Glengoyne distillery exists on the foothills of the Highland region, proudly straddling the Lowlands and its northern counterpart. This idyllic environment is dominated by the towering presence of Dumgoyne Hill that stands proudly on guard over the distillery.
This landscape was an ideal setting for illicit stills that were rampant locally to satisfy a thirst and for tax avoidance. With the city of Glasgow close by, transportation of this contraband was made all the more straightforward compared to bootleggers located further north. Today Glasgow may have spiralled out towards Glengoyne, but the distillery still retains enough distance and remains in a picturesque, Highland setting. Visitors to the city without transportation will be pleased to know a bus route will deliver you right to the distillery should you decide to make the trip.
This is the second time I have visited Glengoyne and the distillery now offers a new selection of tours including the latest; No.1 warehouse tour. I took this with fellow whisky lover Linh (whisky anorach) as her last distillery tour before returning to America. We left Fife expecting the rain to continue throughout our drive to the West of Scotland. Instead we were greeted by a gorgeous summer day shining firmly on Glengoyne and a fitting end to her distillery voyage.
The distillery was in its silent season so this offered the opportunity to experience the tour without any of the sounds and smells of distillation. For some visitors this could be viewed as a disappointment but it allowed us to get up close with the equipment and hear our guide clearly. We also observed the staff doing various maintenance jobs and a leisurely feeling was evident throughout.
The No.1 Warehouse tour differs from other tours not only in price (£75) but also allowing you a more hands on experience followed by a difficult decision. The warehouses previously at Glengoyne were out of reach of the distillery tour as this would mean crossing the busy road that divides the Highland and Lowland default line. Instead the warehouse experience was brought into the main distillery area with the conversion of an outbuilding directly across from the still room.
An imaginative display showing the influence of the cask on the spirit during maturation set the tone before we were allowed into the duty free warehouse. A normal tour also is shown this area but doesn't go beyond the imposing metal gates and the biggest padlock I've seen. It's not a traditional dunnage warehouse however casks of all vintages adorn the walls and looking upwards you suddenly realise you're right beneath the pagoda.
Taking centre stage are 2 casks; an Oloroso sherry butt and a bourbon cask. This is the interactive part of the tour where you are given a whisky dog (also known as a dipping dog) and allowed to take a generous 35ml sample from each cask. These are poured into your Glencairns and then you're escorted up to the former manager's house which has been transformed into a cosy tasting area. Here you're granted a prolonged period to nose and debate which cask you will select for bottling.
This is an extremely difficult decision as both myself and Linh, enjoy sherry whiskies and had predicted we'd without question select the sherry butt. Yet there was something about a 100% bourbon matured Glengoyne that captured our interest. As I was driving, I could only nose the samples and look longingly at Linh tasting each and providing feedback. We were in all likelihood debating this choice for about 30 minutes but also engaging our guide in the discussion and whisky stories. Eventually we both decided on the bourbon cask much to our surprise!
Decision made and bottle tags completed. We headed back to the warehouse to fill our 200ml sample bottles. This is included in the cost of the tour but if you couldn't make your mind up then you can for an additional £50 bottle the other cask as well. The bottles themselves are the same eye-pleasing design as the 200ml options for the core range including the 21 year old. I find these bottles an ideal size for saving special samples or decantering for another day. After filling our bottles with a larger dog this time around we concluded the tour in the distillery shop. Now of course I'm at home and able to bring you more detailed information and tasting notes on both of the casks on offer currently, so lets begin.
The tour begins with a dram of the only No Age Statement Glengoyne currently available which is the cask strength release. So we'll replicate the tour whiskies starting from the opening act:
Glengoyne Cask Strength, Batch 003, 58.2%
Colour: a setting sun
Nose: caramel, dark chocolate, ginger cake, pepper and a damp forest. Adding water delivers more spicing with cinnamon, sticky honey, biscuits and a fresh laundry
Taste: sherry-lite at first with red berries, melted chocolate, cherries and bourbon biscuits with a chocolate buttercream centre. Water reveals the young shallow nature of this youngster so add with caution.
1997 Bourbon (18 years old), cask number 1793, 57%
Nose: butterycups, honey, limoncello, a dusty well read book, apricots, pineapple and oranges. With water more marmalade notes. Very fresh and vibrant floral notes.
Taste: butterscotch with apple tarte tatin, a rusty quality and vanilla.
2002 Sherry puncheon (13 years old), cask number 785, 60.1%
Colour: amber rust
Nose: rubbed brass, fresh doughnuts, ginger, strawberries, milk chocolate, honeycomb and a menthol cough sweet. Addition of water brings out Millionaires' shortbread, oranges and pomegranate.
Taste: not as rich as the nose suggests with red grapes, blackberries, rust and a Black Forest gateau with chocolate, cream and cherries.
So there you have it; the Glengoyne No.1 Warehouse experience. Even without the whiskies I enjoyed the tour but they add that little extra something and then you walk away with the 200ml bottle package in a tidy box and neck tag you complete yourself. I've tried to keep the photographs here to a minimum, but as always these are in an album on my FaceBook page right here.
After sampling both casks at home I'm glad to say Linh picked the best of the bunch as the bourbon has more depth whereas the sherry butt could do with a few more years to build upon strong foundations.
Labels: bourbon hogshead, cask strength, distillery tour, glengoyne, no 1 warehouse, sherry cask