Glen Moray is one of those brands often found on the bottom shelf of a liquor store. That in itself can be off-putting to some and instead gravitate to prettier labels and more impressive price tags. Glen Moray screams out to me as something that needs to be tested to see if it can be crowned with my coveted #RespectTheBottomShelf label.
This Speyside distillery has a storied history. It began as the Elgin West Brewery, until 1897 when its first spirits still was installed. On September 13, 1897, the distillery filled its first barrel with a 100% locally-grown barley distillate. World War I became reality, and the distillery was mothballed until 1923. It was purchased by Macdonald & Muir, the company that eventually became Glenmorangie.
In the 1950s, it purchased the Gallowcrook Farm, which was the farm that grew the barley that went into that first batch of Glen Moray. It also invested heavily in expanding the distillery and warehouses to increase production. Then, in 1999, it became one of the earliest Scottish distilleries to finish whiskies in wine barrels – specifically Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc casks.
In 2008, Glenmorangie sold Glen Moray to La Martiniquaise, which remains its current owner. In 2014, it launched the Classic Collection and shortly thereafter was the first in Scotland to finish whisky in Cabernet Sauvignon casks.
I’ve had an opportunity to try four of the whiskies from the Classic Collection: The Classic Single Malt, Classic Sherry Cask Finish, Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish, and Classic Port Cask Finish.
Before I #DrinkCurious, I’d like to thank Glen Moray for providing me samples of each in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.
Classic Single Malt
First up is The Classic Single Malt. This one is 40% ABV (80°) and carries no age statement, and was aged completely in former Bourbon barrels. There is no indication if there is any e150a coloring added or if it is chill-filtered. You can expect to pay about $27.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch was the color of pale gold. I can’t see this one having any caramel coloring to it, or if it does, it doesn’t show. It formed a thinner rim that offered medium-weighted, long legs that fell back to the pool.
Nose: The aromas were sweet and fruity, which is almost expected for a Speyside whisky. Melon, grapefruit, green apple, vanilla, and malt competed for attention. As I drew the air into my mouth, that melon defined itself as honeydew.
Palate: The mouthfeel was buttery with a medium body. The front was fruity with apple, grapefruit, and lime zest. The middle featured English toffee and honeysuckle, while the back had flavors of almond, vanilla, and toasted oak.
Finish: Short and unassuming, the finish was made of caramel, vanilla cream, toffee, grapefruit, and lime. There was no astringent quality, everything was crisp and flavorful.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The Classic was nice and simple. There wasn’t a ton of depth to it, and in this case, that’s fine. This is such an easy-to-drink whisky that could be something to savor on a hot, summer’s day. I would highly recommend this for someone who has heard all of the distasteful things that a Scotch can be because this has none of that. When I take the price into account, this becomes very attractive, and as such, takes my Bottle rating.
Classic Sherry Cask Finish
The Classic Sherry Cask Finish is The Classic that has been finished for a handful of months in Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez, Spain. It still weighs in at 40% ABV (80°) and states nothing about e150a, chill filtration, or age. This is understandably priced higher at about $36.99.
Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this sherry expression was brassier in color. It formed a very thick rim that led to watery, fast legs.
Nose: Raisin, apricot, citrus, and melon gave this Scotch a fruity nose, which is expected with a sherry finish. Nutmeg and oak were also present. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the raisin became more identifiable as a golden varietal.
Palate: I found the mouthfeel to be thinner than the Elgin Classic, but still retained the buttery quality. The front of the palate featured dark chocolate, apricot, raisin, and green apple. It was different to have the chocolate dominate the fruit with a sherry finish. The middle offered honeysuckle and grass. On the back, I tasted oak, nutmeg, and molasses.
Finish: The finish was a mile longer than the original. I discovered vanilla, apricot, nutmeg, oak, and, rounding things out, dark chocolate.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’m a fan of sherry bombs, and while I liked this pour, I wish it spent more time in the sherry casks (that or bottled at 43%). I found the potential was slightly diminished. Like The Classic, this went down easily, there was nothing to offend an inexperienced Scotch drinker. It should be noted that $35.00 would take it out of the bottom-shelf category of Scotches. I liked this Scotch and I’m giving this one a Bottle rating.
Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish
The Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish is, again, the same as The Classic, but this time finished for an undisclosed number of months in former Cabernet Sauvignon casks. As discussed in the introduction, Glen Moray was the first Scotch distillery to utilize these casks for finishing. It, too, is bottled at 40% ABV (80°) and carries no age statement. A 750ml package will cost about $27.99.
Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky presented as brassy-gold, a few shades darker than the Sherry Cask Finish. A medium-to-heavy rim was followed by slow, sticky legs.
Nose: An aroma of raw honey softened to blueberry, plum, and green apple. When I breathed the vapor into my mouth, that honey was easy to identify.
Palate: I found the mouthfeel to be thin and oily. The palate started as vanilla and honey, which was followed by blueberry pie filling. The middle held only honey, while the back offered flavors of charred oak, very dark chocolate, and clove.
Finish: The clove continued through the entire finish. Dark chocolate, blueberry, and oak appeared midway. As far as duration is concerned, it was short-to-medium, and I found it a bit dry.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’ve had some cabernet sauvignon finished whiskies before, they’ve all been American, and I enjoyed them. With a Scotch, I’m questioning that. Mind you, I’m a huge fan of chocolate, blueberry, and clove. But, for whatever reason, this whisky did not wow me. I don’t think it is bad, it just seems disjointed. I’m conferring my Bar rating on it.
Classic Port Cask Finish
Port-finished Scotches seem to be all the rage now. Port is a fortified wine that must come from the Douro Valley region of Portugal. That’s not to say that there aren’t port-like wines from outside of Portugal, rather, they just can’t legally be called “Port.” The Classic is finished a few months in casks from Porto Cruz, which is one of the most sought-after Port wines. It carries no age statement, and like the others, is bottled at 40% ABV. You can expect to pay about $27.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky was the color of a new copper penny. A thin rim resulted in medium-weighted legs that dropped slowly to the pool.
Nose: The Port influence was obvious, with an aroma of fig, date, plum, raisin, and oak. When I inhaled it through my lips, fig and raisin kept coming.
Palate: An oily, thin mouthfeel led to a fruity, dry palate. It began with date, raisin, and lemon zest. Next up were caramel, chocolate, and leather. The back featured tobacco, oak, vanilla, and powdered cinnamon.
Finish: Leather and dark chocolate continued into the finish, which was joined with date, plum, and raisin. Leather continued past everything else until a brief kiss of cranberry came from nowhere and vanished. The entire finish had a medium duration that I wished lasted longer.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This is a $28.00 Scotch? For real? The only thing I could complain about is the length of the finish. I loved the Port Finish. This one takes a Bottle rating all day long!
Final Thoughts: Overall, I enjoyed these budget Scotch whiskies. What was interesting was the order I’d rank them in, with the Cabernet Sauvignon Finish, which Glen Moray pioneered, as my least favorite. The one I enjoyed the best was the Port Cask Finish, followed by The Classic, and the third, the Sherry Cask Finish.
Glen Moray deserves respect. It has sure earned mine and grabbed my #RespectTheBottomShelf honor. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.