Whisky Tasting: Glengoyne

Tasting Glass photoNot far from Glasgow lies the quaint Highland (..just) distillery of Glengoyne. Not one I’d previously heard much about until recently – but I’m really pleased I made the effort.
2014’s whisky tasting nights kicked off in fine style in Skipton where the Wright Wine Company played host to Alan Wardrop from Ian Macleod Distillers (Glengoyne, Isle of Skye, Tamdhu, Smokehead).

Usually a fairly lively affair, this was no different. Ian kept one step ahead of the crowd and delivered one of the more memorable presentations – with sharp wit, great knowledge and unlimited passion.

The numbers who were particularly familiar with the whisky, and distillery, were few but perhaps more than expected. Glengoyne isn’t the most heavily promoted of whiskies.

After brief introductions, Alan was off – telling us about the particulary slow process they take – with absolutely no drying using peat. This was stressed a few times. (take a look at their website. It’s good at explaining what they do, how and why.)
Alan also introduced us to his suggested method of tasting: colour, legs, nose then palate.

Into the whiskies:

Glengoyne 10 yo
Their introductory dram is pleasant enough it’s colour and legs on the glass suggesting a standard strength.
The nose was of green apples and quite malty with some caramel.
On the palate – gently sweet, fresh and those green apples again.
Verdict: A good everyday breakfast/lunchtime dram.

Glengoyne 12 yo
Next up, this lovely drink. Bottled at 43% abv this packs more punch than the 10, although initially much mellower. Still malty and sweet  on the nose, but with influence of coconut and vanilla which is supported by the fact that is came from 50% first fill bourbon casks and 50% refill sherry if my hearing is correct. Palate: this holds more spice with a kick of ginger.
Verdict: Better than the 10, which was a great start.

Glengoyne 15 yo
Another at 43% but the colour is getting darker. Perhaps age but also as the majority of maturation was done in sherry casks with some bourbon.
Nose: much richer with suggestion of oil and lemon. (lemon oil?!)
Palate: the oil is evidenced on the mouthfeel but there is heat coming from cinnamon.
Verdict: Much more of a sherry dram, with comparisons to Glendronach. Not my favorite, but very popular on the night.

Glengoyne 18 yo
We’re really in sherry territory now with 50% first fill Oloroso casks and 50% refill ‘other’ – perhaps with a rogue bourbon stave or 2 which adds a bit more depth to the character.
Nose: Oats and red apples now. Not as ‘clean’ as the younger ones. Definite dried fruit going on too.
Palate: This feels much dryer than the others with a touch or mazipan and marmalade. Christmas cake perhaps?
Verdict: A bit of a drop in enthusiasm from me, but popular on the table.

Glengoyne 21 yo
Sherry, sherry, sherry.
This moves slower – the legs eventually come down when the spirit has been sloshed around the glass.
Nose: amazing. You could sit and sniff this for hours. Mellow but rich. Forget the Christmas cake mention before – this is Chrismas cake personified.
Palate: Sherry, honey, cinnamon. So smooth. Just delicious.
Verdict: Oh, yes. If it was my birthday – I would be buying this now. More please.

Glengoyne Cask Strength
Now the smell and texture told us this was powerful, and it didn’t disappoint. However, for one of the first times ever, I agreed with some drops (stress; drops) of water to open this up. And then..there were doves, rays of sunshine and so on.
A malty-strong nose and spicy on the palate with a real tang to it. Gooseberries were mentioned by some.
This is not for the feint heated and the finish … well, it’s still going on..
Verdict: This is more my style. Buy.

Im still a bit perplexed as to why the mystery dram was introduced. Ok, so it was a good demonstration of what we had learned about colour and nose etc and what it told us (or suggested) about age.

Clearly, this was not a Glengoyne spirit and we have our thoughts (light end of the Islay spectrum, rhymes with Bunna, er, no. Ok. Bunnahabhain.)
Anyway, I missed the rationale for this bottling and it just tasted too young for me. A hint of peat helped with my personal preferences but I think it’s fours years off being right for me.

Conclusion & recommendation
What a great distillery. Really. Like many is Scotland, it has it’s history and heritage and does things how they want. It looks picturesque and everything you would want to – but importantly, it delivers flavour by the bucketload.
What I like about their range is the simplicity – they’ve not tried a peated one to ‘expand their options’ – they stick to what they do. Ok, so bourbon staves sometimes pad out a sherry cask – but this adds little notes and points of taste reference – not a completely alien result.
Much was made of the craft involved in the precess, and in times of mass markets and volume sales – this was refreshing to hear.

Remember the name – you should try this stuff.

Recommendation: start with the 12, 15 then cask strength. If pockets allow – the 21yo is sublime.

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