glenrothes tomatin the roots

Glenrothes 1985 / Secret Highland 1978 (The Roots)

The Roots, a boutique independent bottling company from Belgium, doesn’t often release new bottlings. But when they do, I take notice. And who wouldn’t? A Glenrothes 1985 37 Years and Secret Highland 1978 42 Years (from Tomatin) are first-class attention grabbers.

First up, the Glenrothes 1985 (coincidentally my birth year) was bottled in 2023 to celebrate the company’s first anniversary. As a reminder, this was The Roots’ stupendous inaugural outturn.

Rather than resting on his laurels, founder Joren Nuyts continues to only bottle premium spirits. Matured in a hogshead, the Glenrothes perfectly fits his philosophy. Or as he writes on the company website, “In a world where quantity reigns supreme, we go back to the roots.” Only 33 bottles of Glenrothes 1985 were released. Indeed, that’s a minuscule number.

Finally, the Secret Highland 1978 42 Years is a bit of an oddity. Not because it was distilled at Tomatin distillery (the label gives a big fat hint). But rather because the cask was disgorged in November 2020 into an IBC tank, effectively ending wood maturation then and there. The whisky was finally bottled just a few months ago.

This could’ve been done for various reasons, possibly because the alcohol percentage was creeping towards the critical juncture of 40%. Or because the whisky was deemed ready for bottling, but there wasn’t a buyer for the cask. A similar example is this Glenturret 1977 from Kintra, which also spent a few years in a container before being bottled.

Most importantly, this practice does not negatively affect the whisky. It might well have been the best decision for this particular cask, a refill sherry butt. Either way, I’m quite taken by this Tomatin, as you’ll read below.

glenrothes 1985 37 years the roots

Glenrothes 1985 37 Years (43.4%, The Roots, 33 bts.)

Nose: Gentle waxy notes followed by a whiff of pencils alongside ripe bananas, apples, a hint of pomelo and slivers of honeyed porridge. Also gentle floral notes and some lemon pith, with finally a sliver of chalk and rhubarb.
Taste: The waxiness persists. Lovely mouthcoating. It’s accompanied by notes of stewed apples, Manuka honey, straw and a pinch of white pepper, as well as slivers of thyme, damp oak and tangerines. Lightly mentholated as well.
Finish: Medium length. Freshly cut grass alongside eucalyptus, a sliver of oak, breakfast tea and dried herbs.

Elegant and sophisticated, this Glenrothes holds up beautifully after nearly 4 decades of ageing. The oak influence is mellow yet well-defined. The waxy notes a reminder of its maturity. Available here.

secret highland 1978 42 years the roots tomatin

Secret Highland 1978 42 Years (43.6%, The Roots, C#T30154)

Nose: Initially darker notes of chocolate, some furniture polish, and even a touch of filter coffee. But that’s very temporary. It quickly makes way for sweeter notes (Demerara and cotton candy), accompanied by subtle fruits such as mango, cherry syrup, green apples and satsumas. Certainly not as fruity as the lauded 1976 vintage, but also much more fruitier than your average single malt.
Taste: Oily mouthfeel. It’s a clear mixture between syrupy sweetness and tropical fruits. All very elegant and not a fruit bomb in the traditional sense, but think papaya, pink grapefruit, mango and guava. Only the gentlest of oak, a sliver of tobacco and some citrus peels.
Finish: Medium length. The fruits linger. There are touches of crushed mint leaves, but also very light tannins.


It's so very good, yet I can't help but what this would've been like from a refill ex-bourbon cask. While the sherry cask hasn't been super active, it's clearly left its mark after 42 years in the cask. Is it overshadowing some of the tropical fruitiness, or maybe enhancing it in certain cases? Irregardless, this is extremely good as is. Available here.


Samples provided by The Roots


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