This delightful whisky comes from a relative newcomer in the world of independent bottlers – the misleadingly named Meadowside Blending. While they do make blends under their Royal Thistle brand, their importance to single malt whisky drinkers comes in the form of well-managed single casks bottled under The Maltman marque. And though these names may be new, the company is run by longtime Scotch whisky veteran Donald Hart (of Hart Brothers fame) and his son Andrew, both of whom are members of The Keepers of the Quaich.
Anyhow… My first impression upon nosing this whisky is panoramic, taking in sharp, clean morning air while standing in a broad field of ripe barley. And my second impression is this: Savory Pineapple Vanilla Yeast Cake Heather and a Small Bar of Soap.
Really. All at once and clustered, but distinct.
There is an intriguing candy note in the nose here as well. Specifically, if you were to crush two orange (orange), one pink (wintergreen) and one green (lime) Necco Wafer, shake them all up in a bag and then put your nose to it – yes, that’s definitely here in this glass.
While this description of the nose may seem unnecessarily convoluted, an attempt at provoking cognitive dissonance just for the hell of it, I assure you each element I name above is standing straight and clear as a soldier bolt upright at attention. It’s like the music of Yat-Kha, mixing many disparate yet discernible elements while still inspiring you to join in its beguiling dance!
I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. In my experience, truly great whiskies are nearly always the result of a wondrous balance of desirable constituents. (Am I overstating the obvious here?) The ravishing balance of smoke, barley malt and wood in many Longrows and Springbanks, for example; the balance of sherry, spice and woody malt in a good Glenfarclas (which is most of them) or the different balances of fruit, sea salt and clean barley in the 17 and 21 year old Old Pulteneys. Mmm mmm good!
The balance here in this 19 year old Speysider, in both the nose and the palate, is an unusual one between pungency and delicacy, between billowy fragrance and earthy (not peaty – there is no peat here at all) substance. I’ve come across this before, most memorably in Signatory’s nigh perfectly balanced 14 year old Glen Scotia (the balance was a bit off by the time they released the 18 year old) – one of my favorite whiskies of all time. This Glenlossie 19 doesn’t offer quite the equilibrious thrills of the Glen Scotia 14, but it is certainly reminiscent of them. Everything about this whisky feels firm and well-made – and delightful. I’ve already bought a second bottle.
Aside from the outdoorsiness noted above, most of what one picks up in the nose remains in the palate, but now the pineapple gives way to cantaloupe, the vanilla cake to coconut, hazelnut and honey. There is also a touch of nougat here, but the overall impression remains very refreshing. Not light, but refreshing. In fact, based on descriptions of both the Lowland region and its most celebrated distillery, this tastes like I always expect an Auchentoshen to taste, but I’ve never had an Auchentoshen that tastes this good.
There is the slightest – way, way beneath the other layers of flavor – the slightest suggestion of a chewed wad of candy box cardboard and a whisper of the taste of re-chewing yesterday’s bubble gum. But these are very, very slight and only add to the complex pleasure of this drink.
The finish is interesting for the new elements it brings in: Ginger and a hint of ground clove – no pepper whatsoever – as well as something green and fresh – the taste of the smell of baby spinach leaves, let’s say. And a slight but unmistakable taste of banana arises here as well. The finish is long enough, but lacks the level of chest-warming warmth that would be – for me – ideal. And the spice in the finish is just a bit too pronounced for my taste, like the hoppiness of a somewhat over-hopped beer.
But these are mere quibbles. As I’ve said already, I went out and bought a second bottle of this and I look forward to sharing it with my most discerning friends sometime in the future.