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Glenrothes Select Reserve

Review: Glenrothes Select Reserve Scotch Whisky   83.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on December 8, 2009

The Glenrothes Whisky is a good example of a typical Speyside Scotch Whisky. It carries malt and spice at the forefront of its flavour, and because of its well-rounded ‘speyside’ character this malt has been in use for decades as one of the important blending whiskies in some of the most famous Scottish Blends such as Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse. In fact, if you are a blended Scotch drinker and feel the inclination to move to the Single Malts, you will find the Glenrothes Blends to be an excellent introductory malt in which to begin the journey.

The Select Reserve was blended by Malt Master  “John Ramsey” to serve as the signature malt to represent the character of the Glenrothes Distillery. In order to capture the essence of Glenrothes, the Malt Master used whiskies from a variety of vintages, and from a variety of aged oak barrels (both Spanish Oak and American Oak).  Thus a spectrum of flavours from this variety of ages and oak is apparent in the final single malt blend. The whisky carries no age statement as the selection of casks from which to construct the final blend is based upon the final taste profile not upon the age of the selected casks.

In the Bottle 4/5

Glenrothes Select Reserve comes in a squat round clear decanter.  The decanter is protected to come extent by a rough plain brown cardboard sleeve container.  The sleeved container is open on two sides so that you can see the front and back labels of your bottle.  The handle for this cardboard sleeve is a piece of twine.  I wondered why they bothered with the cardboard sleeve. It has a rather cheap look and implies corners cut and compromises made.  On the other hand the squat decanter is fine especially the solid synthetic cork topper.

In the Glass  8.5/10

The scotch is  a light brown straw colour.  A little oily sheen forms on the sides of the glass, and I can see a few long slender legs running down the inside of the glass.  The aroma is rich with floral spice. Heather, anise and vanilla seem to be dominant.  There is also a sticky green apple sweetness rising from the glass and an abundance of dry apricot.  The nose is complex yet,  I would not call it harmonious; a certain discord is evident.

As I let the glass breathe I detect a maltiness rising from the glass, but this sensation is short-lived as spices continue to pour upwards to dominate the air above the glass.

In the Mouth  49.5/60

Vanilla and oak spices are met by a wave of fruity sweetness, which when combined with the anise and heather, creates a banquet of complex flavour in the mouth. The Select Reserve is a blend of Scotch whiskies of differing ages, and barreled in differing oaks. This, I am sure, helps give rise to the abundance of complexity.  But with this great complexity arises the difficulty of achieving balance between the contrasting flavours.  In particular the wave of fruity sweetness seems out of place, working well with the citrus qualities I taste, but perhaps clashing with the anise and heather.

A touch of maltiness helps bridge the gap but falls short of actually achieving balance.

In the Throat  13/15

The finish is refreshing with citrus spice and dry fruit flavours having their way at the end.

The Afterburn  8.5/10

I really enjoyed the complexity of flavour I encountered in the Glenrothes Select Reserve, as well as the spicy Speyside character. But that wave of fruity sweetness seemed out of step with the malt, and in fact seemed to compete with rather than to harmonize with the floral spice. It was this competition for my attention that kept the scores from climbing.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Cocktail:

To help the unify the floral flavours of anise and heather with the wave of fruit filled flavour, I usually enjoy this malt with a little soda. The addition of a slice of lemon seems to work well. Enjoy!

Glenrothes and Soda

1 oz Glenrothes Select
2 oz  Soda (Sometimes I use Sprite)
2 Large Ice cubes
Slice of Lemon in the Glass


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

6 Responses to “Glenrothes Select Reserve”

  1. rawkabillyrebel said

    I tried this 4 years ago and thought it was a very poor example of a single malt. Overpriced swill is what it was. There are great bargains out there but you need to be patient and not focus on the name.

    • I get the impression that you feet the malt is lacking (even more so than I).

      To your comment: I have mentioned in the past that this particular single malt reminds me very much of a blended scotch. Probably because of the mixing of various ages and various cask types. It was for this reason that I feel that this malt is a good first step away from the blends and toward the single malts.

  2. D Butler said

    Great description. However, the score would be 83.5/90, not 83.5/100

  3. Steve said

    Scotch with Sprite? Are you mad? 🙂 jk.

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