Glengoyne Distillery has been very busy recently, launching a host of tasty expressions while also undergoing a brand and packaging refresh. We were lucky enough to try the new drams, including the particularly interesting, fan-chosen ‘Cask of the Moment’ single cask bottling…
For a lot of us, the extra time we got in lockdown was spent trying to find something useful to do with all these strange new hours. You might have got into shape, started reading more books or found a way to disable the “Are you still watching?” prompts Netflix has (if you found a way then feel free to share). Ian Macleod Distillers, however, was clearly very productive. The Scottish family-owned spirits company has announced the release of the next instalment of Tamdhu’s excellent Batch Strength series (more on that in an upcoming post soon…), as well as all kinds of cool new Glengoyne developments in recent weeks.
Yesterday, Glengoyne revealed that its range has become fully recyclable and unveiled a swanky Queer Eye-style makeover (see bottles below). However, this is Master of Malt, so while we’re excited about sustainability and love the new look, we’re even more interested in the new whiskies that have been launched alongside this rebrand. The first is the next chapter in the Legacy Series, the second is the eighth batch in the Cask Strength range, (both are on their way to MoM Towers, so look out for those) and the third is the ‘Cask of the Moment’ single cask bottling, which we’ll discuss in detail later. For now, let’s take a look at the Legacy Series:
Glengoyne Legacy Series: Chapter Two (48% ABV)
The second chapter in Glengoyne’s Legacy Series marries whisky matured in first-fill bourbon (which includes spirit from 7-8 years old up to 23 years old) and refill sherry casks. Hughes revealed that 48% of Chapter Two was the former, making it the most bourbon-cask-forward of any Glengoyne bottling. It’s a deliberate contrast to Chapter One, which was matured in first-fill European oak oloroso sherry casks as well as refill casks.
Nose: Buttery pastry filled with cooked apple and a dash of baking spice with notes of tinned peaches, papaya and toffee in support. There’s a hint of white chocolate and raspberry blondies in the backdrop with earthy vanilla, autumnal leaves and candied lemon peel.
Palate: Pear drops, sweet vanilla pod and a kick of cinnamon, with buttery lemon shortbread, dried herbs, red apples and a little lime marmalade in support.
Finish: Exceptionally long and mellow with a pleasant prickle of spice.
Overall: A pleasant dram with moments of real depth complex whisky that shows distillery character and cask in harmony. This is a great example of how bourbon casks can make Glengoyne distillate shine and a fantastic demonstration of the distillery’s wood management policy. Impressive stuff.
Glengoyne Cask Strength Batch No. 008 (59.2% ABV.)
The second on the list of new whiskies to try is from another belter of a series, the Cask Strength range. These bottlings show off the rich, powerful Glengoyne flavour profile and for this reason, always prove very popular. The previous seven batches have all sold out on MoM. Batch No. 008 was created from malts that were matured in a number of different barrels, with 50% of it coming from refill casks, 30% from first-fill sherry (40% American oak and 60% European oak), 10% first-fill bourbon and 10% Rioja cask.
Nose: There’s rich oak spice, tannic red grape skins and fresh malt which blends with sweeter notes of buttery toffee popcorn, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and white chocolate buttons.
Palate: Stewed fruits, Seville orange and chewy toffee with some warm gingerbread spiciness emerge first, with hints of peaches and cream and caramelised apple underneath. A little earthy clove and black peppercorn add depth among burnt sugar and some tropical fruit.
Finish: More cooked orchard fruit lingers with a little bit of chocolatey malt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Overall: A dram that moves in many directions simultaneously, but enough Glengoyne DNA keeps things interesting and prevents it from becoming too muddled. I’d say this will be quite crowd-pleaser, it boasts plenty of that sherried goodness the distillery is known and adored for while offering something a little different.
Two delightful drams of contrasting style. However, they don’t take the prize for the most exciting recent Glengoyne release. That accolade belongs to the latest ‘Cask of the Moment’ single cask bottling, which is part of a collection of single cask expressions that show off Glengoyne’s wood policy and the versatility of its spirit. So, what makes this one stand out? Allow us to explain…
Alongside the revamped looks and sustainable policies, Glengoyne has released some cracking new drams
How fans came to choose Glengoyne’s latest whisky
On the evening of Friday 28 August, I was one of may Glengoyne fans who (virtually) tuned in to a live stream of a tasting of four amples, one of which would become the new ‘Cask of the Moment’ expression. Global brand ambassador Gordon Dundas hosted, with distillery manager Robbie Hughes and industry experts Rosalind Erskine, Christopher Coates and Blair Bowman joining him to discuss each dram and pick a favourite. The difference was, we all got to do the same. Armed with a tasting kit filled with the samples, we simply clicked a link, selected a chosen dram and bam! Democracy. It was basically the Highland’s X-Factor. “To get our fans involved in such a unique way from the comfort of their own homes was special. The ability to host a public vote, get an instant result of the favourite cask and then have it available to buy on the shop made it a truly seamless event,” Dundas commented.
The four candidates were single casks samples that were chosen from Glengoyne’s Warehouse #8, included a sherry hogshead, an ex-bourbon barrel, a Port pipe and a Madeira cask. This is a particularly exciting line-up not only because of its variety but, as Hughes pointed out, “some of the liquid in the sample kits may have never been released for sale”, making it a one-of-a-kind experience. Hughes added he’s always wanted to do a tasting of single casks straight out of the warehouse and that he had three main objectives in mind. “One was to select styles of whisky Glengoyne isn’t normally associated with. Secondly, I didn’t want the whiskies to be too old because I wanted people to be able to afford them. The third objective was to select three whiskies that I really liked. It took us just 40 minutes to choose these four whiskies, that’s how outstanding they were”.
So, without further ado, here are the four samples and our thoughts on them:
The tasting kit featured four completely different samples
An ex-bourbon barrel that Hughes remembers filling back in December 2004, as it was “the first bourbon cask we distilled in years”. Only two of the 73 casks remain, but despite this Glengoyne isn’t known for its use of bourbon cask, with only the 12 Year Old featuring any first fill bourbon in it from the core range.
Nose: There’s masses of vanilla upfront with desiccated coconut and some classic Glengoyne fruitiness (mostly green apples). Lemon drizzle cake adds some citrus elements among tangy elements of barbecued pineapple and blackberries. Throughout there’s a note of sticky toffee pudding filled with dates and covered in vanilla ice cream, as well as hints of freshly grated nutmeg and cacao powder.
Palate: Through drying oak spice, ginger and black pepper comes brown sugar, polished furniture and raspberry and vanilla sponge. There’s plenty of dried mango and makrut lime as well as a note of summer flowers throughout.
Finish: Lemon bonbons, dark berry jam and red apple skins linger.
Overall: A terrific whisky. There’s heaps of distillery profile that the cask enhances while bringing enough of its own personality to the table. To be honest, I thought we already had our winner with the first dram when I tasted this. Then came Cask B…
Back on 19 January 2005 Glengoyne distilled a batch of its signature new make and popped it into a 404 litre Port pipe, and boy am I glad they did. Hughes says this cask was one of the biggest ever filled at the distillery and that only three remains. This would have had Colheita Port in it for nearly 30 years (1977), which actually doesn’t sound promising as you would think it’s taken a lot of goodness out of the cask itself. Hughes says he was wary himself, but the angel share was reasonable (they lost 23.4%) and there proved to be plenty of power left.
Nose: Wow. The best nose of the range. The thick and rich elements of dark chocolate, black cherry, raisins and treacle come first, then clove, liquorice and caramelised oranges add contrast. An underlying oaky dryness adds structure to the sweet richness of the port elements before we get that classic Glengoyne orchard fruit note, hazelnut, pomegranate molasses then leather and espresso beans. You could nose this all day and not get bored.
Palate: Blackberry jam, stewed plum and black wine gums provide a similar big and bold opening to the nose with manuka honey dried apricots and fresh herbs bringing balance this time. Lots of nutty tones, vanilla and red cola cubes are present with an underlying note that’s similar to Tunes Cherry Menthol Lozenges.
Finish: Damp earth, fruitcake and salted caramel with a little black pepper remain.
Overall: A spectacular dram. It’s so indulgent, full-bodied and moreish. The cask brings an incredible variety of flavours, but the most impressive aspect is how well the distillery character has been integrated beautifully. Port is usually a finishing cask, but this is the kind of dram that proves it can do full maturation. Hughes remarked in the tasting he’s “never tasted a Glengoyne like this before,” and that he was “going to have to go and try the other two casks now… for science!”
Seeing the public’s thoughts on the samples in real-time gave the tasting an extra element of excitement
Cask C is an ex-sherry refill hogshead, which means we’re in very familiar Glengoyne territory here. The hogshead’s capacity was 148.2 litres, which Hughes says is one of the smallest he’s seen. Cask C is the last one of this particular batch, so it’s exceptionally rare. Hughes also remarked that when they tried this one in the warehouse they didn’t think twice about putting it in the tasting, so that gives you an idea of the standard we’re working with here.
Nose: Big notes of sherry-soaked fruit upfront (dates, plums and blackberries) as well as pomander balls, Christmas cake and marzipan. Grape skin, strawberry pencil sweets and vanilla come next with toasted almonds, old leather, dark chocolate, sweet tobacco and toasted brown sugar. Sublime.
Palate: Chocolate ice-cream, vanilla pod, Seville marmalade and red fruit (cranberries, mostly) lead with baking spice, potpourri and cracked black peppercorns in support. As the palate develops there’s nectarine in syrup, caramel, stewed pear and resinous wax. With water, there’s a really beautiful note of fresh melon as the palate becomes lighter, creamier and more aromatic.
Finish: The finish is tannic and dry with red apple skin and melted chocolate.
Overall: A beauty. Sadly, this sample has much in common with the core range and this meant it became a little overlooked compared to the more intriguing cask types. But it’s an expression any fan of the distillery would be delighted with if they purchased it.
Our final dram of the evening is the Madeira cask, another very rare option as there’s only two of these left on site. This one dates back to 2007 and was probably the sample I was most intrigued to taste. A quick look at MoM demonstrates how rare whisky fully-matured in Madeira casks are.
Nose: Salted caramel, rhubarb and custard cake and old leather initially followed by black cherry, banana foam sweets and tinned pineapple chunks. Underneath there’s a note of coke and vanilla ice cream float.
Palate: Beautiful, for my money the best palate of the range. There’s nectarines in syrup, marmalade and acacia honey with drying spice, balsamic vinegar, condensed milk and toasted almonds adding depth. Tangy pineapple, creme brulee and apricot jam arrive in the mid-palate with marzipan, creamy vanilla and stewed orchard fruits.
Finish: Stem ginger, resin, sultanas and a hint of banana milkshake.
Overall: I love this whisky. It’s an exceptional example of Madeira cask whisky done right and a lesson in balance between distillery character and a cask that can often easily overwhelm the liquid. It’s a multifaceted, complex and integrated whisky. The palate offered new notes with every sip.
This project demonstrated how many wonderful varieties of whisky Glengoyne has maturing in its warehouses
As you can imagine, casting my vote proved very difficult. Cask B had the best nose but I was so impressed with Cask D on the palate. I felt bad for not giving Cask A enough consideration, which was sublime. Then I felt really bad for Cask C, which would stand out in any other tasting but here got lost in all the fun and exploration. Glengoyne could, and should, release all of them (I’m not being greedy).
Hughes says that Glengoyne’s spirit works well in so many different cask styles as the new make has few harsh spikes that need ironing out with time in a cask. “It means our original character, which is light, with strong fruity, estery notes, doesn’t change dramatically over the years. It doesn’t diminish quickly in the cask and the cask rarely domineers it either, quite a strange combination to be honest, but the end result is excellent,” he explained. “What is also key is that you must get your cask selection right from the start. It isn’t enough to just produce an excellent spirit, you must have quality oak casks to put it in. Our whisky is complimented by many different styles of cask for this reason. Once you put them both together and leave time to do its stuff you can get something special”.
As far as the format for picking a new whisky goes, I was a huge fan of this process. Not only can I not remember the last time I did a round of tastings and enjoyed each whisky so much, but the execution of the event was smooth, with everything delivered on time and with clear instructions. The live vote brought genuine excitement and anticipation. The range also worked as an insight into the effects of full-term, single cask maturation and an education in how distillery character reacts to different profiles of casks. I’d like to see this become a more common approach and Dundas believes the brand could do it again. “When you’re able to engage your fans in such a unique way, it makes sense to see how you can evolve it to make their experience with Glengoyne the best it can be”.
Anyway, you’re probably all anxious to learn which dram was the winner. Well, first here’s how the panel ranked the samples:
Robbie Hughes – Winner: Cask B (Runner up: Cask A)
Rosalind Erskine – Winner: Cask B (Runner up: Cask A)
Blair Bowman – Winner: Cask B (Runner up: Cask A)
Christopher Coates – Winner: Cask B (Runner up: Cask D)
Gordon Dundas – Winner: Cask A (Runner up: Cask B)
So, Cask B was the clear winner there. But, the public still had the ultimate say. And the winner was…
Cask B in bottle form!
On the face of it, it would appear the public may have been influenced by the panel’s thoughts, although Cask B was so good it’s perfectly possible the entire Glengoyne community came to the same conclusion in unison. Hughes, who picked Cask B as the standout whisky of the evening, summarised that “Glengoyne has a top-notch core range offering and we release high-quality single cask whiskies as well, but Cask B has a point of difference from them all. It has enjoyed full maturation in a Port pipe cask since January 2005 so this isn’t simply a cask seasoned with Port for a couple of years,” he said. “This cask has a pedigree and over the 15 years of maturation, the Glengoyne spirit was, in my opinion, able to develop into one of the finest single casks we have produced. It’s yet another example of what this wee distillery is capable of producing. It never fails to surprise me!”
It’s a worthy victor. I highly recommend the purchase, although I will note that it does come with a premium price. However, one of the many advantages of going for the Port pipe was that it’s huge and so Glengoyne was able to fill 789 bottles from it, meaning there is still some left (at the time of writing). The whisky is available to purchase at the newly reopened distillery shop and online via the Glengoyne website. And don’t forget, the Legacy Series: Chapter Two the Cask Strength series Batch No. 008 will be arriving at MoM Towers soon!