Age is but a number as the saying goes, but in whisky, age is a number which can warrant a higher retail price on a bottle. That stands to reason. The producer has to be patient, and there is often less stock available at older ages, with a lot of casks required to be disgorged at a younger age to fulfil the larger volume products. The whisky boom has put extra strain on these stocks, which has resulted in price hikes on older age statements going way above the standard rises we are seeing across the board.
I don’t know the stock situation at Glen Scotia distillery, but the prices for their aged stock have gained attention recently. Their 25 year old is now up at around £500, with a newly released limited annual release 21 year old coming in at £265. There is an 18 year old which can still be picked up for a not insignificant £110-120, but the prices of the 21 and 25 make you wonder how long that can last for before it gets moved a bit closer to the price of that 21.
Glen Scotia are not the only distillery putting a premium on their aged stock, with Talisker 18 the most notoriously derided price hike in the past 12 months, when it jumped from £85 to £185 overnight. Glenfarclas 25 was regularly £99 for a number of years, before they decided to double the price too. I could highlight other examples.
There have been smaller, but nevertheless noticable jumps too from anCnoc 18 and Arran 18, which went from low £70s to mid £90s in the last year, and I wonder how long those will last too before we see them in three figures. Deanston 18 and Ledaig 18 are currently hanging on between £70-£85, or perhaps less if you see a good deal. That surely can’t last forever with the quality in the bottle particular high too. Glen Moray and Loch Lomond 18’s at £70-80 are also worth a mention. The days of 18 year old malt whisky below £100 could be a thing of the past in the not too distant future.
The question is, do we need to stock up on our favourites? Yes and no is the answer, and its very much a personal decision for each individual. If you have a particular bottle with a significant age statement you love and you can afford to do so, maybe now is the time to get a bottle or two extra on the shelf. Well, maybe a year or two ago was the best time, but we’re dealing with the present for the sake of this article. I will admit to having done this with anCnoc 24, and Deanston 18, picking up a bottle when I could afford to having fallen in love with the first bottles I had. There are others I would consider doing this for too, but I don’t have unlimited resources and want to buy new whiskies I haven’t tried before, so I have to let them go.
As I said at the start of this piece, age is but a number, and there is plenty of choice out there at younger ages, and the more expensive older versions aren’t necessarily better. I mentioned Glenfarclas 25 earlier, which was well priced when it was £99, but the 15 has always been better in my opinion, and you get 46% ABV instead of 43%, and pay almost a quarter of the price nowadays.
Where does it end? Will 15 year old products come under increasing pressure in the next year or so? Speyburn 15 for £55, Glencadam 15 at £60 and Glen Scotia 15 for £65 currently. They’ve all been creeping to some extent. Where will they be in January 2024?
Since Loch Lomond Group took over at Glen Scotia back in 2014, the distillery has been on an upward trajectory that sees it’s reputation amongst whisky drinkers increasing all the time, and at the end of 2021, it won the coveted Scottish Whisky Distillery of the Year prize at the Scottish Whisky Awards.
As with its sister distillery at Loch Lomond, E150a is still used in the majority of the core range to add a touch of colour to their malts. The much celebrated Victoriana is one of the few that is natural in colour at Glen Scotia. One of the key plus point of this recently released Double Cask Rum Finish, is it has also been given the same unmolested treatment, but unlike the Victoriana, it is presented in plain glass, so we can marvel at its beautiful light, golden colour before we even pour a dram. Hopefully we are seeing the first steps towards the distillery moving away from E150a. Possibly not, but we live in hope.
Edit : Since publication I have been made aware that only the regular Double Cask and 15 year old currently have added colour in the 46% and above whiskies at Glen Scotia, and these are both going to be natural colour in the near future too, which is great news.
It is young, with five years of maturation in 100% first-fill ex-bourbon casks, followed by an eight month finish in Guyana rum barrels, before being bottled at 46%. It retails for a fraction under £50, which feels a touch high when you compare it with similarly presented 10-12 year old products from other distilleries. The standard Double Cask expression, which is matured in first-fill ex-bourbon and finished in PX sherry casks can be had for around £10 cheaper. However, we have to take into account this is a smaller limited release, and the promise of tropical fruits is something I find hard to resist, and the free delivery from the distillery web shop sweetened the deal. Let’s dive in a see if it delivers on the nose and palate too.
Glen Scotia Double Cask Rum Finish – Review
Nose : There’s plenty of sweetness, as you may come to expect from the rum casks, but there is a salinty also, which some may choose to describe as coastal, and it works well to balance all that sweetness. It’s a little spirity, and I get sour lemon and white grapes, along with pineapple upside down cake, vanilla and demerara sugar. It has a touch of that Campbeltown funkiness that’s so hard to explain, but you know when you experience it. Perhaps the best way I could word it is a hint of smoke, a pinch of salt, a dirty/leafy note, mechanical oils and farmyard aromas.
Palate : The mix of sweet and salty is immediately apparent, with the salt playing an even larger role than it was on the nose. Is salted honeycomb a thing? If not, it should be. I then get wood smoke, with black coffee and old leather bitterness. The fruit is mostly lemon, along with hints of tropical banana and pineapple notes, but we aren’t as overtly fruity as we were on the nose, with a bit of a ginger fizz and drying oak there too. As it develops it becomes drying and creamy, with chopped nuts, vanilla cream, wood smoke and licorice. The finish is moderate in length, with a continuing creaminess, salinity and light wood smoke. Apple peels making an appearance for the first time, and grassy farmyard notes only show themselves at the very end.
Conclusions : Overall this is a really enjoyable malt, with the tropical fruit notes the tasting notes promised delivering. I’d love that fruitiness to be a bit more prominent on the palate, but that would be my only minor criticism, and perhaps that says more about my love of overt fruit notes than anything else.
We’re still in a world where you will regularly see people comment about the colour of a whisky when it’s as dark as Coca Cola, which makes it understandable why producers still find it hard to move completely away from E150a. The more casual whisky drinker, who is unlikely to know about added colour with current regulations in the UK quite bafflingly not making it compulsory to state it on the label, has a certain expectation as to what colour a whisky should be. Personally I love this bright, golden hue you can see in the picture at the top of this piece, and I hope Loch Lomond Group will be brave enough to remove it from the majority of the range at Glen Scotia and Loch Lomond in the near future.
It is concerning that whiskies with a mid-late teens and beyond age statement are getting further away from us as the months and years tick by. You can’t quite replicate what happens to whisky after a decent amount of time in a quiet cask in a dusty warehouse in just a few short years. At the end of the day, there is not much we can do to stop these price rises, unless the entire world conspires to stop buying them, which isn’t going to happen when there are people with much deeper pockets than I have ready to pay whatever price.
I hear we could be seeing some more Double Cask releases with a range of other finishes on the shelves in the near future. I will look forward to those also proving that young whisky is good too.
Score : 6/10 Good