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Glasgow looks set to return to the art of distillation with the presence of stills once more within Scotland’s largest city. For many years visitors had to travel out with the boundaries and Glengoyne is situated nearby and only requires a straightforward bus journey. Its location conveniently splits the Lowland and Highland regions of Scotland, with the nearby road literally symbolising the boundary. The distillation remains in the Highland setting and the numerous warehouses onsite reside on the Lowland region; which is it?
Glengoyne itself has always enjoyed strong links with Glasgow, offering a nearby market all too eager for the whisky it produced. Slowly over the years, the city has expanded and the journey to market has become shortened and more convenient, but Glengoyne retains an identity of its own.
Originally established in 1833 by the Edmonstone family, the distillery was called Burnfoot. A change of ownership in 1876 also heralded a new direction and name for the distillery, which became Glen Guin before they finally settled on Glengoyne in 1905. The distillery is situated in a very picturesque area of Scotland with the original water source forming an impressive backdrop at the rear of the site, with a waterfall tumbling into a small lake. Nowadays this water source is used to cool equipment rather than provide the basis of its whisky, but you can appreciate the advantages of this secretive location from prying eyes. An almost a mini-Glen, it’s dwarfed on either side by steep hills with a well-established forest with visitors able to walk up the hill behind the distillery.
There is an essence that very little has happened at Glengoyne and until recent times, this is a reasonable assumption. For visitors today it offers a variety of tours for all tastes including blending and warehouse options. The tour also starts from the rear of the distillery, which overlooks the lake before working its way through production buildings before a well-appointed tasting room. Nowadays the distillery is owned by Ian Macleod Distillers and has enjoyed a renaissance under their ownership. Purchasing the distillery in 2003, from the Edrington Group for around £7.2 million it was a deal that made sense for all involved, with the sellers wishing to focus on The Macallan and Highland Park distilleries.
Glengoyne prior to this deal was fairly overlooked and underappreciated with only limited attempts made to establish any single malt presence. It is fair to say it didn’t have the best of reputations either, but despite being the Macleod’s first distillery, their expertise was extensive in building and establishing brands in the whisky industry. Everything was there to create a distinctive whisky and without the need for extensive internal changes, Glengoyne began to improve. A great deal of emphasis has been placed on wood management with the brand enjoying a preference for the use of sherry casks. A series of innovative events, including a recent live transmission from the warehouse where viewers could vote on which single cask should be bottled next, have raised awareness. Glengoyne to this day remains unpeated and it seems will never change. It’s a very small producer prior to the arrival of many craft distilleries across Scotland, managing around 1 million litres annually. Unusually, it has 3 stills but does not practice triple distillation, with 2 spirit stills on site dating back from the refurbishment of the 1960’s.
Visitors are able to enjoy the wide range of whiskies from the distillery including the ability to bottle your own. Nowadays you can expect to see a considerable range featuring age statements commencing at 10 years and raising to 25. A widespread select of single cask and special editions are available including the Teapot dram that harks back to an era when workers would keep their daily drams in a teapot and pour when required; often with a high emphasis on sherry cask influence. Recent additions include a No Age Statement Cask Strength bottling and Distiller’s Gold for the travel market all assisted by a recent rebrand of the range.
Overall, Glengoyne can be seen as a gentle whisky with characteristics both of the Lowland and Highland regions, albeit it in recent times there has been a swing towards the latter. With its liking of sherry casks and their influence grows as you journey through the age statements often with some marvellous discoveries to be made. Glengoyne can be seen as a useful stepping stone onto bolder more dominant styles.
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