Every distillery has a certain sense of uniqueness about it – from equipment (which is sometimes adapted and retrofitted in-situ), custom distillation processes, differing maturation regimes, and of course the biggest variable of all – people. Highland distillery Glengoyne has several noteworthy distinctions. Its geographic location under Dumgoyne (a 1,401 ft peak formed from a volcanic plug) puts the distillery itself in the Highlands region, whilst the over the road warehousing are technically in the Lowlands. It is one of very few distilleries to use entirely air-dried barley (the low yield, high quality Golden Promise – also utilised at Macallan), and similarly is amongst a group of sites to have ridden out the various downtowns over the past two centuries and therefore has operated continuously since its inception in 1833.
The distillery’s core range runs from 10 year old through to 25 year old, stopping off for a batch produced NAS cask strength expression. There are also special/limited editions which includes the popular ‘Teapot Dram’ and both a 30 and 35 year old. Finally, the distillery has recently introduced four travel retail expressions which all focus on sherry cask finishing: Cuartillo, Balbaina, PX Cask Finish and a 28 year old.
Today we’ll be taking a look at Glengoyne 15 year old which is comprised of whisky that has been matured in 1st fill sherry, ex-bourbon and refill casks. It is bottled at 43% ABV and costs a little under £50 as of writing.
Nose: Quite sweet with the 1st fill sherry influence reasonably prominent and delivering caramel, toffee, red berries, spent coffee and almonds. Deeper aromas develop as the glass sits for a few minutes – chocolate nibs and hazelnuts. Running throughout the whisky is the aroma from the ex-bourbon and refill barrels – creamy vanilla custard and red apples. Both sides of the coin integrate well. Water refocuses the fruit element towards citrus – lemon peels and particularly orange coming through, alongside stem ginger.
Taste: Silky and slightly oily in texture – and again with sherry at the leading edge. An arrival packed full of caramel, burnt toffee, walnuts and hazelnuts and then bitter spicing – pepper and ginger. In the mid to back palate, more sophistication – tart red apples, sour citrus and brighter, sweeter honey. The addition of water again releases orange zest, alongside red hedgerow berries and a sprinkling of nutmeg.
Finish: Medium, drying quickly in the mouth and with pepper, apple, oak and vanilla.
Glengoyne is well known for its sherry-forward style, however its younger expressions ably demonstrate that its spirit is equally at home in ex-bourbon wood. The 15 year old is somewhat at the intersection of this in terms of the Glengoyne range – it’s certainly a sherried malt, however the ex-bourbon influence is still perceivable. Both aspects are well judged here, in a vatting that still typifies the distillery’s sherry-forward ethos, but doesn’t sledgehammer it home (there are other whiskies of a similar age, or younger which serve that part of the market). The end result is a good value, balanced whisky that should certainly be considered as a solid daily drinker if you like the underlying style and character.