Luxe Guide - First Class Grain to Glass
Few beverages stir the soul like a well crafted Scotch. Selector explores how Dr Rachel Barrie, Master Blender, is reshaping the world of artisanal whisky across three iconic labels.
There is a undeniable art to high-end whisky. Centuries of refinement and tradition have bestowed on certain Scotch houses a reputation for excellence that begs to be tasted. Of the various styles of Scotch, single malts of course set the benchmark, and command the highest prices. Unlike standard blends, these are whiskies derived from a single distillery using only malted barley, and behind some of the world's finest examples of this revered style is the hand of Master Blender, Dr Rachel Barrie. Heralded as the “First Lady of Scotch”, Barrie is leading the way for three of Scotland’s oldest, most acclaimed distilleries: Benriach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh.
As Master Blender, she oversees each distillery’s maturation and blending process, experimenting with casks to determine the best ways to bring the spirit to life; an approach that stems from a rich personal relationship with whisky, and a desire to craft a product that’s distinct to each distillery while upholding their time-honoured traditions. Such commitment to craft has not only seen Barrie inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Whisky Hall of Fame, but also gained her the title of ‘Keeper of the Quaich' and membership into its exclusive society of whisky lovers – rare privileges, particularly as a woman in a male-dominated industry. The following award-winning whiskies from Benriach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, crafted by Dr Barrie, are true small batch marvels, deserving of a place in any whisky aficionado's collection.
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Think how much you have developed and matured over the past 21 years. Now, apply that insight to a premium single malt whisky, and you may begin to grasp how Benriach "The Twenty One" brims with character and complexity, as befits a distillery founded in 1898. The Twenty One is a progressive expression crafted from unpeated and peated spirits that grant a sense of smokiness. The whisky then spends no less than 21 years maturing across four distinct casks and barrels from around the globe – including virgin oak casks, Bordeaux red wine casks, sherry casks and bourbon barrels – imbuing a wonderful layering of flavours and aromas, mellowing the spirit while maintaining its peated smokiness. The eclectic use of casks and barrels presents fruit, malt and spice on the nose before the elegant honey smoke reaches your palate, leading the The Twenty One to earn a Double Gold Medal at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and again in 2022. Today, Barrie and her team are continuing to embrace the heritage of the Benriach name while experimenting with unconventional angles to craft fruit-forward whiskies, making this and other releases under the Benriach banner excellent representations of the celebrated Speyside style.
Colour: Honey gold
Nose: Berry fruit, orchard apple, wild honey and mountain oak spice
Palate: Candied grape, rich cocoa, smoked pine nut, caramelised pear and honey smoke
Benriach "The Twenty One"
GlenDronach is one of Scotland's oldest licenced distilleries, having operated in the Scottish Highlands since 1826. This is a label steeped in heritage, with an experienced team of distillers continuing the near-200-year tradition of producing richly sherried single malts. Handcrafted from local ingredients, including freshwater from a nearby underground spring and malted barley from local suppliers, the marriage of Highland spirit with Spanish oak makes the GlenDronach Original a real treat. About 70% of whisky flavour is derived from casks during ageing, and 12 years spent in the finest Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks from Andalucia, Spain has given Rachel Barrie an exquisite selection of whisky to blend. Sample a dram or two to appreciate the rich sherry flavours, complemented by notes of smooth vanilla and soft fruit before the memorably long and nutty finish. The GlenDronach Original Aged 12 Years has multiple awards to its name, including the recent additions of a Gold Medal at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, following a Gold at the 2021 International Wine & Spirits Competition. Without doubt, a masterful drop.
Colour: Deep amber-red gold
Nose: Creamy vanilla, hints of ginger, spiced mulled wine and pear
Palate: Rich oak, sweet sherry, fruit and spice with a dry finish
GlenDronach Original Aged 12 Years
Glenglassaugh is a boutique coastal distillery overlooking the eastern shores of Sandend Bay on Scotland’s Moray Coast. As such, this is a whisky shaped by land and sea, each bottle containing a hint of sea air. Founded in 1875, the distillery enjoyed over a century of success producing quality whisky before closing its doors in 1986. The aptly named "Revival" is the first whisky produced by this iconic distillery since investors reopened its doors in late 2008. Crafted using quality Scottish barley and traditional distilling methods, the Revival is an approachable whisky with abundant flavour, matured in a balanced mix of former red wine casks and fresh bourbon barrels, then vatted for double maturation in rich sherry casks. Oozing coastal charm with a complex profile blending sweet, savoury and traditional spice characters, it earned a Gold Medal at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and another at the 2021 International Wine & Spirits Competition, putting Glenglassaugh back on the radar of serious collectors.
Origin: Coastal Highlands
Nose: Caramel, toffee, walnut, sherry, honey, ripe plums, berries, oranges and earthy, charred oak
Palate: Creamy, with oranges, plums, cherry, walnut, chocolate, honey mead, spiced oak, and a sherry caramel finish
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