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Glen Ord

Treasurer's Selection Glen Ord 1998, 16 year old (70cl 59.6%)

€156.28 $167.97 £135.00

Spice

Pepper, cinnamon, ginger, herbs

Aged Scotch whisky is often much softer and easier on the palate than its alcohol strength would imply. So much so, in fact, that sometimes you need something to liven things up a bit. Luckily, a good number of single malts possess lively spicy flavours, some of them in great enough quantities to challenge tequila (naming no names). Others are a little more restrained, but still with the warming tingle of Christmas pudding and mulled wine.

A lengthy maturation, particularly in a large cask (e.g. ex-sherry), generally means more oxygen is allowed into the cask to react with the spirit and develop more complex flavours. These may include spicy flavours - lignin compounds break down over time, releasing more intense spicy notes into the spirit, while the high acidity and relatively low alcohol content of sherry often serve to bring out spicier notes from the cask wood. Clove and cinnamon flavours often derive from eugenols produced via toasting - that is, firing the wood of the casks over a medium heat for anything between 15 to 45 minutes (to be contrasted with charring, where the wood is fired for a very short time over a much hotter flame). Some of the most intense spicy flavours come not from the cask at all, but from the still: a lighter spirit (such as that produced in a tall still) will often have more kick than something more rounded.

Spicy characteristics are generally used to complement other strong flavours, such as dried fruit (e.g. Aberlour) or peat (Ardbeg), but the style is probably best showcased by the expansive and varied Highland region. Highland malts generally eschew excessive subtlety for bold and full flavours, and so often showcase strongly spicy styles. The best examples by far are in the Northern Highlands: Glenmorangie has a light spice that is perhaps better described as herbal; but a small distance to the north, Clynelish and Old Pulteney provide a salty, firey yet still sweet style that prickles all over the palate. Their eastern counterparts, such as Glen Garioch or Glendronach, retain a gingery warmth that it is not so much restorative as elixir.

The strength and spark of such potions pairs very well with similarly lively cigars: Partagas is an obvious match, as is Ramon Allones; but the peppery notes of a Cohiba or Bolivar will also go very well.

Fresh Fruit

Citrus, berries, apple, pear

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Speyside region, fruity flavours are also common in the Islands (so long as peat does not dominate) and in many Lowland single malts. It is a curious coincidence to find overt flavours of fruits in a spirit made from grain, and therefore of a completely different provenance to brandy or wine: these flavours of fresh fruit - to be distinguished from the drier flavours of raisins, red grape or fruitcake that derive from sherry-cask maturation and are grouped under the ‘dried fruit’ tag - owe much to the influence of ex-bourbon barrels made from American Oak. These casks generally produce vibrant aromas with a far lighter and fresher character than the heavy, dry European Oak sherry casks: tropical fruits, such as pineapple, kiwi or coconut, are a common comparison.

Some whiskies present clear flavours of apple or pear, such as Glenfiddich 12-year-old and many other Speyside whiskies in a similar style (our Treasurer’s Selection Benrinnes is an excellent example). Others tend towards a tarter citrus flavour, such as the orange notes in Dalmore or the tropical fruits of Arran. Flavours of red berries often derive from wine casks - raspberry, strawberry or cherry are common flavours in port-cask matured whiskies (see e.g. Balvenie Portwood or Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban), while drier flavours of cranberry or red plum may result from various red wine finishes (e.g. Longrow Red, or many of the wine cask expressions from Edradour). It is a wide-ranging set of flavours with all sorts of possible incarnations, and a good test for the learner’s palate: it is easy to define a whisky as tasting ‘fruity’, but is it fresh fruit or dried? Apple, citrus or berry? Raspberry, blackberry or boysenberry…?

Some cigars have slightly fruity flavours themselves, which are an obvious pairing: consider the floral flavours of Romeo y Julieta or San Cristobal, for example. Grassy or sweet flavours may also complement this diverse and expressive flavour profile.

Peat

Smoke, barbecue, medicine, farmyard aromas

By far the most polarising of all whisky flavours - and in some ways, that most distinctive of Scotch whisky. Peat is a type of fossil fuel, halfway between soil and coal, which produces a very aromatic smoke as it burns, and is widespread in the Scottish Highlands and islands. It has long been used to dry out malted barley in preparation for making whisky…and the aroma of the smoke lingers throughout the whole distillation process and the subsequent years of maturation.

The resulting flavour is often described as “medicinal” - associated with disinfectants such as TCP, especially by its detractors. Those who enjoy the flavour may be more likely to compare it to the scent of a barbecue, or a welcoming fireplace on a cold winter night.

Peat is almost universally associated with the Islay region - although some Islay whiskies have no peat, while many non-Islay whiskies do. As the flavour derives from the malted barley rather than the cask, it is generally more upfront in younger whiskies than in older expressions, where the cask has had more time to influence the overall style - this is why most Islay whiskies, renowned for their peaty flavours, are bottled at 10 or 12 years with relatively little spirit kept for older ages (Lagavulin is a notable exception). The most notorious of peaty whiskies is probably Laphroaig, while the crown of the “world’s peatiest whisky” is held by Bruichladdich’s Octomore series. At the other end of the scale, those flavours produced by relatively light peating levels are described by the earth flavour tag.

Because of the distinctiveness and the sheer intensity of peaty flavours, they can be difficult to pair with cigars: generally, the fuller-flavoured the cigar, the more likely it is to complement an intensely peaty whisky. In this sense, Bolivar, Partagas and certain Cohibas are safe choices. You may like to experiment a little more and try other cigars that are marked by flavours of leather, pepper or toast, however.

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Bottled: 30/07/14
Release of: 100 bottles
Cask no: 25
Cask type: Hogshead

From our single cask cask-strength "Treasurer's...read more

Product Info

Bottled: 30/07/14
Release of: 100 bottles
Cask no: 25
Cask type: Hogshead

From our single cask cask-strength "Treasurer's Selection" range.  The light colour - almost ghostly - does little to betray the massive flavour in this. The dry peat is pretty hefty on the nose, but it takes a moment to work out that’s what you’re smelling - at first it seems vaguely industrial, like engine oil or shoe polish. But after a moment the sweetness shines through, with luscious caramel (Highland Toffee), cherry bakewell tarts, and a little citrus, especially after some time left to breathe. And on the palate…woah! A totally unexpected layering of gorgeous sugared almonds. (So that’s why Glen Ord is popular in Asia - this could be a Nikka or a Yamazaki!) There are tart white grapes, natural yoghurt, spearmint, furniture polish and pine wood…the peat is virtually nowhere to be found until the finish, where it comes in very gently, in subtle earthy shades (and, again, engine oil), to shroud the now honey-roasted almonds. Repeat the whole experience with a little water (to take the edge off that fearsome 59.6% ABV), and it simply turns into velvet on the tongue (boiled sweets: mint humbugs and pear drops)…though some might prefer the fire and bite of the full strength, where there is simply nowhere for your tastebuds to hide. Don’t pine for Yamazaki 18. Buy this instead.

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