Well, here it goes. My official first Scotch Single Malt Distillery visit and the winner is: Glengoyne! Now I have never had Glengoyne, but I have heard of them before. To be fair I wasn’t expecting much, but they pleasantly surprised me. The reason I chose them was because my rental car is not available until Monday and you can take the bus from Glasgow right to their front gate.
I will start with a quick overview of the product line of Glengoyne. Ever since they were purchased by the family run Ian Macleod Distillers Group in 2003 they have marketed the following bottles. 10YR, 12YR, 15YR, 18YR, 21YR, 25YR and Cask along with other specialty bottling's. They are just north of Glasgow and were originally producing most of their whisky for blends until the new ownership came about and is now capitalizing on the single malt market. It currently holds 40% production for blends such as the Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark, with the other 60% branded single malts.
We started the tour out with the lovely waterfall in the back of the distillery. The tour started in the original building of the distillery when it first became legalized to distill in this area. Now normally you would try the 12YR right before the tour, but because I was on public transit with the bus, I missed this part. This would prove beneficial for me later on. The waterfall and glen where they get their water from is called Loch Carron. Water of course is important. That is why Scottish whisky is so good and has become so successful. You then move on to the malting, fermentation and distillation room. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but here a few quick notable facts of their process. These are things that set them apart not only from most craft distillers, but also other single malt makers:
- X1 Mashtun- It has a copper top and can hold X4 tons of grist and 15,000 liters of water.
- They air dry their grains instead of peat drying, meaning no peat or smoke at all in the final product.
- X6 Washback’s and they are all wood. Although a lot of people are going to stainless steel, they commit to keeping their process the same and recently had to replace two. Here’s an idea of why people might choose stainless steel… a brand new stainless steel washback is about 5,000 british pounds and a new wooden one is about 30,000 british pounds.
The washback’s were all full and will be ready to move over to the wash still on Monday morning. They currently have one wash still and two spirit stills. They do look like what you would expect a lowland still to look like, but the drams weren’t as oily as I expected. I also got to see my first spirit safe in person! They don’t have these in America. This is what they use to make sure all alcohol produced is taxed properly and the government gets their fair cut. Apparently the master distiller still manually makes the cut between the heads, hearts and tails. I expect to see this run by computer at most other distilleries.
Now into the aging. They use a variety of different casks for different age ranges, but they did a great job of explaining and showing the differences between wood. See the picture below. They use everything from American Oak, European Oak, Sherry Casks, refill’s etc. You will see in the picture how the wood and what was in it before affects the look and color of the product. We didn’t get to go into the real aging warehouse, but it at least had a funny story. Apparently the border distinction for what is considered Lowland Scotland and Highland Scotland runs right through the distillery buildings. This means that the distillation is actually done in the highlands, but the warehouse and the aging are in lowland territory. Maybe this helps determine their flavor even more!
Now this is the part of the tour where my tour guide Gordon D., one of the first Scottish men since I have arrived that I could understand, let me try the 18YR instead of the 12YR. What a treat! I totally bombed my tasting note. He was standing right there and I felt nervous. I wasn’t thinking clearly about the age and location of what I was drinking, but here it is anyways. Take it as you may!
Glengoyne 18 Year
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Spice, caramel, sugar, old damp cedar, cashews.
Palate: Toffee, soft pepper, lingers of some wood and spice. Very late on I got something vegetable.
Glengoyne’s Tasting Note..
Red apple, ripe melon, fresh banana. Drifts into hot porridge, brown sugar.
Basically, I should have known that there were more fruits, since it is a highland/lowland single malt and melon and banana can be characteristics you get from older whisky. They are warmer, less sharp flavors and better well rounded from sitting for so long.
I still really need to try the 12YR to understand their most common bottling. I was pleasantly surprised though because I expected it to taste like
Auchentoshan, since they are so close to each other, but it was surprisingly different. Keep an eye out for Glengoyne. It seems like they have smart owners and may make more of a name for themselves as a single malt in the coming years. I must say my favorite part of this tour was the Glengoyne Land Rover. I do imagine myself driving that around and being the coolest badass ever. Everyone has Land Rovers here. Probably because their highways are curvy and on the edge of cliffs.
I love how they organized all of their bottling's in the store. See below.