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A day at Glengoyne
Founded in 1833, Glengoyne distillery straddles the boundary between two whisky regions. Spirit runs from pot stills in the Highlands but ages in oak casks that rest in Lowland warehouses. The distillery is around 14 miles from Glasgow. Such proximity to the population centres of the central belt would have been of significant benefit to any early distillery. Glengoyne was doubly fortunate as it still qualified for the tax breaks afforded to Highland distillers.
Today, Glengoyne is owned by Ian MacLeod Distillers who recently announced they were to rebuild and reopen Rosebank distillery in Falkirk. This move will increase the organisation’s distillery portfolio to three, with Tamdhu in Speyside completing the line-up.
Glengoyne is one of the most accessible distilleries in Scotland. A 50 minute bus journey from Glasgow will drop you right at the gates, yet despite this proximity to the largest city in the country, the small cluster of distillery buildings are completely surrounded on all sides by rugged countryside and huddle at the foot of Dumgoyne hill, a 427m volcanic plug that once acted as a lookout point for the illicit distillers that plied their trade in the valley below.
Frequent tours of the distillery run throughout the day and when I visited in early February I found a site brimming with tourists, due, at least in part, to French Rugby fans who were in the country for the Six Nations fixture the following day. In truth, it was a little too busy for my liking. At one point there were three different tour groups in the still-house at the same time and it made hearing our guide a little difficult. Fortunately, I had visited Glengoyne before but others weren’t so lucky. Of course I understand that Glengoyne are only trying to meet demand and don’t want to turn people away but I’m sure the experience would have been a better one had the tours been spaced out a little more.
Nonetheless, Glengoyne is a well maintained and attractive distillery with three copper stills that patiently produce a famously unpeated spirit. My tour concluded with a tasting of three drams… an 18 year old, 21 year old and Cask Strength expression. Each was a fine dram in its own right, with the 18 in particular standing out, but considering my focus on the affordable side of the market, I opted to purchase a bottle of the Cask Strength.
Bottled at 59.1% abv, the Glengoyne cask strength is available in the UK for around £50.
Smell: Vanilla, Cream & Honey. Biscuit, touch of Sherry, Banana, Apple and Pear.
Taste: Salted Caramel, Oak, Malt, Biscuit, Lemon, Pepper and Vanilla.
Thoughts: You’re not likely to find a cask strength single malt for less than £50 these days. Credit to Glengoyne for keeping it sensible. Sure, it’s no-age-statement but the quality in the bottle more than justifies it.
The further up the range you go, the more sherry influence you will find in Glengoyne malts. The Cask Strength, however, seems to offer a nice balance between sherry, refill and bourbon. It is a robust dram of rich flavour that comes at a very reasonable price. Great stuff.