Today’s review is of a whisky from the now-closed Glen Mhor Distillery, the youngest of three distilleries that operated in the town of Inverness – Glen Albyn (1844) and Millburn (1807), being the other two – for nearly 200 years before all three were closed in the 1980’s and the industry disappeared from the area.
As a key component in the Mackinlay blends, Glen Mhor was so critical that no “official bottlings” were released, meaning that our only opportunity to taste a Glen Mhor whisky comes from independent bottlers, and even those are very rare….and becoming rarer. I was fortunate to find a bottle of this Scott’s Selection Glen Mhor 1978, back in 2013 and opened it to share with some friends, including Michael over at Diving for Pearls who reviewed a sample I sent to him (here). This Glen Mhor 1978 whisky was bottled in 2004, making it approximately 26 years old, and it was bottled at a cask strength of 56% abv.
About the Glen Mhor Distillery
The Glen Mhor distillery was founded in 1892 by John Birnie and James Mackinlay of Charles Mackinlay & Co., the noted blenders from Leith. Birnie, who had previously worked at the neighboring Glen Albyn distillery, left Glen Albyn after an internal dispute, returned to the industry and the area when he joined Mackinlay. Despite their separate ownership, the Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn distilleries worked closely together. Then, in 1920, the two distilleries were formally joined when the Glen Mhor Company took over the Glen Albyn distillery. In 1972, William Birnie, the son of John Birnie, sold both Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn to DCL, Diageo’s predecessor.
Sadly, the Glen Mhor distillery operated for just less than a century; the first whisky was produced in 1894 and the distillery was closed in 1983, along with so many other distilleries who were victims of the Whisky Loch, a period of overproduction that coincided with a drop in demand which hit the scotch whisky industry in the 1970s. A few years later, in 1988, the Glen Mhor distillery was demolished and replaced by a shopping center.
Review: Scott’s Selection Glen Mhor 1978, distilled 1978, bottled 2004, 56% abv
Color: A rich gold
Nose: (Neat) A deep, rich, fruity nose full of tropical and orchard fruits, pineapple, mango, peaches, red apples, lemon citrus. A hint of peppered butter cream. There is also an accompanying sweet maltiness, a slight grassiness, and a touch of oak that keeps the fruits from making everything too one-dimensional. Neat, the alcohol bite causes this to be somewhat prickly on the nose. (Water) This remains still very fruity, with some more of the pears and green apples accompanying the tropical fruits, and with a persistent citrusy tanginess. It also develops a floral/grassy aspect, there is an increasing vanilla note, along with some clover honey, and that same soft malt and oakiness.
Taste: A rather hot, zesty and tangy arrival, with loads of fresh lemon and lime juice. With time I got more of the fruits – the pineapple, green apples, and peaches, some honey adds a creamy sweetness. This one vastly improved with water. The alcohol heat is muted, allowing the flavors to reveal themselves more clearly. This is a clean, somewhat sharp palate. the arrival remains zesty and citrusy, before the fruits and that growing vanilla reassert themselves. It now has a nice, softly oily mouthfeel. The honey and vanilla cream add more sweetness, yet there remain hints of oak in the peppery spice. I also got hints of dried grasses and a bit of brine.
Finish: Lemony, malty, bitter-sweet fruits, with maybe a touch of saltiness. Even with a good dose of water the finish remains quite long, heavily citric with a complementary honey and malty sweetness before becoming lightly drying – in a nice way. Quite lengthy.
Overall: Served neat, this is very hot, making it a bit difficult to appreciate. But with a little water, or maybe more than a little water, the alcohol becomes much less demanding and opens this whisky up very nicely. This has a sharply citric profile, perhaps slightly unbalanced by the citrusy notes, but it is intriguing and offers enough interest to make it time well spent with a glass. Certainly, the opportunity to sample a piece of vanished history is also part of the fun of this whisky!
Other reviews: Here are a couple of other reviews of this bottling, in case you’re interested.
Region: Northern Highlands (Inverness, Scotland)
Distillery: Glen Mhor (closed/demolished)
Bottler: Scott’s Selection
Type: Single Malt
Age: 26 year-old (+/-)
Price: $160 (2013) Hi-Time Wine Cellars Apr-13 $157.98
Availability: Auction/secondary market
Sample Source: My own bottle
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.