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.