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February 1, 2017

Scotland 2016 – Day 1 – Glengoyne Distillery

We detoured through Glasgow and visited the Glencairn Crystal Company… now it was finally time for some whisky! First on the agenda was one of the great smaller (and in my opinion highly underrated) distilleries.

The Glengoyne Distillery

Glengoyne sits along the A81 highway, which follows the traditional “Highland Line” separating the Highlands and Lowlands. The distillery sits on the Highland side, while the warehouses ageing the whisky sit on the Lowlands side. For this reason people disagree about whether Glengoyne should be defined as a Highlands or Lowlands Malt… but like the Whisky vs Whiskey argument… who really cares. They make great whisky.



Glengoyne is only 30min north of Glasgow
(or one hour from our location at the Glencairn Crystal Company)

We were lucky enough to take part in Glengoyne’s special Malt Master Tour. This is an amazing 2hr long experience comprising of a welcome dram of Glengoyne 12 Year Old, an in-depth tour of the distillery and warehouse #1, and best of all, the chance to create your own single malt whisky.

That’s right, we got to play the role of Master Blender!

Glengoyne Distillery Tour

This was our first official distillery tour in Scotland, so we were obviously excited. .. and honestly, we couldn’t have picked a prettier distillery to kick things off.

The gardens are beautifully tranquil, architecture is charming and the location alongside the Blairgar Burn makes for a picturesque scene. Glengoyne has a modern, yet old world feel.

The gardens of the @Glengoyne distillery… #serene —– #GameOfDramsScotland2016 #Glengoyne #Whisky #Whiskyfiend

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As we entered the still house we were stunned. The room is filled with freshly painted beams, handrails and walls; the floor is impeccably clean; the stills and mash tun stand tall in all their shiny coppery glory. The facility looked more like a museum than an industrial workspace. Interestingly Glengoyne choose to use three stills (one large wash still and two smaller spirit stills), while most distilleries choose to use paired stills.

Visiting the distillery you can see that quality is important at Glengoyne. Glengoyne use high quality Concerto barley, long fermentations (56hrs) and the slowest distillation in Scotland. All of these things add to their unique high quality malt.

During the tour a large emphasis is placed on the influence of different woods on the maturation process. This can be a hard topic to understand for those new to whisky. Luckily Glengoyne have a beautiful visual display at the end of the tour waiting for visitors in warehouse #1.

The display shows the difference between American and European oaks and their effect on whisky, as well as how four different casks influence whisky year on year. We can quickly see the impact of the maturation through colour as well the impact of the angel’s share through the change in volume. This is a very simple visual way to explain a complicated topic.

This influence of the different casks is at the heart of Glengoyne’s Malt Master tour and segues perfectly to the main course.

Make Your Own Glengoyne Single Malt Whisky

It’s time to put that maturation knowledge to use. The goal is simple; create an awesome single malt whisky.

I can’t explain how excited we were for this portion of our trip. I had planned the entire first day’s agenda around this single hour of our day.

When we arrived to the tasting room, we were presented with 5 beautiful single-cask Glengoyne whiskies sitting in cute little carafes surrounded by beakers and test tubes. I always loved science!

The goal of this event was to take as many or as few of these 5 whiskies and marry them together to create our own 220mL bottle of single malt whisky.

For our session we had the following whiskies on offer:

WhiskyFilling DateCask No.StrengthNose
(Glengoyne's Notes)
Taste
(Glengoyne's Notes)
Refill Remade Hogshead29th Sep 1997313955.3%Pineapple cubes, tropical, oily lemon, citrus, sweetiesLemon, starts sweet, then dries. Ends with peppery warm. Banana skins?
1st Fill American Oak Bourbon Barrel15th May 179058.0%Citrus, bananas, pear, tropical fruits, charcoalSweet vanilla, bananas, gooseberries, oak
1st Fill American Oak Sherry Hogshead2nd July 1998193759.3%Cola cubes, chocolate, raisins, macerated strawberries, rosehip syrup, brown sugarRich, mouth coating, dark, bitter chocolate
1st Fill American Oak Sherry Butt (lighter)2nd July 1998192658.4%Muscovado sugar (molasses), Seville marmalade, treacleBurnt sugar, oily, brazil nuts (soapy?)
1st Fill American Oak Sherry Butt (darker)2nd July 1998191658.0%Warm strawberries, rum and raisin ice cream, red applesRaisans, soft oak, stewed fruit, tannins, dries out

All five whiskies on offer were approximately 18 years old.

As we measured the whisky in our test tubes we added the components into our beakers to start the marriage. We swirled, sniffed and tasted with pride as our delicious whisky creations were coming to life.

The experience is fantastic. It’s a great way to emphasize the impact of wood on maturation but also to get familiar with Glengoyne whiskies and how they interact with one another upon marriage.

Both Dr Dram and I had a blast creating our personalized whiskies. Surprisingly however we each went in different directions with our inspiration. Dr.Dram went for a balanced whisky where he used all 5 single-casks on offer, while I aimed to create a rich sherry bomb with some light bourbon notes.He seemed to prefer mine so much that he actually changed his recipe to be more similar to mine; though he’ll never admit it.

When all was said and done we filled in our recipe cards and name our whiskies. We aptly named them “Dr Dram” and “Whisky Fiend”.

For anyone who would like to recreate my now famous “Whisky Fiend” single malt at the Glengoyne distillery, I am willing to share the recipe:

WhiskyVolume (mL)Percentage (%)
Refill Remade Hogshead7032
1st Fill American Oak Bourbon Barrel3014
1st Fill American Oak Sherry Hogshead6027
1st Fill American Oak Sherry Butt (lighter)00
1st Fill American Oak Sherry Butt (darker)6027

Being an engineer, once I found a flavour profile that I enjoyed, I made sure that the proportions were exactly the same in the final 220mL bottle… so you can trust that the recipe is accurate… and through the amazing powers of simple mathematics, I know that my whisky was approximately 57.5%ABV. Not bad.

For anyone wondering what happened to Glengoyne’s ‘Whisky Fiend’ Bottle #001… it has not been sold on the black market or consumed during a crazy party on Islay… instead it became a deliciously personalized gift for my Grandfather.

Summary

The Malt Master Tour at Glengoyne is a must for any die-hard whisky fans travelling Scotland. It’s a great learning experience that’s amazingly fun! It was easily one of my favourite experiences of our entire tour of Scotland.
The feeling of creating your own whisky is extremely satisfying and the bottle makes a great memento or gift.

The single-cask whisky on this tour is so good that it’s impossible to make a bad dram. The outcome of both of our bottles were amazing and we would pay handsomely for another bottle of either. I hope that I get the chance to make Glengoyne ‘Whisky Fiend’ Bottle #002 in future… hopefully as part of the even grander Masterclass Tour.

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