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My first visit to Glengoyne distillery came in the latter half of 2014 during a session of John Lamond‘s fantastic Whisky Certificate Course. This eight week long night class covered the entirety of the whisky-making process and gave a detailed history of the industry, from its beginnings with Friar John Cor to the growth of the blending giants and the modern explosion of single malts. Towards the culmination of the course there was a class outing to a local distillery and since we were based in Glasgow, this gave only two realistic options: Auchentoshan and Glengoyne.
After a quick class vote the decision was made to head to the western edge of the Campsie Fells and Glengoyne, conveniently one of the most picturesque distilleries in the country. Our visit proved both educational and enjoyable with a fun session in the blending room closing proceedings as each participant got to take home 100ml of their own unique creation. I came away from that experience with a new found respect for Glengoyne. Not just in the meticulous, patient way they produced their single malt but in how they welcomed and cared for their visitors.
Glengoyne distillery was founded in 1833 in a cluster of farm buildings at the foot of Dumgoyne Hill. The sites proximity to Glasgow meant the owners were able to build up great relationships with the city’s blenders, so much so, one of them bought the distillery outright in the 1870’s. Lang Bros. was later acquired by Edrington – owner of the Famous Grouse, Macallan and Highland Park – and Glengoyne remained in their control until Ian MacLeod Distillers purchased it in 2003.
Today Glengoyne is a particularly green distillery, with 100% of its power coming from renewable energy. The surrounding countryside has been used to create wetlands that provide natural treatment of the site’s waste water. Post-distillation, the water filters through 12 pools, each thick with reed beds that remove impurities and slow the flow. By the time the liquid has made its way through each pool it is ready to rejoin the burn as it connects with the river and travels onward towards Loch Lomond.
Glengoyne have worked in partnership with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to create such a landscape. Wetlands cover less than five percent of the world’s surface yet they are responsible for locking away a third of terrestrial carbon dioxide. They are also excellent for biodiversity – the Glengoyne Wetlands are home to 14,500 plants of 20 different varieties that attract birds, dragonflies and other wildlife to the area.
This conscientious handling of their land is reflected in the slow, controlled production of the Glengoyne spirit. They shun peat in the drying of their barley and favour sherry wood in maturation with older expressions dominated by the European Oak character. Their 12 year old however, is created from a blend of both sherry and bourbon casks and retails between £35 and £40 a bottle.
Smell: Honey, apple and orange zest. Toffee. Malted barley. Shortcrust pastry. Woody spice. Touch of sherry. Vanilla.
Taste: Some sherry right away. Toffee apples. Orange and lemon. Slightly woody with cinnamon and ginger. Decent weight to it considering the low abv.
Thoughts: A price point of £35 – £40 may be fairly standard for a 12 year old malt but it is fair to say that the quality on offer here is better than most.
A dram of real quality and sophistication. Young Glengoyne is often wonderfully malty, whilst older versions are sherry dominated. The 12 year old is where we start to see the sherry exert itself. It isn’t in command yet but it’s flexing its muscles so to speak. Very well balanced and great value for money.
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