Glen Moray Madeira Cask Matured Whisky Is a Surprise Discovery

The Glen Moray Elgin Curiosity Collection has a new member, a 2006 Madeira matured expression that comes as something of a surprise.

The surprise was actually for Glen Moray itself. Seven casks of its classic Speyside-style whisky was laid down in ex-sweet Madeira hogsheads, tucked away in the back of Warehouse 1, home to the Elgin-based distillery’s maturation experiments.

Those barrels were then forgotten about until, 13 years and 10 months later, Dr Kirstie McCallum sampled the casks and realised the hidden treasure that was trapped inside.

As head of whisky creation, Dr McCallum realised that an expression matured for such a long time would cause more than a ripple in the whisky world, as such casks are usually reserved for a final finish.

“Single malt whisky matured in Madeira casks has been prized in the industry before, but typically the casks have only been used to ‘finish’ more conventionally matured whisky” explained Dr McCallum. “That’s what makes this new expression so very special. Our new make spirit has been slowly mingling with the luxuriously sweet flavours of Madeira for nearly 14 years, giving a depth of flavour and an intense character that couldn’t otherwise be created. It’s a delicious dram, a dessert in a glass, and we are very much looking forward to sharing it with whisky drinkers in the UK.”

Glen Moray Madeira Cask Project 2006

Fortunately, Glen Moray shared a sample with Calibre, and we were pleased it did. The experience starts before the glass reaches the lips, with a nose of toffee and dark chocolate, both sweet and slightly bitter at the same time, with some pear and spice in the mix as well.

On the tongue, the sweet Madeira flavours make themselves felt, but not overpoweringly. The toffee and dark chocolate remain, joined by a hint of pears, but there’s definitely some coffee in there, along with some wood. As the whisky slips away, you’re left with the sweetness of the drink, none of the bitterness, and perhaps a little spice.

The flavours are brought to the fore thanks to that lengthy mutation in Madeira casks. Made exclusively on the Portuguese island, it adds, according to Glen Moray, a nutty sweetness, balanced by a fresh, tangy acidity.

It’s not the first time Glen Moray has created something unique, of course. Crafted since 1897 in the town of Elgin, Glen Moray distillers have handwritten ledgers showing a wide variety of casks were used to mature new make spirit back in those early days, something of an unusual practice for the time.

This is the third expression in the Elgin Curiosity range, following two single malt expressions, finished in rum and cider casks respectively.

Bottled at lively 46.3% ABV, the Madeira-matured whisky is left in its natural colour state and is non-chill filtered. Limited to just 1,468 bottles, it’s available for around £65 for a regular 70cl bottle.

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Phil Huff

Phil Huff has been writing for national newspapers, magazines, regional titles and countless websites since 2003. Specialising in travel and the automotive world, Phil is happiest when exploring foreign lands in foreign cars.