The West Brewery was founded in 1828 and operated until 1897, when it was converted into a whisky distillery with two stills. Thus Glen Moray was born. The Speyside distillery nestles on the banks of the river Lossie (from where it draws its water), just outside the city of Elgin. Glen Moray was owned by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey until 2008 when it was purchased by La Martiniquaise. This period saw the arrival of various cask finishes, possibly as LVMH also owned Glenmorangie at that time. Now with four stills, Glen Moray has positioned most of its products at the budget end of the market, although older bottlings do sell for a lot of coin. All their whiskies are bourbon cask matured.
These three single malts are all sub-$50AU; decent malts for the price of a blend. The lack of fluoro-orange fake-tan hue suggests little or no added colouring, although, that is not claimed on the labels so can not be assumed. The whisky does look natural though. The darkest of the trio is the Chardonnay cask variant but even that looks like it truly did emerge from a Chardonnay cask with no further colour enhancement. The pink blush of the Port Finish isn't something I can imagine a whisky manufacturer even wanting to fake so kudos to Glen Moray. I just wish we could read about it on the label. All are bottled at the minimum allowable 40% ABV. They aren't expensive I suppose but I can imagine the Chardonnay cask in particular benefiting immensely from a more whisky/less Lossie bottling. The labels/packaging are in dire need of an update. They don't do justice to the content of the bottles and the staff at my local supplier couldn't tell the difference between the Classic and the Port Finish. Then again, they did have their heads up their arses. I added just a few drops of water to all three Morays for this tasting.
Let's start with the Glen Moray Elgin Classic. Selling for about $42AU, only Glen Grant sell a cheaper single malt in Australia (and then only by a dollar). A no age statement (NAS) whisky, it tastes about six years old to me and seems to be reasonably consistent. So why not call it a six year old? There are some great six year old whiskies! I digress. Let's see how good, or otherwise, the penultimate budget malt is.
Colour: Yellow gold. Nose: Herbal, grapefruit, vanilla, butterscotch, ginger and white pepper. Quite pleasant. More butterscotch and citrus on the palate, green tea, bitter-sweet, a little rock salt and a delightful cinnamon/mace finish.Forty bucks or so? Bargain.
Well, what happens when we put it in a port pipe for 8 months? Read on:
Another NAS Glen Moray, the Elgin Classic Port Cask Finish will set you back a fiver more than the plain old Classic.
Colour: Pink Champagne. I kid you not. Nose: Strawberry, vanilla,raspberry and lemon. A veritable red fruit basket with a citrus tang. The palate is somewhat more substantial than the Classic although, as one might expect, the flavours are similar, with an added layer courtesy of the Port finish. The finish suits the whisky well; not overwhelming but an interesting addition to the flavour profile. Mmmm, lovely, not complex but all those sweet red fruits counterpoint the citrus beautifully. Honey appears mid-palate. A little sour/bitter on the finish as the oak kicks in but not in an unpleasant, dead cask, way. The finish is somewhat short but the whole experience is quite pleasant and rather moorish. A good apéritif or summer evening dram. Not at all challenging but very drinkable.
28/917 UPDATE: The Port Finish Moray has, I'm afraid, declined significantly. The Pink Champagne colour has faded to the merest hint of a blush and that fresh fruit basket nose is now last weeks lemons, wrapped in newspaper. A definite "dont buy". What a shame.
Whatever happened to those big, oakey Australian Chardonnays of the 80's and those big, buttery non-oaked Australian Chardonnays of the 90's? They gave way to more fashionable Sauvignon Blanc and the like I suppose. A shame, but still, more for me. I mention this only because I wonder where Glen Moray sourced casks for their Chardonnay Matured 10 Year Old. France? California? One need only look to The New Zealand Whisky Co to see what the availability of good wine casks can do for a whisky. It is important to note that this is a full maturation, not a finish, in Chardonnay casks. The colour of this whisky is exactly what I would expect to see in an older Chardonnay. If Glen Moray have coloured this at all, it was minimally. Unfortunately, it has been chill-filtered.
Colour: Deep Gold. Nose: Aged Chardonnay, citrus fruits, peach, pear, greengage. Another fruit basket but of a different complexion. Take your time with this one. The nose develops substantially over ten minutes or so. Barely ripe, sour pineapple. Oak, lovely, soft, oak. A very decent nose for a $50 whisky. On the palate: Bordering on decent mouthfeel. Young. Fresh. Sweet shop favorites including a little musk stick. Again, a great counterpoint to the sour/green character of the malt. This works so well. A green malt with a dominant sweetness. Sort of like ice cream and kiwi fruit (which is also a good description of the finish). An interesting, original, summer dram.
In conclusion: All of these single malts are good value. The Elgin Classic is a simple, honest and light Green Malt that makes a good summer dram or session malt. The Port Cask Finish version adds a layer of fun like sticking a Redskin sweety in the Elgin Classic. You should buy this one. The Classic is a good value whisky that is cheap but common as muck but the Port Cask is a lovable novelty to be shared. The Chardonnay Cask Matured is the star here. In a Yellow Dwarf kind of way. I don't know of a better single malt (locally available) anywhere near its cost. It's unusual,interesting, available and cheap. Kind of like my first girlfriend, who also made my head hurt the next day.
28/9/17 UPDATE: The Port Finish Moray has, I'm afraid, declined significantly. That Pink Champagne colour has faded to the merest hint of a blush and the fresh fruit basket nose is now last week's lemons, wrapped in newspaper. Clearly, those port pipes have had passed their use by date. A definite "don't buy". What a shame.