The Glen Moray Elgin Heritage 18-Year-Old

The Glen Moray Elgin Heritage 18-Year-Old.

Bottled at 47.2% abv, Non Chill-Filtered. Price in the UK: £75. (As yet, unavailable in Israel).

For a background to Glen Moray and its other products, see my review of the Classic and 12-Year-Old here:
Being that the Glen Moray 12 was the first single malt I ever bought, I have always had a very nostalgic attachment to this distillery. With Glen Moray entering the Israeli market this year, I thought it was about time I tried one of their premium older aged expressions.
Looking on the online stores in the UK, this one seemed to fit the bill. An official bottling, bottled at higher strength, (why not go all the way and bottle at cask strength?) and lo and behold, Non Chill-Filtered, his 18-Year-Old caught my eye.
I decided to order from “Master Of Malts” simply because they were cheaper than the others. I must tell you how impressed I was with their service. I ordered an independent bottling of Caol Ila at the same time and both bottles arrived at my parents’ home in the UK, the very next day after ordering, and that was regular shipping. The bottles had been placed in sealed bubble-wrap bags for shipping and the boxes separately wrapped. I reckon I could have played “Bounce the Ball” with these wrapped bottles on a stone floor and they would have survived. (I just wonder what they would do with a very expensive collectible whisky that comes in a sealed presentation box? If they remove the bottle from its packaging it will dramatically affect its future value upon resale). Both bottles arrived in Israel via my parent’s suitcase the next month.
Packaging:

Overall, I like the packaging. It integrates very nicely into the range with the same basic design and colours but in a larger and more sophisticated box to represent its higher premium status. The sliding door mechanism is quite elegant and also practical. (I recently picked up a Milk And Honey Single Malt, 2nd Edition and although the box design looks good, it has one major fault which is that if you absentmindedly try and pick it up there is a very high probability of the bottle falling to the floor.  The problem is that the box is split into two parts in the middle like one of those wooden Russian Dolls. Make sure you pick up the box from the bottom!)
The Review


 I opened this bottle the night before my middle son’s Chasuna (Wedding), on Motzei Yom Kippur. An odd date to get married I would admit, but it had its advantages. We sat there, Glencairn glasses in hand, father and son, looking over the kesuba and checking that all the names were correct. My son, who is not much older that this Glen Moray, was very grateful for the dram. We both found it enjoyable but rather closed and having a bit of an alcohol nose pinch. I told him that experience has taught me not to judge an older whisky upon first opening and in many cases, not for weeks afterwards.

I assume the colour is artificial so won’t bother commenting on this. (However, see marketing section below). The Non-Chill-Filtering was very evident however as the whisky has a lovely mesmerising viscosity to it, as you swirl it around the glass.

I decided not to write down any tasting notes or first impressions, waiting for this single malt to calm down after opening. Besides, all focus was on my son’s big day. The second time I sampled this was a week later during Chol HaMoed Sukkos. My parents were visiting from England and after dinner in the sukkah, I sat down with my father and we caught up with some family news whilst we sipped on our drams. Adding a teaspoon of water, the Glen Moray 18 had a lovely sweet walnut wood cocktail cabinet with sweet honey spices smell, and tasted quite fruity and white winey but the overall character and finish was still somewhat astringent. Irrespective of whether this was great whisky or not, Glen Moray 18 will forever be associated with these two very powerful memories.
Both my father and I enjoyed the whisky experience but I felt that this malt was still only hinting at what it was capable of. It wasn’t for another two weeks until I tried it again. It was now Friday night with my eldest son and daughter in-law, who were over for Shabbos.
With the bottle now at about 80% full, we were about to witness this whisky come of age!
The Nosing

Even before we added water, it was clear that the alcohol heat really calmed down.
With a teaspoon of water, those walnut cocktail cabinet and sweet spices were now accompanied by rich vanilla cake and sticky brown sugar. Perhaps a hint of coffee with malted milk drink? There was a fruity sweetness. A few weeks ago it was astringent white wine. Now that smell had metamorphosised into sweet Stewed apple.
Taste
On the palate, malty biscuits, apple strudel with white sultanas, peaches and sticky brown sugar and coffee cream. Molasses. Malty digestive biscuits with sweet spices with a medium finish.
This was really delicious. Stuff. What a pity that many would have given up on this after the first or even second session. To buttress my point, doing a Google for this whisky, I have not seen one good review of this Glen Moray 18. It only goes to show. This is another example where sending out by post, 5cl miniatures to reviewers for their opinions, would not have resulted in a positive review.
I left the glass for 15 minutes or so, to see If this whisky would open up even more. However, even I was not expecting such a spectacular improvement from good to something approaching true greatness.
OK, so obviously the delicious Shabbos food of the Friday night seuda must have been influencing my growing appreciation and enjoyment of this single malt or perhaps it really was a single malt that needs 20 minutes or more to open up. Lightly toasted challa and home-made chunky marmalade, white wine, white pears, red apples, a variety of kitchen spices, a body of malty barley an oat digestives, dry fudge tablets, enhanced aromas of polished furniture, old cocktail cabinets, dry honey with a hint of freshly cut grass in the background. Apple strudel with the green skins mixed in, raisins with wet pastry and burnt caramelised brown sugar on the increasingly long finish along with some bitter cinnamon and ginger. This was turning into a real stunner.
You don’t usually associate Speyside single malts with the word challenging. There is a reason why single malts from this region are by far the most popular and why they are considered the perfect whiskies for those just starting their exploration into Scotch single malts. They general character style is floral, caster sugar sweet, fruity, light and very approachable and undemanding.
Therefore, in my estimation, this Glen Moray 18 will not appeal to the average Speyside lover but it might well appeal to those experienced malt drinkers who thought that Speysiders no longer held any allure or fascination for them.
 
The Marketing of this whisky:
I don’t usually comment on this but I noticed that Glen Moray have a YouTube video where they are advertising the 18-Year-Old. They even reproduce the script in the description below the video. I’ve taken the liberty of copying it here.
Within our aged whisky range, Elgin Heritage and Elgin Reserve offer stunning Single Malts which encapsulate quality and accessibility.
 
Choose your own Glen Moray indulgence and let it whisk you off on a nostalgic journey. Unmistakably Glen Moray, impeccably Speyside.
 
The Glen Moray 18-year-old is made without compromise. Matured in the finest first-fill ex-Bourbon casks. Non-chill filtered and bottled at higher strength, this elegant whisky has a beautiful antique gold colour.
 
On the nose, there's a wonderful combination of toasted oak and caramelised autumn fruits.
 
On the taste, it's incredibly smooth and soft. Bottled at higher strength, sweet vanilla oak and a lovely fruitiness.
 
The finish is incredibly smooth and long. The sweet oak flavours subside and there's a little hint of spice that develops as the flavours subside in your mouth.
 
It really is a wonderful whisky.
 
Glen Moray Distillery was established in 1897 at the site of the old Elgin West Brewery. Nestled on the outskirts of the historic town of Elgin the distillery has been producing the finest single malt for more than a century.
 
Nestling on the banks of the river Lossie, the distillery sits in the Laich O’Moray, known as the granary of Scotland. Local legend claims that Moray is blessed with an extra 40 days of sunshine.
 
The marriage of our spirit and oak is something which is closely watched over the years of maturation.
We use ex bourbon barrels sourced from North America to mature Glen Moray and these produce a whisky with rich and spicy characteristics. These casks, specially selected by our master distiller of varying ages to ensure the highest quality of Whisky, deliver a superior product that has a smooth and well-rounded taste.”
 
Some comments on the above.


"Matured in the finest first-fill ex-Bourbon casks. Non-chill filtered and bottled at higher strength,"


The above statement deserves high praise indeed. Only a small minority of bottlings include the cask type or types on the label but Glen Moray go one further and tell us that these are First-Fill American Ex-Bourbon casks. Kol HaKavod! If only more distilleries would state the cask type and Fill number, it would make kashrus organisation's work so much easier. For everyone else, it is an opportunity for you to understand the influence of a highly active Ex-Bourbon cask.

“…this elegant whisky has a beautiful antique gold colour.”
This statement is pure marketing shpiel. You see, if this whisky was natural colour then by all means, describe it as it indicates cask quality and aging! But admiring an artificial colour is slightly disingenuous, unless you are giving homage to the manager who made the decision just how much of that 150a caramel colouring chemical to add to this whisky!
In my opinion, and I’m speaking as Glen Moray fan, it shows a lack of confidence in their own premium product. I’m asking you! Please bottle at natural colour! We don't need the added caramel. The product will stand up on its own merits.
Incredibly smooth, smooth and well-rounded, and did I mention it was smooth?
Peanut butter is smooth. Milk Chocolate is smooth. A pebble is smooth. 60s American Jazz is smooth. I can forgive the use of this word "smooth" once, but three times in 56 seconds!!!! Do me a lemon! It’s just irritating.
This wonderful single malt has been maturing in First Fill Ex-Bourbon casks for 18 long years only to be described by this distillery representative as “smooth”? It shows a complete lack of confidence in their own product!
The use of the term “smooth”
For most casual whisky drinkers, applying the term “smooth” to a lower price range whisky, simply means that it is palatable. That is, it isn’t rough, meaning that it doesn’t have a raw alcohol bite to it and taste like nail polish remover. It is completely non-offensive as it slides sweetly down the gullet. This however doesn’t necessarily make it a good whisky! Non-Offensive can also mean generic, boring and lacking in character.
Now, to describe this exceptional 18-Year-Old Speysider, Non-Chill Filtered, bottled at higher strength whisky, as “incredibly smooth”, is frankly, an insult!
Two Groups
There are two groups of people who might be tempted to buy this 18-Year-Old. The inverse-genius who decided to use the term “smooth” in Glen Moray’s marketing to describe this whisky has managed to alienate both of them! Well Done!
The first group is the serious whisky drinker who might be attracted by this craft presentation version of Glen Moray. Describing this 18-Year-Old as smooth will put them right off because the message being transmitted is, that despite looking like a craft presentation, it's actually “smooth”, that is, easy drinking, boring, generic and without any unique challenge.
The second group is the casual drinker with money to spend. He recognises the brand Glen Moray from the supermarket. Either he is looking for that special bottle for a special occasion or wishes to impress someone by spending a lot of money for a known brand that comes in a fancy box. To him, the word smooth is reassuring him, that this 18-Year-Old is just as, if not more approachable, easy drinking, straight from the bottle, goes down nice and sweet, than the 12-Year-Old. You thought the 12-Year-Old was smooth? Well, this is even smoooooother!
Consequently, unlike the 18-Year-Olds from the GenfiddLivetCardhuMacallan distillery and which are as “smooth”, unchallenging and boring (if not more!), than the 12-Year-Old from the same stable, this bottle of Glen Moray 18 will massively disappoint because it is anything but boring, unchallenging and, how can I put it? it aint SMOOTH going! (You see, I found a proper use of this word in a whisky review!)
In short, don’t listen to this bunch of marketing claptrap!
Conclusion


At 47.2% abv bottling strength, this single malt will give you a bit of an alcohol punch if drank straight. The whisky's true personality is trapped inside all that ethanol and will not fully show its true character after the whisky has begun to oxidise in the bottle for some weeks. This 18-Year-Old needs some experimentation with how much water to add according to your own personal taste. Even after a few weeks, after you have poured yourself a glass, it requires time to settle and acclimatise. This requires patience on your part. However, if you are willing to persevere, you will be rewarded with a most delicious dram, worthy of the very best that Speyside has to offer. In fact, it will make you see Speyside style in a completely different light.
I don’t want you to misunderstand me. This 18-Year-Old is still very much a Speysider and a Glen Moray. Sipping this along side the excellent Glen Moray 12-Year-Old, you can clearly see the evolution.
However, if you are reading this and still feel that you fit into the second group I described earlier, then skip this one. The Genfidd-Livet-Macallan-Morrangie 18-Year-Old is just what you are looking for.

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