Glenglassaugh fell silent in 1986. Deemed surplus to requirements and not naturally fitting into (then) owners Highland Distillers blended products, the distillery looked to have gone the way of the dodo. But, a phoenix-like re-emergence in 2008, and subsequent purchases by The BenRiach Distillery Company (2013) and Brown-Forman (2016) have led to Glenglassaugh once again appearing back on the radar. With one important caveat – the distillery didn’t and doesn’t have a wealth of aged stocks.
22 years of inactivity is never a good thing for building a depth and breadth of stock. Glenglassaugh’s various owners and Distillery Managers have had to be rather creative with the dearth of mature stock and relatively youthfulness of the spirit that’s only been running from Glenglassaugh’s stills for a little over a decade.
Whilst consumers seem generally happy to lap up 3 year old whisky from the newly established distilleries (folks love to get on board with things early doors – even if every release by and large tastes remarkably similar)…..it’s not quite the same proposition when a distillery re-opens its doors. Most consumers don’t truly recognise the impacts that two-decades of closure has on a distillery’s inventory. Similarly, one-off 30 and 40 year old releases (albeit particularly good ones) to my mind only detract further away from the realities of where the distillery will be heading over the next few years. Forget 30 and 40 year releases – Glenglassaugh hasn’t yet released a decade old bottling from its post 2008 stock. Expectations are important to manage.
I think it’s reasonable to suggest that Glenglassaugh has yet to discover where it’s new distillery style is going to sit – they’ve simply not had time to do so. 2018’s limited edition ‘Wood Finished Range’ – adds further credence to this supposition. Consisting of four releases – Peated Virgin Oak, Pedro Ximenex, Port Wood and Peated Port Wood – the expressions stand as the distillery’s first ever foray into finishing – a fact which sounds rather staggering when you consider the tranche of bottlings that have been released during Glenglassaugh’s period of silence – two decades is quite some time to be out of the game.
The Peated Port Wood Finish is not the most transparent of releases – matured for an unspecified period of time in ex-bourbon before being finished for another unspecified period of time in port (ruby port pipes it turns out – but again, this is not indicated on the bottle itself). The release is delivered at 46% ABV and has a rather variable cost depending on where you’re located. As a limited edition, stocks seem a little low in the UK and clock in around £60. Over in Europe, there’s Peated Port abound – and you’ll be able to pick this up for between €50 and €55.
Nose: Fruit, minerality and a summer BBQ. Stewed raspberries and plums conjoin with beachy slates and bicycle inner tubes before being blasted with a firm waft of grilled sausages and maple syrup roasted BBQ pork. Running throughout – coal ash, molten plastic, tanned leather, cinnamon and mint leaves. Reduction reveals a rather heathery aspect to the smoke influence, but at the same time, an increasingly plasticated one. I dare say this is pretty youthful stuff.
Taste: The arrival blends sweet fruitiness with dry, cask-driven smoke influence – cranberries and strawberries alongside roasted meats, heavily reduced finishing jus and plenty of charred cask ends. The peat is all rather relaxed, delivering elements of the coast (shingle and shale) with smoked red fruits, burnt toffee and saline-tinged chalkiness. Water adds some darker berries (blackcurrant and plum), but also emphasises the precursor ex-bourbon cask with plenty of toffee and vanilla.
Finish: Short to medium in length and more smoke focussed – cinnamon, pepper and salt warding off the bitter oak that is fighting to break free.
Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish offers a respectable integration of smoke and fortified wine. It’s an easy drinking, pleasant peated port offering. However, neither the wine, nor the smoke influence fully takes charge – which results in balance – but, at the same time, a somewhat wishy-washy sentiment. With neither fully stepping up to the plate, there’s nowhere to hide from this feeling a touch undercooked. Nevertheless, the amalgamation works and would certainly be worth revisiting once there's a few more years of maturity under its belt.