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Just north of Glasgow, near the edge of the Highlands in the Campsie Fells, lies Dumgoyne Hill. Thanks to the crystal clear burn which carves its way down the hillside, the area became a favoured spot of illicit distillers, eager to hide away from the prying eyes of the law. At one time, as many as 18 stills were said to be in operation in the vicinity.
One of them was owned by George Connell of Burnfoot Farm who applied for a distilling license in 1833, ten years after the passing of the infamous excise act of 1823. Over the years, Connell’s Burnfoot distillery would eventually come to be known as Glen Guin (valley of the wild geese) and later anglicised to Glengoyne.
Despite its relatively southern location, Glengoyne is considered a Highland distillery as it stands a small fraction north of the designated line which separates the region from the Lowlands. This allowed Connell the benefit of the tax breaks offered to highland distillers whilst he could also enjoy access to the markets of Glasgow just 15 miles away.
Today, Glengoyne is owned by Ian MacLeod distillers. After increasing the sites production capacity, the current owners have seen the brand grow to become a well established fixture in the single malt market with a reputation for quality and consistency. The core range begins with a standard 10 year old and culminates in an exquisite 25 year old, with the proportion of sherry matured spirit in the blend generally increasing in older variants.
For me however, one of the stars of the range is the 18 year old. Bottled at 43%, it retails at around £75 – £80 in the UK.
Smell: Prominent Sherry notes at first along with chewy Toffee, Vanilla, Banana & Pears, silky Caramel and Oaky Spices.
Taste: Salted Caramel, Oak Spice, Dark Chocolate, Pepper, Maple Syrup, Manuka Honey, Orange Peel and Barley Sugar.
Value for Money: For around £75 a bottle, this is a fine dram indeed. As always, when paying this kind of price for a whisky, I’d much prefer the liquid to be un-chill filtered and bottled at a slightly higher abv, but despite this little niggle, there is no doubting the quality of the whisky.
Ian Macleod Distillers deserve a lot of credit for the way they have grown the Glengoyne brand. Where many competitors have abandoned age statements and bottled younger spirit, Glengoyne have remained dedicated to producing their age stated core range (with the exception of their admittedly excellent Cask Strength offering).
For me, Glengoyne is the single malt which perhaps best retains the flavour of its raw ingredients. Especially younger versions, when matured predominantly in ex-bourbon casks, retain a distinct malty character, whilst the likes of the 21 and 25 year old are far more sherry-dominated. The 18 year old meanwhile, thanks to maturation in a mix of refill and first fill sherry casks, manages to strike the oftentimes hard-to-find sweet spot between distillery character and cask influence. It is this perfect balance which makes this Glengoyne an essential stop on any whisky journey.