhorses‘, says Whiskyfun.

Pernod Ricard has Scotchwhisky.com ‘,… more than 100 production sites. It is active in 80 countries, and employs some 18,000 people. It boasts a large portfolio of premium international and local brands, with 37 premium international brands being grouped in what the company calls ‘The House of Brands.’. Pernod Ricard’s labels are Absolut vodka, Beefeater gin, Martell Cognac, Havana Club rum, Malibu, Perrier-Jouët and Mumm Champagne, and Jameson Irish whiskey. In terms of Scotch whisky, the market leaders of Chivas Brothers are Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute blended Scotches, and The Glenlivet and Aberlour single malts’.

Tonight, we are trying a varied selection of five Glenburgie’s, presented at various ages and from various cask types, all bottled at 46% abv or higher. Remarkably, as a single malt, I’ve tried no more than 14 expressions before now. That’s just one more than Karuizawa’s I’ve tried, which tells you how uncommon Glenburgie is, even for a single malt devotee.

More remarkably, it’s the first time I’ve attended a brand ambassador-hosted tasting that’s to showcase four independent bottlings. I’d have more expected a selection of whiskies from Pernod Ricard’s portfolio of one grain and twelve Scotch malt distilleries:

Aberlour, Allt-a-Bhainne, Braeval, Dalmunach, Glen Keith, Glenburgie, Glentauchers, Miltonduff, Scapa, Strathclyde, Strathisla, Glenlivet, and Tormore.

,… or a deconstructed flight of whiskies that make up Ballantine’s. But as it turns out, this is also a first for our host, Tristan Campbell [International Brand Ambassador for Chivas Brothers] – an all-Glenburgie whisky flight. Tonight’s whiskies come from SWAG member Will’s personal collection. Tristan has kindly offered to take us through these five whiskies as well as sharing a yet-to-be-published distillery tour video, filmed in-between lockdowns.

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BACKGROUND/HISTORY

Glenburgie is situated at the North West edge of the Speyside region, it’s nearest neighbours being Miltonduff and Glen Moray [#75 & 87].

Maltmadness says :‘The Glenburgie distillery (also known as Glenburgie-Glenlivet and Glen Burgie/ Glenburry) started producing malt whisky under the name Kilnflat [farm~distillery] in 1829. Well, at least that’s the official story – rumour has it that an illicit distillery was founded almost two decades earlier at the same location in 1810 by one William Paul. For some time, the Glencraig malt whisky has been produced at Glenburgie as well’,…… using two so-called ‘Lomond Stills’ that were in operation from 1958 until 1981.

A £4.3m expansion program went online in 2004/2005. Aside from the old excise house [and the Porteus Mill, obvs], the original distillery was demolished to make way for Glenburgie #2.

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STATS

  • 7.5 ton full-lauter mash tun
  • 12 stainless steel washbacks
  • Fermentation time is between 50-60 hours
  • 6 stills [two additional stills were added in 2004]
  • The wash stills at Glenburgie are smaller than the spirit stills. This explains why we see two 5-hour charges in the wash stills for one slow 10-hour run in the spirit still. This longer slow spirit run increases copper contact, perfect for creating a “smooth” spirit for blending purposes.
  • Aside from Ballantine’s 21yo that sees the use of European sherry casks for maturation, Glenburgie’s spirit is predominantly aged in ex-bourbon casks and matured in 4 dunnage, 2 racked, and two palletised warehouses.
  • Maximum capacity is 4.25mlpa, mostly all of which goes into blends [like Ballantine’s].

Whilst I try [in vain] to focus on Glenburgie’s single malt-narrative, and not that of Ballantine’s, the more it becomes clear that the story of Glenburgie is Ballantine’s.

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Ballantine’s is comprised of some 40 malts. In the main, it contains malt whisky from Glenburgie, neighbouring distillery Miltonduff, and Glentauchers [situated just down the road from Glen Keith] ‘,… and four grain whiskies, the blend delivers sweet vanilla and cocoa notes in its youth and among its no-age-statement expressions, building layers of honey, toffee and spice as the age developsSW. Scapa comes into play for Ballantine’s 17yo.

As a single malt, SW [again] ‘Allied only bottled it once – [which we shall try tonight] – and Chivas Bros. [Pernod Ricard] has only ever included it in its limited edition Cask Strength series [which are only available through the firms’ distillery visitors’ centres [e.g.WB & WB). It very occasionally pops up as an independent bottling, as do some of the last remaining stocks of Glencraig. It is not commonly seen other than as a bottling from Gordon & MacPhail. However, in July 2017 Glenburgie was released as a 15-year-old single malt WB (alongside expressions from Glentauchers and Miltonduff) under the Ballantine’s brand’. In addition, there is also an 18yo, also labelled under the Ballantine’s name.

Here are Glenburgie’s official bottlings currently listed on Whiskybase.

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Let’s take 5. In Part 2, we drink!

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END

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