The Lowlands is rolling farm country, perfect for growing barley and described by Robert Burns as "the most glorious corn country I have ever seen".
The Edinburgh Distillery, Glenkinchie's 12 YO is a relatively new release from the Diageo's stable to represent the Lowlands in the Classic Malt Series. There are only three single malt distilleries operating in the Lowlands. Auchentoshan and Bladnoch are the other two. There are however several continuous grain distilleries such as North British, Invergordon, Port Dundas and Strathclyde.
Founded in 1825, the distillery was later purchased and restored by an association of whisky merchants and blenders from Edinburgh in the 1890s. It took ten years but the result was the Victorian distillery that we know today, with its characteristic red-brick buildings, houses for workers and even its own bowling green.
Due to their proximity to the grain distilleries and the major hubs of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Lowland distilleries have traditionally produced light uncomplicated whiskies, making them suitable for blending and more appealing to English tastes. Single malt releases from these distilleries have been rare, and not as popular as other whisky regions. The hub of single malt production in the Speyside region, producing richer, sweeter whiskies reduced the need for the Lowland style, hence the decline of the region in the 20th century, Glenflagler, Inverleven, Kinclaith, Ladyburn, Rosebank and St Magdalene all falling silent.
The Glenkinchie 12 YO release has had varied reviews. I remember enjoying the 10YO, yet being extremely disappointed with the 12 YO when it was released back in about 2008. More recent reviews of Glenkinchie 12YO have been far more favourable, which makes me believe Diageo have improved the flavour profile of the Glenkinchie in response to the negative press and sales no doubt. In 2008, there was a very distinct harshness on the finish of the 12yo - making the whisky unpleasant and not good enough (in our opinion) to offer as a SMWCA malt. I still have the remnants in a bottle, and note some minor label changes between the bottlings.
The new release of the Glenkinchie 12YO has a very pleasant lifted nose, with vanilla, lime and mandarin. There is underlying almond characteristics. One of the aroma's reminds me of opening a box of Special K. The last eaten box of cereal in the Kellogg's variety pack that no-one else in the family will eat.
The palate is clean with distinct new make spirit tasting of lime and apple juice. Obvious maltiness, cashews and almonds initially with spice. Delicate rather than light. Good alcohol punch at 43%.
The finish, does not have the harshness of the previous bottling at all. It is estery and rounded, reminiscent of lanolin. There is a touch of bittersweet which may be from the added caramel, if that rumour is true.
A very pleasant whisky, perfect coming into spring with lovely citrus flavours. A lovely whisky turned around in the last couple of years by superior barrel selection and now a worthy example of the Lowland style.
Tasting notes (from the distillery)
Appearance: Bright Gold
Nose: Very aromatic and flowery overall, like breathing in a country garden. Noticeable vanilla, cut flowers and beneath these, a clean, toasty note. Becomes increasingly sweet and creamy, with a lightly aromatic edge and fresh citrus, which all brings to mind lemon cheesecake. Water makes it still more creamy and scented.
Body: Light, smooth.
Palate: A sweet, soft start, like crème anglaise, soon becoming flowery again. A really smooth delivery, especially after adding a drop of water. The mid-palate is crisp and then the flavour settles into a tightly focused bundle of butter-icing, lemon cheesecake and freesias.
Finish: Herbal and drying slightly, as if it were pot-pourri.