The story of Glenglassaugh distillery is the most fascinating tale, featuring an inspirational founder and a spirit that was almost too good to survive…
Born in 1812, Colonel James Moir was an entrepreneur in the town of Portsoy in the northeast of Scotland. Something of a giant in the local community, he was enthusiastic in his support for the growth and development of the town and encouraged progress in every way he possibly could.
As well as running a successful grocery business, Moir became the first manager of the North of Scotland Banking Company in Portsoy. Taking a great interest in the fishing and agricultural industries, he was lessee of salmon fishing on the River Deveron, not to mention a great supporter of the shipping trade, with several vessels of his own. He was president of the Portsoy Horticultural Society, director of the Portsoy Harbour Committee and principal shareholder and chairman of the Portsoy Gas Company. He was a fierce campaigner for the extension of the Strathisla railway to Portsoy and at his own expense, arranged for the opening of a telegraphic communication line which would link the town with nearby Buckie and Portgordon, all the while insisting that the cost of sending a message be kept affordable so that it might be utilised by all.
When a local Volunteer Force was created in 1860, Moir was appointed Captain of the Battery. He was a dedicated volunteer until he retired from duty in 1873 with the rank of Hon. Colonel in recognition of his long and valued service. Despite his retirement however, he continued to don his uniform for parades until his death in 1887.
Through his grocery business, Moir identified an increase in his customers appetite for scotch whisky and made it a priority to secure a reliable supply of good liquid, else his customers should think to look elsewhere. Two miles west of the town, at Sandend bay, he established Glenglassaugh distillery which he ran until he passed away, leaving behind his two nephews Alexander and William Morrison. When William unexpectedly died in 1892 however, Alexander was forced to sell the business with Highland Distillers, a forerunner of Edrington, stepping in to take over.
From that point on Glenglassaugh began to run into problems. The distillery was mothballed during an industry-wide slump at the start of the 20th century and remained in silence for many years, slowly but surely slipping into a state of disrepair.
Then in 1960, bolstered by the success of their blended scotch brands, Highland Distillers rebuilt much of the distillery, installing a new mashtun, new washbacks and new stills in the process. The parent company it seems were looking to create a light, delicate single malt that could be used in great quantity across their various recipes but it soon became apparent that Glenglassaugh wasn’t what they were looking for. Instead, this distillery was capable of producing a spirit so rich in character and complexity that it could only be used sparingly in a blend. For the next two decades they tinkered with the process in an attempt to alter the nature of the spirit but by 1986 they had run out of patience and the distillery was mothballed once again.
Thankfully, this characterful whisky was too good to stay hidden for ever and in 2008 a group of private investors purchased the site and resumed production, with the first spirit run taking place on the 4th of December 2008. A single malt bottling appeared in 2012 under the name ‘Revival’ and was soon followed by ‘Evolution’.
In the years following the release of Revival, Glenglassaugh was purchased by the Billy Walker-led BenRiach Distillery Co. in 2013 and then changed hands again when the parent company was bought by US-corporation Brown-Forman. Despite these changes however, the core range remains the same, with Revival continuing to act as the entry point. Matured first in a combination of first-fill and refill bourbon casks, the liquid is then given a six month ‘finish’ in first-fill Oloroso sherry butts. Bottled at 46% alcohol by volume, it retails in the UK for around £35.
Smell: A little young perhaps but there’s a decent Sherry influence with Raisins, Prunes and Maple Syrup. There’s also Orange, Berries and Caramel with a touch of spicy Oak and Cinnamon.
Taste: Like the nose, the palate carries a lot of Sherry with Toffee, Caramel and Maple Syrup again. There’s Red Berries, Apple and also Dark Chocolate with Cinnamon and Nutmeg and a light dusting of Pepper.
Value for Money: For less than £40 a bottle you will get a dram which, though young, has taken its sherry finish well and been allowed to shine thanks to its higher strength and un-chill-filtered presentation.
I first encountered the Glenglassaugh Revival about 5 years ago. On first impression I found the nose to have a youthful rawness, not unlike new make spirit, that I found very off-putting. Revisiting it now, some years since my last encounter however, I have found it to be altogether more developed. Still a young malt, but more polished than I remember. An interesting dram which has felt the impact of some decent casks and been bottled in such a way that its relative youth works for it, rather than against it.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.
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