Savour the summer of ’69



While Bryan Adams was buying his first six-string, the distillers at The Glenrothes were otherwise occupied producing a rather remarkable single-malt. Released this spring, cask #11485 is a a whisky to savour, as Ronnie Cox, our spirits ambassador, explains…

In 1969, one of my cousins bought a Mini from Sandy Shaw, the singer, with the number-plate “Pop 69”. I still don’t know to this day if it was the car, the number-plate or the heritage which persuaded him to part with his money. I’d like to think he had the sense to purchase a little bit of unique history relating that year. Knowing him I somewhat doubt it. His life was a paradox split between racing cars and raising money to build Ashrams for the Divine Light and its guru, Maharaj Ji.

But a special 12 months 1969 certainly was. Most memorable, perhaps, was Neil Armstrong’s “One giant leap for Mankind”; Lennon enjoyed multi-day sleepover with Yoko; drug clouds hung over Woodstock… and, on 10th July at The Glenrothes distillery, they filled a hogshead with 55 gallons of the finest spirit on Speyside.

Some 40-odd years later searching for the most remarkable old casks of Glenrothes we came across a parcel of single-malts purchased from the distillery by one of Americas’ most enlightened whisky men. Abe Rosenberg was a Whisky Maestro. A visionary. Credited with the successful development of J&B whisky in the US he collected single-malts from nothing but the finest Scottish distilleries. Not, mind you, bottles like any normal collector – no, he collected casks of single-malt. He knew enough about wood maturation to be able to produce the ‘great’ from the ‘good’.

After such a long period in wood, we were sceptical that the content of these would pass muster of the nosing panel. There were several casks rejected but not only did this cask “pass” but, when it found itself in the hands of Berry Bros. & Rudd, it was judged to be amongst the greatest of the 20 single casks released to date and given the ultimate accolade of the The Glenrothes bloodline: “the Decanter treatment”. In discovering this cask I can now imagine how Howard Carter must have felt 92 years ago.

The whisky filled 133 hand-blown decanters. Each has been individually numbered, of course, and the whisky bottled at natural strength, unchill-filtered and accompanied in the leather case with a The Glenrothes book filled with contributions from the Scotch Whisky luminaries.

The nose is full and elegant, honey-ed and ginger; it develops extensively with time and air. It drives inspiration and, like a wonderful piece of art, is profoundly thought-provoking. The palate is expressive, superbly balanced with typical overtones of liquorice, butterscotch and barley sugar. The finish mid to long, with the wood shedding just enough taste to make its presence felt but in total harmony with the myriad other flavours.

By obtaining one of these 1969 The Glenrothes Single Casks, one is not only owning a unique insight into The Glenrothes history but – like my cousin’s Mini and its Number Plate – enjoying expression of something peculiarly special, and uniquely of its time.

Read more on this Glenrothes Extraordinary release, or on the story of The Glenrothes itself.