The samples on show were the Classic, the Classic Port Cask and the Classic Peated along with samples of Standard New Make and Peated New Make.
Based in Speyside, on the banks of the River Lossie, just outside Elgin, Glen Moray Distillery has been quietly going about it's business since 1897, after originally starting life as a brewery.
The distillery was closed in 1910 before being purchased, by the then owners of Glenmorangie, in and around the 1920s. In 1958 the owners set about adding two more stills, to the two that were already present, thus increasing capacity to around 2,000,000 litres per annum.
The distillery was then sold on, in 2008, to the French spirits company "La Martiniquaise" who increased capacity even further by adding another two stills, in 2012, which brought the total output up to around 3,300,000 litres per annum.
Now, while "La Martiniquaise" use some of the production for their blended whisky "Label 5", Glen Moray do have some aged releases under their belt. These come in the form of a 10yo Chardonnay Cask, 12yo, 16yo, 25yo Port Cask Finish and an impressive 30yo.
Getting back to the tweet tasting though, I would be honest in saying that it would've been nice to try some of their aged whisky but I was more than happy with the samples provided.
I felt, with the new make included, I was getting a chance to get a true sense of the distillery's character with only the slight addition of cask influence and some peat.
Onto my notes:
New Make Spirit - 69% ABV
Nose - Not as rough as you'd possibly expect. There's a serious amount of red berry notes going on here with raspberry coulis being the dominant flavour. Clove rock sweets, hints of white pepper, strawberry opal fruit sweets, orange oil, green cooking apples, ripe melon and cereals with a lovely malted barley background.
Palate - Very sweet then the heat comes, naturally, with clove spice, more clove rock, black pepper and chilli flakes. You get some malty cereal and stewed orange then you really need to get some water in there. This allows the orange to become deeper and almost move into a sort of dried fruit spice.
Finish - Lively yet smooth, if that makes sense, with a good dry spice fruitiness.
Classic Single Malt - 40% ABV
Nose - Clean, crisp, light and summery. Cut grass, buttered biscuits, light orange oil and you can pick up the malty cereals that were present in the new make. Crunchy green apple and some lemon sherbet. Some light pepper and the faintest hint of oak spice. The berries from the new make are almost non existent but are just about there with candied sweets.
Palate - Here you can instantly see the similarity with the new make with more clove sweets, malted sweetness, orange barley sweets and orange oil. A little dryness comes through from the oak influence and this is accompanied by lovely light citrus. This is a proper summer dram. Needs no water whatsoever as it's a lovely balance of fruity spirit and spices from the cask.
Finish - Surprisingly decent length with more dry oak spice.
Classic Port Cask - 40% ABV
Nose - Mashed over ripe banana, spiced orange and the port hasn't over dominated at all, from the 8 month finish, as there's only hints of blackcurrant and dried fruits. Still retains a lot of the distillery spirit character. Lightly perfumed and for the first time I get some toffee / weak banoffee pie. Becomes deeper, over time, with more red fruits. Still has the peppery spice from the new make but this time it feels much richer and even stickier.
Palate - Well, quite underwhelming I must say. Sweet red fruits - yes, blackcurrants + berries with good oak spice - yes, but - it just feels like that cask and spirit have cancelled each other out. I know that some tasters found this to be the best of the evening but, in my opinion, I found it a little flat and tasteless. Holding the liquid in the mouth brings out a little more port notes but this fades quickly.
Finish - A little amount of red fruit and dry spice
Peated New Make Spirit - 69% ABV (18ppm)
Nose - We're back to the raspberry coulis but now it's lessened by freshly extinguished matches, wood smoke, charred wood, your clothes after standing by a bonfire all night. There's a slight rubbery note and some mineral too. The clove, I would always usually get with new make, is well subdued. The peat isn't too earthy and you feel you're a long way from Islay with this one, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bit of a dampness to this too, but again I quite like it.
Palate - WOW!!! This nearly blew my head off, in a good way. Instant smoked kippers gives way to the most intense chilli heat. Wood ash, charcoal, bags of pepper and chilli. There is sweet malt in there somewhere but this needs serious water. With water classic TCP / sticking plaster notes appear. Any thought of being a distance away from Islay has been taken away sharply with this palate, tons of more intense peat going on here.
Finish - More dry smoke and quite delicious to be fair.
Classic Peated - 40% ABV
Nose - Very good indeed. Tropical notes with fresh citrus. Wafts of light mineral smoke work well with lemon and a light orange. A little deeper peat lurks in the background but never comes to the fore. Toasted oats, green apple, banana on toast and freshly made porridge.
Palate - This comes across as a slightly more mineral version of the standard Classic. Oak has really taken the intense peat notes and softened them right down. Slight bacon fries flavour in the background and this feels a little more "spirity" than the other two "Classics". The extra youthfulness is no bad thing though as this is still very clean and crisp with notes of lemon, orange and a slight chalkiness. The spirit is of good intensity and right at the end you get some dry oak.
Finish - Not bad at all but, if I was being honest, this could do with just a little more peat oomph on the palate.
Overall this was a very impressive tasting. I'd never sampled peated new make before and have only sampled a handful of new makes beside their matured counterparts. Previous tastings have usually had new make along side quite old whiskies but with these "Classic" samples you can match up the notes of the new make with the 40% bottlings quite well.
All in all I have to say that I am very impressed with what Glen Moray are doing. They aren't trying to be an "all singing, all dancing" distillery, with fancy marketing campaigns. They are just getting on with things and releasing very respectable whisky at an even more respectable price range.
I recently picked up a bottle of the standard Classic, in a local Makro, for around £16. Considering the ongoing NAS arguments this is a fantastic price to pay for what is quite simply a very well made single malt whisky.
Granted I didn't quite get to grips with the Port Cask Finish but hey that's no reason to be put off. Quite a few tasters picked it out to be the dram of the night.
The Peated Classic was my pick of the night, just edging out the standard Classic, as it had a little more going on in the glass while retaining the lovely spirity notes from the new make, but I have to stress it only won by the narrowest of margins.
In conclusion I'd have to say to get out there and get yourself a bottle of Glen Moray ASAP. It may not compete with your Brora's or your Port Ellen's, or whatever your favourite "go to" malt is, but for the price it's selling at you will not be disappointed with the quality in the glass. A personal example I could give is to give me a bottle of the Classic or the Peated Classic any day over........let's say a Balvenie "Double Wood".
As I make my way to Ayr, this weekend, for the Robbie's Drams "Whisky An' A' That" festival, I am already hoping to find a Glen Moray stand waiting for me so I can see what else they have hidden up their sleeves.
Lastly I would just like to say, as always, a massive thank you to Steve at "TheWhiskyWire.com" for hosting the tasting and to Glen Moray themselves for the lovely presentation of generous samples.
Until next time,