Speyside Road Trip 2016 – Part 5


This is the final part of my Speyside Road Trip, the earlier parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

And so begins the final part of my Speyside Road Trip, my final day up in Speyside before returning home. I wasn’t going to get too disheartened though as it may have been my last day but I knew it was going to be the best. The agenda for the day included a sluggishly slow packing of our things and leaving the yurt before hitting the road, we had two stops planned for our journey back through Speyside on the way home. The first scheduled stop was the Speyside cooperage, the second was my beloved Aberlour distillery.

After we had eventually got all of our stuff packed and into the car we hit the road once again, this was the day I had been most looking forward to and I clearly showed, I was just sat shaking in my seat with excitement. The half hour drive was painfully long; it lasted far longer than it did on the way up. By the time we reached the cooperage I burst out of the door and skipped like an idiot up to the visitor centre, eager to see the master craftsmen at work.


The Speyside Cooperage tour started with a short 10/15 minute 4D film which was very interesting, showing the process from acorn to tree to cask and everything in-between. After the film we were taken up to a viewing platform above the cooperage by our tour guide Philip, who was previously employed in production, maturation and coopering at Glenrothes for 36 years! The cooperage employs 16 coopers at present, and they get paid per cask! It is immensely hard work that they are doing, and each will make around 20 casks per day, they make it look so effortless. In your average year Philip said the cooperage will churn out between 90,000 and 100,000 casks!



After standing, mesmerised, watching the coopers work for 15mins or so we then went to have a go at assembling a mini cask ourselves, it was very frustrating, but with a lot of help from my partner we got there eventually – I’ll be a master cooper one day! Out of all the experiences in Speyside I would probably have to say this was definitely one of the highlights, it is a very interesting tour and well worth the stop. Thanks again to Andy, the Amateur Drammer, for recommending a visit here.


After our tour at the cooperage and a bit of lunch we then went the short drive to Aberlour, the star of the trip, I couldn’t wait. The gatehouse at Aberlour is such an iconic and picturesque building that it is possibly one of the most attractive visitor centres in Scotland.


Our tour was with Donna and she gave a very in-depth and informative tour, with a lot of personality behind it which was good to hear. She gave arguably the best tour of the trip. I found the history behind the distillery very fascinating, and how it helped to shape Aberlour, the town around the distillery. One of the first things that became apparent while walking around the distillery was the lack of staff. The production is heavily automated nowadays at the distillery and the whole process can be controlled from one of four computers in the production area. A highlight of the tour was getting to taste the fresh wash prior to distillation. I must say, it was actually really nice; I’m certainly not planning on drinking it any time soon as it would literally go right through you but it did taste quite good.


The best part of the Aberlour tour was the tasting, we were each given a tasting flight of five whiskies and a sample of their new make spirit. The tasting included two Aberlour cask strength batches, both from batches AB16, one was a 13yo first fill barrel, the second was a 16yo Olorosso sherry monster, and it was so intense. As well as these the tasting also included some of their standard bottlings, the 10, 16 and the most recent batch of A’bunadh, 54. Now I am always a fan of a big sherry cask monster but I must say for me the 13yo Bourbon barrel matured Aberlour was probably my favourite from the selection.



Unfortunately for my partner she had to drive us home so we got some samples bottles to take them home in, which she generously donated to me, I will most certainly be reliving that tasting at some point in the near future.

Tasting over and our thanks given to Donna for the great tour it was time to head for the car, and the long drive home. I couldn’t believe how quickly the long weekend of whisky madness had past; it was time to get back to reality. As we passed again the magnificent sight that is Tormore I couldn’t help but crack a smile.


It had been an amazing few days away and I knew it certainly wouldn’t be my last visit up there! Until next time my Speyside friends…




Speyside Road Trip 2016 – Part 4


This is part four of my Speyside road trip, the first, second and third parts can be found here…Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

On the third day of our stay in Elgin I didn’t make any plans to visit distilleries or anything, I left it solely up to my partner to plan the day and do things that she wanted to do. I thought she deserved a day off after having been dragged round four distilleries in two days.

We started our day with a wander around Elgin, taking in all the local sights and exploring the capital of Speyside, walking down all the ancient streets, dotted with museums, churches and an Iceland…


We decided that we wanted to go and visit the Elgin Cathedral which, if not now a ruin, would have been the second biggest in Scotland. The Cathedral was a beautiful structure and it was a real pleasure to get the chance to walk around it and feel the history of the place. Had it not been burnt down and left to ruin over years it would have been a breath taking place to explore.

The Cathedral had lots of little exhibitions and you can even get up one of the towers to view Elgin from the top. Our favourite part was looking at the ‘unique’ stone face carvings that used to decorate the roof of the cathedral.

My face when a company takes a great bottling off the shelf and replaces it with a crappy NAS


My face when I heard Diageo are coming out with a new Haig Club


My face when my favourite drams are on special offer


After we had finished in the cathedral we went for a late lunch in a lovely wee pub where my partner informed me that she didn’t really have any plans for what she wanted to do for the rest of the afternoon. Now being the ever resourceful gent that I am I couldn’t see our afternoon go to waste, and I had found a leaflet in my pocket of all places, as if I had planned this all along. The last tour of Strathisla on a Sunday is at four o’clock and if we left then we would have plenty of time to make it. It’s funny how things just fall into place like that!

It was about a half hour drive from Elgin to Keith, and involved a ridiculous amount of roundabouts but we eventually got there, and with plenty of time before the tour. I’m glad we got their early as it meant we had plenty of time to wander around the distillery grounds and take pictures of what is arguably the most beautiful distillery in Speyside. As well as taking pictures it also meant that I got the chance to browse the shop and check out the unique Chivas bottlings of small batches (less than 1,000) and single casks. There was a single cask bottling of Longmorn, 16yo matured in a sherry cask, I kept going back to look at it, it was very tempting.


When the time came we all gathered round to hear the usual health and safety spiel. Our guide for the tour was Susan and started off by giving us an in depth history of the distillery from founding to present day before taking us through the production. There was some Mexican guy on the tour who was dressed all in black leather, with a black cowboy hat on, like some Van Helsing wanna be, and from the start I could just tell he was going to be an arse-hole. Every room we went into he would just ask the most retarded and unrelated questions before Susan could even actually do her tour, she did a great job of putting up with him though. It was a good tour; despite Van Helsings best efforts, topped off with a nice set of drams to taste.

Our tasting included a measure of the Strathisla 12, Strathclyde 12 (single grain whisky), Chivas 12 and Chivas 18. Unfortunately I was driving so I didn’t drink them, I have had them all before anyway so I wasn’t too bothered, though I did get to take them home so I will be sure to enjoy those at some point. After our tasting we headed back to the car and our yurt for what would be our last night in Elgin, I wasn’t going to get down by that fact though as the best day was yet to come, a visit to the Speyside Cooperage and the Aberlour distillery.



Speyside Road Trip 2016 – Part 3


This is part three of my Speyside road trip, the first and second parts can be found here… Part 1, Part 2.

For our weekend in Elgin we were staying in a yurt – a fancy tent with some wooden walls – as we had decided to try our hands at ‘glamping’ whatever the heck that is. It was actually very nice and if you are planning on going away for a weekend I would definitely recommend trying to find some to stay in, it’s a lovely experience – preferable a yurt near some distilleries of course. The only downside to the yurt was that it was absolutely freezing first thing in the morning. So being the manly man I am I got up early and light a fire and reviewed the plans for the day ahead. I was excited about the second day of the trip as this was the day we were visiting Benromach and Glen Moray, two excellent distilleries.

Once we were ready and the fire had died out we hopped in the car, now stinking of wood smoke, and went the short drive to Forres, only about 10 miles or so, to the Benromach distillery. This distillery has an interesting and at times sad past but now is doing well under the ownership of Gordon and MacPhail. The white washed exterior and the red brick chimney make for a very pretty distillery, and the visitor centre is very nice too, well worth the visit if you are in the area. With the exception of Aberlour this was probably the distillery I was most looking forward to.


Our tour guide for our visit was Annabelle; she had only been at the distillery for around 5 months but clearly had a passion for whisky as it came across in her tour. We were told that Benromach used to malt on site but in order to up their output this is now done elsewhere, as is the case with most. After the malt intake and the mill we were shown upstairs to see the rest of the production, which was all literally in one room. It is a very small but well-designed space, full of gleaming new equipment and old recycled parts from other distilleries. In the filling store they have a small black board where the check off the amounts of casks that they fill. In 2015 the distillery filled 1,528 casks, up until my visit they had already filled 1,135 this year so they are aiming to fill between 1,600 and 1,700 this year. They currently are producing in the region of 200,000lpa, and are working on an expansion and employing an extra stillman – bringing production staff to just 4 – they will be looking to be producing around 400,000lpa within the next few years.


It had been a fair while since I had tried Benromach and the tasting with the tour didn’t disappoint. We tried the Benromach 10yo and their organic as well, which is their unpeated version made solely from organic crops and matured in virgin oak casks for around 5/6 years, and it is really very nice! I was very tempted to treat myself to a bottle of the Benromach 35yo but in the end I decided to stick with the 10 and the organic. After our great stop at Benromach we hit the road again to Glen Moray.


We reached Glen Moray just after a tour had went out, we weren’t to bothered though as we were pretty starving so we had a very nice wee lunch in the café while we waited for the tour. Our tour guide was Olivia and she informed us that we could take pictures inside of the production, fantastic! The tour started under the immense malt bins, 18 of then holding over 1,000 tonnes between them! Most of the tour featured the old production equipment. Having just undergone a huge expansion, almost doubling their capacity, the production was now in a separate part of the distillery, though they hope to use the old areas again in the near future to again increase production to around 9,000,000lpa. The warehousing at Glen Moray was one of the best experiences I have had in a distillery. They have a range of different cask types maturing which you are able to nose yourself, ranging from the classic bourbon and sherry to cognac and wine casks. A personal favourite for me was a gorgeous Burgundy Barrique, filled in 2007 – wouldn’t mind a bottle of that!


After the tour and tasting we also got to try their current self-fill, it was a thistly-cross cider cask finished Glen Moray, which was an 8yo if I remember correctly. It was alright; I had seen this on twitter a few weeks previous and was intrigued as to see what effect, if any, a cider finish would have. I don’t feel it really made much difference in the end; I feel that cider isn’t dominant enough of a drink to alter the cask to affect the whisky, it was certainly drinkable though.


We finished our scheduled plans for the day a bit earlier than we were expecting so we decided to do a bit of local sight-seeing. We went to see Duffus castle, an old ruin built on a man-made mound of earth which collapsed due to subsidence. It’s a really interesting sight; I would definitely recommend a visit and a wander around the old castle if you are in the area. After this we headed back to our yurt, another day very well spent.

The road trip continues in Part 4.




Speyside Road Trip 2016 – Part 2


This is part two of my Speyside road trip, the first part can be found here – Part one

After what felt like an eternity it was time to start our journey up to Speyside. The day was crisp and filled with sunshine, the excitement in my partner was palpable as we packed the last of our stuff into the car, clearly as excited as I was as I skipped about the car, serving up facts about the distilleries we were visiting that day.

Car packed, house locked up, I jumped into the car and off we went, the dynamic duo on tour again, like some weird alcohol obsessed spin off from Batman and Robin. We got off to a flyer, travelling the first 150 meters in no time at all before being blocked off on the only road down from the house by some idiot picking up a skip, fantastic! Fast forward 10/15 minutes and he finally manages to get the skip on his truck and get out of our way, and the journey recommences…arse!


The stunning Tormore distillery

Another two hours or so of driving and we had arrived in Speyside, met by the stunning sight that is Tormore distillery I knew we were almost at our destination, then a short while later we were met by a gleaming sign on the winding country road ‘Cragganmore Distillery’. We arrive just in time, no thanks to the guy with the skip, literally crashing in the door about 3 minutes before the tour is scheduled to go out. Our guide for the tour was Rebecca who took us through the process, showing us the gorgeous copper roofed mashtun at Cragganmore, their shining stills and their unusual rectangular worm tubs. We were doing the expressions tour, with this one you get more whisky that with the others – it was a happy accident, I promise – and it is certainly worth the extra money as you get to sample three expressions of Cragganmore, one of which is a 1999 single cask whisky which is not for sale! It was a real treat and a delightful tasting.

Fortunately as I had driven the first part of the journey my partner was up for the second leg, allowing me to sample the Cragganmore’s until my heart was content. Once finished up there and said our good byes to the staff we hit the road again to our next stop. We didn’t have too long of a drive, only ten minutes or so, before we pulled up at Glenfarclas. When we headed into the visitor centre we thought we had gone through some sort of time warp, it felt like we had stepped through the door and gone back to the 70’s.

Our tour was with Matthew who was absolutely fantastic. It was a very thorough and informative tour, start to finish, he did a great job. The production at Glenfarclas was really good to see, the mashtun was simply immense (16.5 tonnes), the largest on Speyside and the stills were a beautiful array of colours from dull copper all the way through to dark mahogany. Glenfarclas is one of the few distilleries today in Scotland to still have directly fired stills i.e. an open flame providing the heating, it was interesting to see how they were bricked in to accommodate this. As we headed out to the warehousing the imposing mass of Benrinnes stood proud above the rows of dunnage warehouses. It was a breath taking sight, especially seeing as how it was gloriously sunny – we don’t get that sort of weather very often here in Scotland! The warehouse of any distillery is always the star of the show if they are maturing on site. The smells are just the best part of the tour, and Glenfarclas’ was no exception, especially with all the sherry maturation that they do, just wow!


Tour over we headed back to the centre for our tasters, the Glenfarclas 10yo and 15yo, which were lovely and intensely sherried as you may have guessed. I enjoyed the 15yo so much I decided to relieve them of a bottle, and then decided that I fancied a 21yo too after getting a taster of it. Bottles bought and my wallet a bit lighter we headed back to the car for the drive up to Elgin. It was a great wee drive, it was like distillery bingo, every few hundred yards you can see another one with the pagoda style roofs and the tall brickwork chimneys.

Once we arrived at our accommodation in Elgin we unpacked then sat down with a wee dram of the Glenfarclas 15yo, as we discussed a day well spent – by that I men I talked my partners ears of about the distilleries. Relaxing back with a dram in hand I couldn’t wait for day two of our Speyside trip, a visit to Benromach and Glen Moray, I knew this was going to be a great few days!

The road trip continues in Part 3.



Speyside Road Trip 2016 – Part 1


In part one of my Speyside road trip I will be discussing the planning for the trip and the reasons behind where I have chosen to visit. Part two will be the commencing of the journey.

A few months ago my girlfriend informed me that she had booked us a long weekend away in Elgin, Morayshire (Speyside). Now to most people this would be a lovely relaxed weekend away, but to a whisky drinker this is the dream opportunity to visit some of the best distilleries in Scotland. She gave me the dates that she had booked our accommodation for, we would be staying in Elgin from the 16th to the 19th of September – excellent, four days to cram in as much as possible – and I feverishly began looking up the distilleries I wanted to visit and noted tour times and prices and journey routes.

I knew there were a few distilleries that I definitely wanted to visit but there are so many up in Speyside that there are almost too many to choose from, I felt like a parent being forced to choose between their children. In the end I narrowed it down to five that I wanted to go and see, all very different and all for different reasons – I would have planned to visit more though I thought if we went round too many that my partner might get fed up and there would be no chance of Speyside road trip number 2! (And if she is reading this then yes, that is a hint) The distilleries I planned on visiting are as follows in no particular order:


Aberlour – Aberlour has always been one of my favourite whiskies, from the first time I tried their 10yo to my first sip of their wonderful A’bunadh, and I knew no matter what that I had to go round and see the distillery; this was a must for the trip!


Benromach – I find Benromach to be such an interesting distillery, it certainly has had a colourful and patchy existence but since being taken on my Gordon and MacPhail it has come on leaps and bounds. As well as that there is always something nice about visiting the smaller distilleries, it always feels more personal. They also have a big focus on the ‘hand-crafted’ and ‘traditional’ side of production which I think is just fantastic in this day and age.


Cragganmore – This was amongst one of the first single malts that I ever tried as I began my adventures into the world of whisky; their 12yo is such a complex and satisfying dram for its age that it is always a good go to whisky. Since I first tried it this has always had a place on my shelf since that day, and I couldn’t travel all the way up to Speyside and not pop in for a look around.


Glen Moray – I’m going to come straight out and say this, I’ve never really been a big fan of Glen Moray, it is growing on me but what I’ve tried of theirs so far I wouldn’t consider to be amongst my favourites, I’m not saying it’s a bad whisky by any means, I do quite like their chardonnay matured stuff and some of their finishes have been really good. There are a few reasons I chose to visit Glen Moray, firstly it’s right next to where we are staying so no need to drive. Secondly I know they have recently undergone a huge expansion and so it will be interesting to see that. And finally it’s quite an industrial distillery, so very different from the others I plan on visiting.


Glenfarclas – Glenfarclas has always been a distillery that has intrigued me, I have heard great things about their product though I must confess that I have only tried a few of their bottlings, and what I have tried has been very good. I also like that fact that they are still a family owned distillery, which is becoming increasingly rare in the industry today.

As well as visiting these distilleries I also planned on visiting the Speyside Cooperage, as recommended by Andy, The Amateur drammer, on Twitter. After looking into it further I knew I had to go and watch these master craftsmen at work, forming the casks that would house and nurture the whisky of the future.


After deciding on where I wanted to visit I began getting in touch with them all and arranging the visits and trying to formulate a plan for the weekend. After a lot of playing about and juggling things around I had it all sorted. And to say I was excited for my trip north would be one of the biggest understatements ever made, the plan was as follows.

Friday – this was the day that we would be heading up to Elgin and so would be passing my beloved Cragganmore and Glenfarclas on the way through Speyside, and managed to get a tour booked for each on the way past.

Saturday – our first day in Elgin and we planned on heading towards Forres and the Benromach distillery, then on the way back pop into Glen Moray.

Sunday – on Sunday I didn’t make any plans and left this up to my partner to arrange anything that she wanted to do – I thought after four distilleries in two days she deserved it…

Monday – the sad day when I had to return home, though possibly the day that I was most excited for. On the Monday we planned on stopping by the Speyside Cooperage on our way south to Aberlour, then home.

Plans made and set all that was left to do was wait for the day to arrive when we would venture up north and into the wild highlands of Scotland. Part 2 of the journey can be found here – Part 2.



The SMWS – Cracking The Code

I recently reviewed a Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling of Balmenach, 48.70, and in the review I was discussing the coding system that they use on their bottles. I mentioned that I would do a write up of this to better explain how it works, though it really is quite simple.

Any bottle that is released by the SMWS will have two numbers on the bottle, for the Balmenach I reviewed these were 48 and 70. The first number on any of their bottles is representative of the distillery that the whisky originated from; every distillery is given a different number. The second number is to represent the number of casks that they have bottled from that distillery. So to put it simply, 48.70 – Balmenach is the 48th distillery on the SMWS coding system, and this bottle came from the 70th cask that they have bottled from this distillery. As well as this there is obviously other information on the specific cask i.e. cask type, age, the strength of the bottling.

The coding for the SMWS’s bottling used to be a close kept secret, though now it is free information, you can simply search it on the internet and easily find out, or if you are at one of their tastings they will more often than not tell you the distillery anyway. For those of you that are interested a list of the distilleries and code numbers is shown below:

Distilleries SMWS Codes
Glenfarclas Distillery 1
Glenlivet Distillery 2
Bowmore Distillery 3
Highland Park Distillery 4
Auchentoshan Distillery 5
Glen Deveron (Macduff Distillery) 6
Longmorn Distillery 7
Tamdhu Distillery 8
Glen Grant Distillery 9
Bunnahabhain Distillery 10
Tomatin Distillery 11
Benriach Distillery 12
Dalmore Distillery 13
Talisker Distillery 14
Glenfiddich Distillery 15
Glenturret Distillery 16
Scapa Distillery 17
Inchgower Distillery 18
Glen Garioch Distillery 19
Inverleven Distillery 20
Glenglassaugh Distillery 21
Glenkinchie Distillery 22
Bruichladdich Distillery 23
Macallan Distillery 24
Rosebank Distillery 25
Clynelish Distillery 26
Springbank Distillery 27
Tullibardine Distillery 28
Laphroaig Distillery 29
Glenrothes Distillery 30
Isle of Jura Distillery 31
Edradour Distillery 32
Ardbeg Distillery 33
Tamnavulin Distillery 34
Glen Moray Distillery 35
Benrinnes Distillery 36
Cragganmore Distillery 37
Caperdonich Distillery 38
Linkwood Distillery 39
Balvenie Distillery 40
Dailuaine Distillery 41
Ledaig (Tobermory Distillery) 42
Port Ellen Distillery 43
Craigellachie Distillery 44
Dallas Dhu Distillery 45
Glenlossie Distillery 46
Benromach Distillery 47
Balmenach Distillery 48
St. Magdalene Distillery 49
Bladnoch Distillery 50
Bushmills Distillery 51
Old Pulteney Distillery 52
Caol Ila Distillery 53
Aberlour Distillery 54
Royal Brackla Distillery 55
Coleburn Distillery 56
Glen Mhor Distillery 57
Strathisla Distillery 58
Teaninich Distillery 59
Aberfeldy Distillery 60
Brora Distillery 61
Glenlochy Distillery 62
Glentauchers Distillery 63
Mannochmore Distillery 64
Imperial Distillery 65
Ardmore Distillery 66
Banff Distillery 67
Blair Athol Distillery 68
Glen Albyn Distillery 69
Balblair Distillery 70
Glenburgie Distillery 71
Miltonduff Distillery 72
Aultmore Distillery 73
North Port Distillery 74
Glenury-Royal Distillery 75
Mortlach Distillery 76
Glen Ord Distillery 77
Ben Nevis Distillery 78
Deanston Distillery 79
Glen Spey Distillery 80
Glen Keith Distillery 81
Glencadam Distillery 82
Convalmore Distillery 83
Glendullan Distillery 84
Glen Elgin Distillery 85
Glenesk Distillery 86
Millburn Distillery 87
Speyburn Distillery 88
Tomintoul Distillery 89
Pittyvaich Distillery 90
Dufftown Distillery 91
Lochside Distillery 92
Glen Scotia Distillery 93
Old Fettercairn Distillery 94
Auchroisk (Singleton) Distillery 95
Glendronach Distillery 96
Littlemill Distillery 97
Lomond (Inverleven Distillery) 98
Glenugie Distillery 99
Strathmill Distillery 100
Knockando Distillery 101
Dalwhinnie Distillery 102
Royal Lochnagar Distillery 103
Glencraig (Glenburgie Distillery) 104
Tormore Distillery 105
Cardhu Distillery 106
Glenallachie Distillery 107
Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery 108
Mosstowie (Miltonduff Distillery) 109
Oban Distillery 110
Lagavulin Distillery 111
Loch Lomond Distillery (Inchmurrin) 112
Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval Distillery) 113
Longrow (Springbank Distillery) 114
An Cnoc (Knockdhu Distillery) 115
Yoichi Distillery 116
Cooley Distillery (unpeated) 117
Cooley Distillery (peated) 118
Yamazaki Distillery 119
Hakushu Distillery 120
Isle of Arran Distillery 121
Croftengea (Loch Lomond Distillery) 122
Glengoyne Distillery 123
Miyagikyo Distillery 124
Glenmorangie Distillery 125
Hazelburn (Springbank Distillery) 126
Port Charlotte (Bruichladdich Distillery) 127
Penderyn Distillery 128
Kilchoman Distillery 129
Chichibu Distillery 130
Hanyu Distillery 131
Karuizawa Distillery 132
North British Distillery G1
Carsebridge Distillery G2
Caledonian Distillery G3
Cameronbridge Distillery G4
Invergordon Distillery G5
Port Dundas Distillery G6
Girvan Distillery G7
Cambus Distillery G8
Loch Lomond Distillery G9
Strathclyde Distillery G10
Miyagikyo (Nikka) Distillery Coffey Grain G11
Miyagikyo (Nikka) Distillery Coffey Malt G12
Chita Distillery G13
Dumbarton Distillery G14
Heaven Hill Distillery B1
Bernheim Distillery B2
Rock Town Distillery B3
Port Morant Distillery (Jamaica) R1
Demerara Distillery (El Dorado) (Guyana) R2
Mount Gay Distillery (Barbados) R3
Angostura Distillery (Trinidad) R4
Appleton Distillery (Jamaica) R5


Well there you have it; a very fun read I’m sure you will agree… the eagle eyed amongst you may also have noticed that as well as malt distilleries there are some other distilleries in here too. These are at the bottom of the list, listed as G, B and R. These are Grain whiskies, Bourbons and Rums, which the society have recently started bottling.

The main reason behind the coding as oppose to putting the names of the distilleries on the bottles is to prevent people getting hung up on the name of the distillery that it has come from, the society is all about getting people to try unique and fantastic whisky without trying it because it has a famous name. Which I personally think is a very good way of doing things, as quite often a lot of their bottlings come from distilleries that don’t even have an official bottling, such as Balmenach, if not for the SMWS I may never have tried anything from this gem of a distillery.

This is the SMWS full list as of writing this article, please let me know if there are changes/additions to be made to the SMWS codes you see here. 



Glengoyne 15yo


After some time off, the result of a severe bout of man-flu, it is time to get back to tasting some delicious drams and writing whatever nonsense pops into my head as I enjoy them. So to get back into a routine of nosing and writing about whiskies I thought I would recommence with what is one of my personal favourite highland drams – I shall try to be as un-biased as possible. Hailing from the ‘glen of the wild geese’ I will be reviewing the Glengoyne today, the 15yo.

Glengoyne is a distillery that straddles the highland-lowland line, with its warehousing below and its distillery above, it is classified as a highland distillery today but was not always thought as such. Up until the 1970’s it was in fact considered a lowland malt. The name Glengoyne is derived from ‘Glen Guin’, the ‘glen of wild geese’, but it was only named this in 1905, before this date the distillery was known as ‘Burnfoot’ after where it was situated at the bottom of the Blairgar burn. Either way, whatever name it is labelled, this distillery has been in operation there since 1833 and is today known from the splendid sweet sherry and fresh fruity characters that are produced in their malts. The maturation of the spirit at Glengoyne has a large sherry component compared to most, with around 40% taking place in sherry casks, yet it is not a sherry monster, it is balanced out by the use of bourbon barrels and refill casks which makes for a very complex dram indeed. So without further ado, let’s get down to some tasting!


Lots of sweet and delicate sherry notes come to the front on the nose. Dried fruits, stewed apples, cinnamon, cloves, mixed peel and an almost cherry-like note, not fresh cherries though, like the red glacé cherries you get for baking. This whisky needs time in the glass to really open up, after around 15mins, its totally different, far more intense and sweet. Now there is cracked black pepper, sugar coated almonds and more fruitiness in the form of peaches/nectarines and lemon sweets. Again there are a lot of notes that I associate with the baking cupboard, mostly the dried fruits side of things. The glacé cherries are still prominent, with dried apricots, dates, raisins and dried pineapple, as well as desiccated coconut and fresh vanilla pods. And in the background there are subtle, mingling notes of floral honeycomb, milk chocolate and the lightest suggestion of treacle.


The palate for this whisky is a tale of two halves; initially the majority of what comes through can be attributed to the portion that is bourbon cask matured, then with time the sherry begins to come through in waves, getting more and more intense through the development. Initially there is quite a bitter arrival, which shortly fades as notes almost like a hot toddy come through; honey, lemon peel and a massive amount of woody spice – nutmeg and again cracked black pepper with a hint of sweet vanilla extract – as well as of course alcohol! There is a fairly sharp note of spirit which develops into very drying seasoned oak before the sherry then begins to come through. A big note of raisins comes to the front, specifically yoghurt coated raisins, with cinnamon, a touch of chilli and a big malty character which I didn’t find on the nose at all. There is also a slight cask char-like tang running through the development, I assume cask char as Glengoyne is about as far from a peated whisky as you can get, as they use hot air for drying their malt.


The finish is medium in length and is dominated by that drying seasoned oak, oak that has been doused in sherry. The notes from the beginning of the palate again begin to come through in the palate, with spice, sweet citrus and nuts.

I think this is just what I was needing to get myself back into the swing of things post plague-like man-flu. The Glengoyne is such a marvellously complex dram with so much going on that is wreaks havoc with your senses – sherry, bourbon, fresh, floral, fruity, nutty, spice, they certainly manage to cram a lot into a bottle! Up until now I had never tried the 15yo before, I’ve had a few bottles of the 10yo and their 21yo (both incredibly good drams for the money you pay), but this is my first experience with the 15yo, and I must say, it’s rather good! What I like most about this whisky is the fact that it is not a sherry monster, yes, it has a lot of sherry influence but it still tastes like whisky! I will be very sad to see the end of this bottle but for the price of around £55 I am almost certain that it will be replaced without too much hesitation.