A Highland whisky with a Lowland stroke – standing tall, the Glengoyne 12 Year Old. This distillery is borderline Highland almost brushing shoulders with the virtual boundary that separates it from the calmer, more temperate Lowlands. While much of the fermentation and distillation is all up north, the warehouses where the young spirit is matured is exclusively reserved for the latter.
The Glengoyne, like many distilleries at the time were part of a pool of illicit liquor houses. The Burnfoot as it was called then, had its names changed to Glenguin and was licensed by George Connell in 1833. Its name changed for one last time in 1905 to the more popular, Glengoyne and almost a century later was taken over by Ian MacLeod & Co. (yup…the folks at Smokehead). The acquisition was a highlight as the group until then was exclusively a blending and bottling establishment.
The distillery is home to all but three stills and so you can imagine, production really isn’t over the top. Its hybrid status also paves path to a bit of exclusivity in the way they concoct their pour – some lowland, some not so much! For one, they aren’t peat affinite – they take to air drying their malted barley rather than over a peat kiln, while also shying away from the Lowland’s love for triple distillation.
Along with the Macallans, they are said to be the only distillery that uses the ‘Golden Promise’ variety of barley- a high quality but low yield specimen. The folks at the distillery also try to introduce breadth to the flavor profile by encouraging the ‘spirit to copper’ interaction on regulating the heat to the pot stills; inducing sweeter, fruitier characteristics to the resultant spirit. The distillate is then exposed to the milder lowland climate in European Sherry and American Ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of twelve years.
Eye: Pale Gold.
Nose: Slight vanilla with a bit of sweetness from honey. Spicy black pepper with some pungency followed by ash and old musty damp wood. Malt, cooked fruits, some yeast, grapes and a light zest that stays translucent much of the time.
Taste: Light, refreshing and honey sweet. Grapefruit, bits of berries, mellow red wine, charred yet earthy wood with hints of white pepper.
Finish: Red wine, sweet with a short finish.
This hybrid whisky did surprise me a bit- the nose wasn’t as crisp or light as I would have thought; but the palate was quite the contrary. What the latter lacked in depth and complexity the former made in heaps. What to me could only be explained as a ‘highlandish nose’ and a ‘lowland-like palate’ certainly echoes the geographical amalgamation of two regions with the only analogous feature being the presence of an earthy woody influence – of course, it did age for at least twelve years in sherry and bourbon goodness.
In conclusion, the Glengoyne did confuse me initially, making me almost think there could have been the chance I had landed a bad batch (did I really??). But having said that, this 12 year old spirit isn’t all that bad but fails to fly beyond mediocrity.