The Glengoyne distillery sits at the foot of Dumgoyne Hill near Loch Lomond. The distillery burn, as it is known, tumbles down the Dumgoyne Hill providing water for the 1.1 million litre capacity whisky distillery. In the past, the woodlands and undulations which covered the surrounding area gave superb shelter for the illegitimate distillations that were brought about by heavy spirit taxation. During the early 19th century, it is rumoured, there were as many as eighteen illicit Stills in the area. The whisky that came from these Stills was taken to the local blacksmith, who filled earthenware pots with the rough, wild spirit and employed local girls to walk the 14 miles to Glasgow with the whisky concealed beneath their hooped skirts. The dense woodland once provided shelter for Rob Roy MacGregor who secreted himself in a little hollow when pursued by the English army.
In 1833, the local farmer, George Connell was granted the license to legally produce whisky in the area. He founded the Burnfoot Distillery, which became Glenguin Distillery in 1861, then, in 1906, became Glengoyne. The previous owners Lang Brothers were acquired by Robertson and Baxter. The distillery was renovated and a further still was installed. In 1984, Lang Brothers received a Royal Warrant, having supplied whisky to the Queen Mother. In April of 2003, Ian MacLeod acquired Lang's blended products and the Glengoyne distillery from the Edrington Group for £7.2 million.
The water is unpeated and the malt used is similarly devoid of peat. Glengoyne is one of several such whiskies in Scotland, but is the one that has made the biggest virtue of it. Glengoyne enjoys the slowest rate of distillation in Scotland (the spirit comes from the Still at around 4-5 litres per minute) which encourages the formation of ‘esters’ giving Glengoyne its characteristically sweet, smooth taste. The spirit is then matured in oak casks from Spain, which have previously contained Sherry. Ian Macleod Distillers look after this whole process. Once felled, the oak is cut into strips and dried in the sunshine of northern Spain for two years before being made into casks and filled with the Dry Oloroso Sherry for a further two years.
The little huddle of distillery buildings is still under Ian Macleod proprietorship and there have been many official releases, though independent bottlings are rather rare. The distillery operates a visitor centre which offers the widest range of visits in Scotland, including Master Classes, Blending Sessions and the opportunity to taste samples from the cask and help Glengoyne select the first ever Distillery Exclusive Single Cask release.