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A Glen Keith OB coming up

A Glen Keith OB coming up

Glen Keith, a distillery neighbouring practically across the street with the far more famous Strathisla, belonging to Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard), as yet has not managed mark its presence in the minds of whisky drinkers. The only official bottling widely available so far has been the 10-year-old single malt, first released in 1994 as a part of the Seagram’s Heritage Selection.

In recent years, the whisky from Glen Keith and other distilleries from the same house have been available as limited edition cask strength, single cask whiskies sold at Visitor Centres of the group’s distilleries. For example at Strathisla, across the street. Glen Keith has also been – and still is – available from independent bottlers.

A vast majority of the whisky produced in the still, opened in 1958 and closed in 1999, has been used in blends, including mainly 100 Pipers and Passport. Only these two brands sell globally an impressive 37 million bottles a year. And there is also Chivas Regal which also uses the Glen Keith spirits in its blend recipes. No wonder then that Glen Keith, whose maximum capacity is 5.8 million litres of pure spirit annually, never thought of promoting the brand as a single malt whisky manufacturer.

It looks like the company management has decided it was time things changed for Glen Keith. Taking into account that the highest growth figures in spirits sales are represented by the single malt whisky sector, and since 2015 Dalmunach, a new and modern distillery erected where there used to be Imperial, has been taking care of stocks for the company’s blends. It was indeed time to remind whisky drinkers of Glen Keith’s existence.

It is right now that a new Glen Keith Distillery Edition expression is hitting the shelves of spirits shops and departments in Britain. A whisky with no age statement (NAS), bottled at 40% vol. and chill-filtered. The flavours offered by the new Glen Keith are said to include honeycomb, vanilla toffee and poached pears. A bottle has been priced at £30, which makes it by far more accessible than the single cask expressions offered by Chivas Regal Visitor Centres.

Why an NAS rather than an age statement, one might ask. With Glen Keith it seems obvious if you look at the distillery’s history. Its construction began in 1957, with production commencing in the next year. However, Glen Keith did not survive the decline in the market at the turn of the centuries – just like Caperdonich, Allt-a-Bhainne, Braeval and many others – and got mothballed in 1999. In some cases it was the final sentence, in others the closure lasted a few, up to a dozen or so years, just like with Glen Keith. The distillery was reopened in 2013, which means that in the years 1999-2013 not a single cask of Glen Keith spirit was produced. Now, if the new Glen Keith is to be successful as a relatively easily available (read: inexpensive) malt, it cannot contain too much of the pre-1999 whisky. And marking it as a 4-year-old would probably totally doom any other marketing efforts.

Glen Keith is a most interesting distillery – for most of its first stage of existence it produced double and triple-distilled spirit. Other experiments conducted here included manufacturing of heavily peated whisky called Glenisla, and also – most probably – Craigduff. Although the latter is often attributed to the next-door neighbour, Strathisla. It seems therefore that the versatility indeed meant that Glen Keith was sentenced to anonymity, being reduced to a blend-filler manufacturer – it was capable of providing the blenders with various types of whisky, which was more convenient and cheaper than sourcing them from several different stills.

Let us hope that the Glen Keith standard offer does not end with the current NAS. It is time to expect other, older, more interesting offerings. Who knows, after all, what the warehouses in and around Keith may still hold.

[Photo: after]
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