Craftsmanship takes time — of that, you’ll find little argument. For Glengoyne Distillers, just north of Glasgow, patience is the price of excellence. Time invested and a process perfected over 180 years finds this distillery creating a portfolio of whiskies that warrants one to slow down and savour the deliciously concentrated fruit and rich flavours.
That depth of complexity is primarily attributed to aging in sherry casks, a practice that reaches back to the 1870s when the sherry business flourished in London. Oak sherry casks imported from Spain were readily available and affordable. What that sherry-matured oak did to enrich the colour, soften the texture and intensify the flavour of Glengoyne helped impress and attract a growing audience of admirers.
These were high times for the Highland distillery, but then the sherry business dwindled in the UK and the price of the casks spiked. Glengoyne had to decide whether to stick with its signature style or alter course for the sake of the bottom line. Heritage won out.
That tradition of sherry casking lives on and the distillery sources its oak from the forests of northern Spain, letting it dry naturally in the sun for three years. Casks are then filled with sherry in Jerez — a city in southern Spain's Andalusia region — and left for up to another three years to absorb the fortified wine’s flavours before they are ready to fill with whisky.
Glengoyne’s other distinguishing quality is its absence of peat. Many distilleries draw on peat both as a fuel and also for its smoky character, which infuses the whisky with a distinct flavour. For Glengoyne, the territory surrounding Dumgoyne has no peat in the soil, so that influence has never factored into its style. Using only air-dried barley means there is no masking of flavours behind a veil of smokiness.
Instead, Glengoyne emphasizes the importance of prolonging the distilling process to foster delicious complexity. As a reminder of that pride of patience, the motto “Unhurried Since 1833” adorns every label.
With an excellent range available from the distillery’s portfolio, including the 12 YO, 15 YO, 18 YO, 21 YO and Cask Strength, consider some time well spent in the company of whichever Glengoyne suits your sense of exploration.
From the slowest stills in Scotland comes this 21 Year Old phenomenon. An interplay of elegant sherry and subtle honey sweetness linger beneath top notes of rich, dried fruit and a pinch of cinnamon. That tingle of spice gradually dwindles over a dry, drawn out finish.
The rewards of patience – from the unhurried production to the leisurely sipping – are apparent from the first taste. A rich, spicy and gently sweet expression, the vanilla, pear and sweet oak aromas lead to richer depths of buttery caramel, white chocolate and a light zing of citrus. The finish is long and luscious.
From Scotland’s slowest distillation process comes a cask-strength single malt that packs plenty of character. Detect the Demerera sugar sweetness to start before a spicier kick opens up to reveal herb and spice. With a splash of water the fruitiness comes to the fore before fading on a lengthy finish.