Glengoyne 16 year Malt Master “Carissa” Original Cask Strength

One highlight from our Scotland trip was having a go at crafting my own dram! Spoiler alert – what I’m about to describe can’t be replicated however I would COMPLETELY recommend the “Malt Master” experience at Glengoyne distillery and see what you come up with!

So how did we go about it? I sat in a lovely room filed with a wall of cask samples… in front of me were 5 different casks. Each was numbered from left to right with the distillery tasting notes. The suggested process was to start first by pouring a portion into the small Glencairn glasses from the test tube to try each. Then begin to play around with crafting my own malt… So what did I discover?

Glengoyne Malt Master

#1 – Refill Hogshead Cask 24 (14 Jan 2004 / 2020) 57.8%

  • Nose – Initially very pronounced pineapples, as it continued to open the tropical fruits shifted more into orchard fruits of crisp apple, pears, citrus, banana, light raisins, some candle wax, ever so slightly floral
  • Taste – A bit of spice, grapefruit, pink peppercorns, a bit zesty, thin
  • Finish – Hardly at all discernible

On its own, it was a pleasant way to begin, particularly on the aroma side, but incomplete.

#2 – 1st Fill American Oak Bourbon Barrel Cask 3553 (1 Dec 2004 / 2020) 56.2%

  • Nose – Delightfully fruity with banana, pear, tropical fruits, citrus…. coconut oil, candy
  • Taste – Sweet vanilla custard, banana cream pie, oak
  • Finish – Lighty bitter

Initially I found it a bit too wood forward… however the aromas warmed up and became more and more enjoyable.

#3 – 1st Fill American Oak Sherrry Puncheon Cask 206 (8 Mar 2000 / 2020) 57.5%

  • Nose – Chocolate, hazelnut, caramelized creme brûlée, strawberries and raspberries, rose hip
  • Taste – Just a beautiful mouthfeel, rich, dark coffee, bitter chocolate, wonderfully balanced
  • Finish – Lovely

What a fabulous single cask! It could easily stand on its own… my initial thought was keep it just as is – no need to add anything else! It was like an old friend with subtle different dimensions… sitting beautifully on the tongue.

#4 – 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Puncheon (light) Cask 934 (13 Jun 2001 / 2020) 56.8%

  • Nose – Molasses, bitter orange marmalade, treacle, nuts
  • Taste – Burnt sugar, oily, brazil nuts
  • Finish – Lots of staying power

Whereas the 1st Fill Sherry in an American Oak had lightly roasted hazelnuts, here the nuts were a mix of brazilian, pecan, walnut and more. Interestingly, when I went back to revisit it was a bit shy on the nose. However the oily element on the palate added a solid dimension… and the finish? That was what this cask really brought to the party.

#5 – 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Puncheon (dark) Cask 1927 (2 Jul 1998 / 2020) 56.4%

  • Colour – I just have to say upfront the colour was as intense as the whisky – dark ruby almost to chocolate
  • Nose – RUM! Think rum raisin ice cream, crunchy red apples, dark fruits and berries
  • Taste – Raisins, stewed fruits, lots of tannins and soft oak, drying
  • Finish – Long and quietly sweet

This one could almost be too much of a good thing! Rich, dark and heavy… yet also a bit secretive. It had a wonderful warmth to the palate, yet such intensity I immediately knew this would be a case of “less is more”.

So… what did I decide to do? I began with #3 as a wonderful base (50ml)… however I wanted to bring a bit more fruit into the mix so added some #2 (20ml), a bit of #1 (20ml) to add a little zing, then #4 (20ml) for the oily palate…. swished is around, added more of #3 (20ml), up the fruit with #2 (10ml) before adding the intensity of #5 (20ml).

The aromas were classic, the palate had lovely balance and depth with a delicious long finish. And with that – I had my recipe!

I simply replicated the portions by half – just a bit lighter on the #1 and #2 – played around a wee bit more and there I had my (almost!) 200ml bottle!

I brought it with me to London where my host and I cracked it open one evening to see how it settled in…

Glengoyne 16 year “Carissa Original” Cask Strength

  • Nose – Plum liquor, baked pineapple, sticky toffee, caramelized cream pudding, rum raisins, Christmas pudding, sticky pastries dusted with icing sugar, chocolate, dry herbs, light tangy element – almost a hint of dry mango, back to baked goods
  • Palate – Really coats the palate, a nice oily element, rich plums, dense dates, a chewy combination of chocolate, raisins, nuts…  wrapped in a rewarding spice
  • Finish – Long, warming and dry – really lasts with a delicious dry sweet spice and slightly bitter wood
  • Water – Really brought out the dried fruits, raisins, orange marmalade, some vanilla, a quixotic mix of berries and citrus… quite fabulous with water

Overall I was quite pleased with my creation. Heavier than I tend to prefer these days, it was truly a delicious ode to sherry.

I had planned to leave this as a treat for my host however he insisted I bring it back to Germany. I opened it again today and was surprised by how ‘tangy’ it had become on the nose… still great on the palate with a great chewy quality and holy toledo! What a finish… 10 minutes later and it was till very much there. What a treat to enjoy on my birthday in Nurnberg.

Cask Recipe:

  • 12% #1 – Refill Hogshead Cask 24 (14 Jan 2004 / 2020) 57.8%
  • 16% #2 – 1st Fill American Oak Bourbon Barrel Cask 3553 (1 Dec 2004 / 2020) 56.2%
  • 44% #3 – 1st Fill American Oak Sherrry Puncheon Cask 206 (8 Mar 2000 / 2020) 57.5%
  • 14% #4 – 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Puncheon (light) Cask 934 (13 Jun 2001 / 2020) 56.8%
  • 14% #5 – 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Puncheon (dark) Cask 1927 (2 Jul 1998 / 2020) 56.4%

What about other Glengoyne tasting experiences?

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Glengoyne 12 year 43%

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.

What do the folks at Glengoyne have to say?

Lemon zest, toffee apples – and a scent of coconut. Our signature sherry wood brings intensity and richness, while first fill bourbon casks add fresh notes of citrus and vanilla. 

  • Appearance – Natural, rich gold.
  • Nose – Coconut oil, honey, lemon zest, dried oak.
  • Taste – Toffee apples, ginger, orange, shortbread.
  • Finish – A hint of sherry, soft oak and cinnamon spice. Very well balanced.

Cask Recipe

  • 20% 1st  fill European Oak Sherry
  • 20% 1st Fill American Oak Bourbon
  • 60% Oak Refill casks

What about other Glengoyne tasting experiences?

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Glengoyne Distiller’s Gold 15 year 40%

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.

Official tasting notes for the standard 15 year:

  • Nose: Fresh hay, malt flour, citrus and dried fruit.
  • Mouth Feel: Smooth and clean
  • Initial taste: Clean with a gentle sweetness.
  • Finish: Long with gentle spice and lingering oak.

What else did we sample that evening?

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Douglas Laing’s Highland Blend Timorous Beastie 46.8%

With their inventive packaging, having a sense of whimsy, play and days of yore, the “Remarkable Regional Malts” series explores the five different regions of Scotland.

We began with Douglas Laing’s Highland blend …

Timorous Beastie 46.8%

  • 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.

Here’s what they have to say:

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.

Tasting notes:

  • 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.

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

What were the other whisky blends explored?

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Sherry but… Glengoyne 18 year 43%

Glengoyne is one of those well regarded distilleries with a distinctive sherry berry quality.

Our original Mumbai whisky tasting group has sampled both a 12 and 21 year during sessions I either missed (or missed taking notes). I did encounter a Glengoyne 21 year at an ‘adult whisky evening‘ however it was curiously off, so likely not representative.

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.

As usual, we sampled blind before the reveal…


Glengoyne 18 year 43%

  • 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.

For most, this was the whisky of the night!

Here is what the folks at Glengoyne have to say:

Spicy vanilla fruit, ripe apples and a rich, luxurious mouthfeel. This is the result of eighteen long years and a generous proportion of first-fill sherry casks.

  • Nose – Awash with red apple and ripe melon. Heavenly and well rounded, it drifts into hot porridge topped with brown sugar.
  • Taste – Full bodied, round and rich. At first macerated fruits, marzipan and walnuts; then warm spices, dry cocoa and lingering Seville marmalade.
  • Finish – Long, warm and dry.

What was particularly interesting is Glengoyne sharing their cask recipe which is: 

  • 35% 1st Fill European Oak Sherry
  • 15% 1st Fill American Oak Sherry
  • 50% Hand-selected quality Oak Refill casks

What else did we try in our October session?

Related tasting sessions:

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Mixing things up – Connemara, Glengoyne, Glenlivet

After more than five years, our original Mumbai whisky tasting group has become known for pushing the boundaries with a focus on discovering new and different whiskies.

We’ve had home-made experiments with aging, phenomenal food pairings, independent bottlers, country specific themes, unique blends and more!

Which meant it was high time to revisit slightly different avatars of well known whiskies, completely blind to avoid the influence of advertising and pre-conceived notions.


What did we try?

No strangers to these brands, we’ve even previously had a session focused on Glenlivet, a couple of Glengoynes over the years and most have separately sampled Connemara.

What made it interesting is the order…

Traditionally, we would start with the lightest (Glenlivet) then sherry (Glengoyne) and close with a peated whisky (Connemara).

Here we did the exact opposite – peat, sherry, light! With some interesting results.

Related tasting sessions:

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