Glengoyne sits just north of Glasgow at the foot of Dumgoyne Hill. It was founded in 1833 but there is evidence that illicit distilling was taking place long before then. Certainly, the hills and forests in the area provided an ideal hiding place. It was local landowners, the Edmonstone family who applied for a license to run a distillery here. They named it Burnfoot and it was only later under the ownership of Lang Bros. that the name was changed to Glen Guin and later anglicised to Glengoyne. Today the distillery is owned by Ian Macleod, who bought it in 2003 for £7.2m.
Glengoyne is a Highland whisky, but only just… While the stills operate above the ‘Highland Line’, the spirit rests in warehouses below it – in the Lowlands. This ‘Line’ was first defined in the 1784 ‘Wash Act’ by a government desperately seeking to clamp down on the illegal distilling that was so rife in the highlands. To tempt the rebellious highlanders to go legitimate they decided to offer tax breaks to any who would take a license to distil in these remote areas. In order to do this, they would have to clearly separate the Highlands from the Lowlands. So it was with this in mind that a line was drawn from Greenock in the west to Dundee in the east. Any distilleries operating above this line would be considered ‘Highland’ and therefore be eligible for reduced excise duty. This made Glengoyne’s location ideal – close to Glasgow and all it’s transport links whilst also enjoying the reduced taxes that came with distilling in the Highlands.
Today Glengoyne prides itself on taking it’s time. They operate a long fermentation and a slow distillation in order to produce a lighter, sweeter spirit. There is no peat smoke here – Glengoyne barley is dried using only warm air. What you smell and taste is the character of the spirit, the wood it is matured in and nothing more. A mixture of bourbon and sherry casks are used, with the percentage of sherry wood generally increasing as you go further up the range. The core expressions are 10 year old, 12 year old, 15 year old, 18 year old, 21 year old, 25 year old and Cask Strength.
I’m going to review the 15 Year Old, bottled at 43% ABV and available for around £45 – £50. The nose is Malty with Honey, Lemon, Toffee and some subtle Sherry Notes like Raisins and Sultanas. On the palate meanwhile there is Vanilla, Honeycomb and Popcorn with a little Orange Zest and a hint of Chocolate.
The Scores: About the Scoring System…
Smell: 17 / 20. Wonderfully malty – it’s nice to detect such a strong note of a malt whiskies raw ingredient.
Taste: 17.5 / 20. Nice balance between the subtle flavours of the Bourbon Barrels and the livelier Sherry Wood.
Value for Money: 7.5 / 10. When I’m paying around £50 for a bottle I prefer to be getting something at 46% with no chill filtering but it doesn’t detract from this being a fine dram. No gimmicks or flashy names just well matured, subtle and refined whisky that oozes class and sophistication.
Overall: 42 / 50