For a week, Glasgow was my ‘base’ of operation – with a couple days off to explore. We took a day trip to Edinburgh and another to Isle of Arran plus I popped over to Glengoyne one day. It was completely worth the trip – though a cool, stormy, wet day – I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘light touch’ tour – all within the limitations of being responsible in these COVID times.
Naturally the highlight was sampling whisky – in my case it began with a wee nip of the Glengoyne 12 year in Warehouse No 1 before I continued to my “Malt Master” experience.
So I followed the same approach with my tasting companion back in London. It had been well over a year since we had sat down to enjoy a mini together and was a perfect way to ease back into whisky tasting.
Glengoyne 12 year 43%
Nose – Started with a bit of varnish then quickly shifted into vanilla, sweet honey, over ripe fruits, custard… as it opened more there was a dusty powder, then banana cream pie, lots of caramel, all having a light touch, teasing and inviting rather than over powering
Palate – Light spice, dry wood, more of the fruit and baked goods.
Finish – Again light, closing simply on “yum”
Water – Didn’t even try… no need
What is interesting is my impression in Scotland was leaning more to the sherry side whereas sitting in London, I found much more influence of the ex bourbon cask.
Overall we were quite happy with our sample – a nice sipping dram – easy to sit back and enjoy. For my companion it helped dispel a less complimentary experience we had with the Glengoyne 21 years ago.
One fine evening our original Mumbai tasting group settled down to sample a trio… completely blind followed by the reveal.
We began with a Highland single malt picked up by our host’s father-in-law in Russia.
Glengoyne Distiller’s Gold 15 year 40%
Nose – Clear stamp of an ex-Bourbon cask, banana, vanilla, boiled sweets, honey, a bit floral, quite sharp, scented erasers, candied orange, lavender, marigold, like wandering through a garden, bit oily, grapes and wine tannins. After the first sip, the perfume settled down and the spice stepped back too to make way for a more vegetal, honey, caramel, biscuits, something heavier underneath, pumpkin seeds, yeasty
Palate – Starts off quite mild, quite thin to the point it almost evaporated, none of the oiliness promised on the nose…. after consideration it had a light to medium body, quite “neutral” in character. Keep sipping and found a light hint of brine, a hint of tobacco or leather, nescafe coffee powder
Finish – Began a bit bitter yet a nice bitter, white pepper corn, black raw licorice, mineral, while not long shifted between different elements
Water – While it seemed a contradiction given how light we found it, the whisky is quite enjoyable with a bit of water. It rounds it out, particularly if you let it sit for some time. It also then reveals fruits like green apple.
Return – And be rewarded with butterscotch!
What did we think?
There was a familiar quality with a classic approach. We found it quite nice and all shared how it grows on you. Easy to sip and while there were no distinctive qualities that shouted out one particular distillery over another, it was quite pleasant.
For most, the nose was its best quality – enjoying how it would change and evolve. We also found it best to give more time, let it sit – worth the wait.
As we speculated about it, our general conclusion was that it was Scottish, low 40%s, primarily bourbon cask. One suggested it came from “pedigree”.
And the reveal?
What complete surprise! Previous Glengoyne’s had a much heavier sherry influence – it was quite different than what we recalled. We wanted to learn more about the casks used and were surprised to learn it spent six years in a sherry cask? Really? Could it be a 3rd fill…..? The wording on the bottle was a imprecise.
It was originally released only for travel retail, only natural colour.
Nose – Fruity, yoghurt, an agave-like quality, raw, barley mash, spice, light cream, caramel, baby puke, yeasty, honey sweet
Palate – Spice burn, a few remarked “tastes better than it smells”, quite peppery with more alcohol ‘beastie’ than timidity
Finish – Sharp, short, bitter
There was a mixed reaction to this one. The agave like aroma was akin to the “morning after an overindulgence of tequila”… Another found this was “something to be used for cleaning like solvent.” Yet another quipped “The rat is there on the label for a reason!”
While not horrifically bad, it was a bit like having peppery tequila.
Douglas Laing’s Timorous Beastie, immortalised in Robert Burns’ famous Scots poem “To a Mouse”, was a timid, little field mouse. Echoing our national bard’s wit, ours is most certainly not for the fainthearted! This non coloured, non-chill-filtered Small Batch bottling is a marriage of appropriately aged and selected Highland Malts – including, amongst others, those distilled at Glen Garioch, Dalmore and Glengoyne distilleries.
Nose – Overridingly sweet on the nose, then warming to floral, light barley & spicy honeyed tones.
Palate – The palate opens in a spicy style – fructiferous, mellow, with sugary vanilla.
Finish – The finish is at first subtle, but runs to a sweet character that carries an oaky quality plus a late meringue style.
For our October session, our host was careful to ensure that while we may have sampled Glengoyne whiskies previously, what we opened that evening would be a different age statement than we had tasted together before.
Nose – Subdued sherry, strong yet light (yes it sounds like a contradiction but true!), berries, hint of orange cake or apple crisp
Palate – Pungent, bitter orange marmalade, decent mouthfeel, good body, smooth, some sweet spice, quite delicious
Finish – Nice and pleasant
Overall we found this whisky very accessible, good aromas and gave the impression of being not fully sherry but perhaps a mix of 1st fill sherry with other casks, nicely rounding out the elements so the sherry dimension was not overpowering or too intense. In short, it was sherry but… not. Which worked!
For those of us who drained to the last drop (seemed to be all!), we were impressed by the excellent aromas remaining in the empty Glencairn glass.