Owner.. The Edrington group.
Capacity.. 5 600 000 litres.
Tel.. 01340 872300
Nestled in the Scottish Highlands, the Speyside region is universally acknowledged as the heartland of Single Malt Whisky distillation.
Hidden in a tree-lined gorge, The Glenrothes Distillery is situated in the heart of Speyside beside the Burn of Rothes which flows from the Mannoch Hills into the River Spay.
The birth of the Vintage Single Malt
On 28th December 1879 the first pure spirit flowed from the stills at The Glenrothes distillery.
The quality of this spirit quickly became prized inside information within the whisky industry and highly sought after by Master Blenders.
Here was an immaculate Speyside Malt Whisky,drawing its flavours from the prime barley of the region, the careful creation of the spirit and the resulting richness of both American and Spanish oak casks. Its flavour, structure and body created a quality enhancer of choice for Master Blenders across the length and breadth of Scotland for over a hundred years. Which is why it is at the heart of some of the world’s finest whiskies.
In the early 1990’s London’s oldest wine and spirit merchant Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd, the owners of The Glenrothes whisky, took the bold step of bringing to life the pioneering Vintage Single Malt we know and enjoy today.
The concept then, as it is now, was to find whiskies from the distillery which would represent the best of a particular year – that is a Vintage. Being a wine and spirit merchant, we understand if you combine different Vintages you can make great products, unlike other Single Malts which wait until they are exactly, for example, 12 years old.
After all, the similarities with the finest wines are many: the best selection of one particular year and each Vintage with a different personality but sharing the same character. With whisky as with wine, Vintages are both finite and rare. Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd. recognised that the distillers’ advanced understanding of the maturation process had promising implications for future Vintages: they would not be locked into the consistency associated with products of fixed ages whose personality remains the same in each bottling and whose recipe is frozen in time.
This is why the idea of a declared Vintage came naturally to Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd. As did the craft of marrying the best casks of different years to create Reserves, in many respects a far more complex task requiring great expertise to deliver the best possible flavours.
For an industry wedded to the notion of producing the exact same product year in year out this was an unusual idea. And The Glenrothes, with its exceptional quality, seemed the natural choice for it.
The search then begun to find casks of such outstanding quality that Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd. felt worthy of their new concept and could stamp it with the “Vintage” seal. The Glenrothes Distillery Manager went to work on finding the first Vintage cask, checking the progress of maturation, nosing a sample from each.
He was searching for a cask so good that it clearly shone out above all others. And in the 1979 he discovered it.
The 1979 Single Vintage was exceptional and the first of its kind in the Scotch Whisky industry. It was soon followed by others and in time, the equally special Select Reserve, our first Reserve. It showcased the perfect marriage of exceptional Vintages, creating a characteristic flavour profile our Malt Master was proud to put his name to.
How we make The Glenrothes
It’s all about flavour
Take some plump, ripe Scottish barley – steep it in fresh water, then lay it out, turn it, let it germinate before drying it in a kiln: you then have your ‘malted’ barley; next mill it before mixing it with hot water, then mash it to extract the soluble starches; allow the liquid to cool for fermentation, add yeast, control the magic of the yeast effect by letting it bubble and froth and two days later you have a ‘wash’ of 8% alcohol, a bit like beer.
Now the distillation, a carefully controlled process in which the liquid is heated twice in a pair of tall-necked traditional copper pot stills, the vapours rise and are condensed, the liquid spirit is formed and the Stillman takes his ‘middle-cut’ from the second distillation. This, the heart, is little more than 17-19% of the total run. Finally the ‘new make’ has its strength reduced and is filled into oak casks to rest and mature in the warehouse.
That is a thumb-nail sketch of the craft involved in making The Glenrothes Single Malt Scotch Whisky, in reality the process is much more complicated and accomplished.
It should be emphasised, however, that we take exceptional care in the birth of The Glenrothes spirit. The pure water is taken from only two springs – the Ardcanny and the Brauchill (or Lady’s Well) – both situated near the distillery. We only select Scottish barley, most of which is malted in Saladin boxes – a traditional method which undoubtedly contributes to the quality of the end product. Quality and purity are the hallmarks of The Glenrothes, these must be rigorously adhered to from beginning to end.
The shape of the pot stills is another important factor in creating Malt Whisky that is unique. Our stills today are designed and fashioned to be exact replicas of the original stills made in 1879.
Our unusually slow distillation process in these tall copper pot stills delivers our characteristic sweet, fruity and elegant spirit.
Just as the dedicated water supply adds its own unique influence. And the extraordinary micro-climate of the area surrounding the distillery influences the development of flavour in the wooden casks over the long years of maturation in Dunnage style warehouses.
On top of the inimitable specifics of provenance there is, of course, the wisdom of the artisan, unhurriedly but meticulously passed on from generation to generation.