Monday, 12 April 2010

#374 - Glenrothes Approvals

A few days ago our Taiwanese malt maniac Ho-cheng Yao wondered about something that I had wondered about as well a few years ago. Around the turn of the millennium, the labels of every official bottling of the Glenrothes malt whisky contained two dates; a 'checked' date and an 'approved' date. Oddly enough, the bottling year was sometimes different from the approval year.When Ho-cheng brought up this question again, there was quite some speculation amongst the maniacs before Martine Nouet was clever enough to simply pass our questions along to Ronnie Cox of Glenrothes. This afternoon I received this enlightening response from Ronnie;

"Dear Johannes, I received this from one of the Malt Maniacs and perhaps you'd like to share this reply with the others.

The Glenrothes Vintages are a collection of casks chosen to represent a style,  mood or personality of The Glenrothes. Each Vintage will be different and vary in accordance with time spent in the cask and the type of casks selected. It is certainly true that some Vintages have sold several thousand cases (sold over a few years) but others can be measured in hundreds of cases. A Malt like The Glenrothes which sells less than 20,000 cases of combined vintages p.a. is tiny compared to the top volume malts. Vintages of The Glenrothes represent no more than 2% of the distilleries' annual production capacity. To put it into perspective Glenrothes can produce 870,000 equivalent cases of spirit @ 43% per annum.

To your doubts:

The "Checked" date merely indicates the year when the New Make Spirit was approved, by the laboratory or distillery, for maturation in the casks selected for this Vintage.

The "Approved" year is when is was originally approved by the Malt Master and ourselves in London, for bottling.

If there is a difference on the label between the "Approved" year and year of bottling, it means that whilst the whiskies were from the same original vatting, they were bottled after the approval date. The process is as follows: once vatted and reduced to 45% the vatted Vintage is returned to cask where it remains until it is needed. This "marriage" will occur over several months (normally about 6) before the first bottling is made. A second bottling of this same Vintage (and original stock) is sometimes made in a subsequent year.

The casks used for the marrying process are what we call "inactive" casks - having served their useful and active life. They contribute nothing to the flavour at this stage but simply act as a vehicle to store the Vintage and to allow the marrying process to take place following the disturbance of water reduction.

I hope that this answers Ho-cheng Yao's question as well. I should perhaps add, for clarification, that when the marrying takes place in "oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres", it is legally ageing.  This isn't relevant to The Glenrothes as we don't talk about age (as age tells us little about the maturity and flavour) but, of course, we make sure that the correct year of bottling is on the label for those who want to know.

Let me know if there are any other questions.....(...) A lot of whisky has crossed the bar since we last met." 

Excellent - I think that answers all our questions... Thanks, Ronnie!

I will update the Glenrothes distillery profile accordingly.

Sweet drams...