Glenglassaugh can trace its roots back to 1873 when the distillery was established by James Moir, who was a local spirit and wine merchant. He established the Glenglassaugh Distillery Company to achieve his aim along with help from relatives and a local coppersmith. The vision was to create a distillery capable of producing its own distinctive single malt whisky rather than supporting the blended market.
However, the blends were immensely popular during this era and the parent company had strong ties to some of the major examples of the period. Overall ownership passed to family member, Alexander Morrison, who then instigated a series of renovations starting in 1887 that included new stills and washbacks. Then a series of ownership changes took place, with the Pattison Crisis arriving at the end of the century and therefore putting an end to the prosperous whisky boom period. This then heralded dark days for the distillery, as production dwindles before it closed in 1908.
Scotland lost many distilleries during this period to harsh economic conditions and the First World War. Further on, Prohibition also had a detrimental impact and consumer tastes began to change with a preference for the lighter more approachable style of Speyside as opposed to the more earthy and distinctive Campbeltown style. Glenlassaugh has always been a remote distillery on the fringes of Speyside and enjoys a coastal characteristic. Sadly, it remained closed until 1951 although stories do persist on the odd occasion it was in production during the 1930’s. During the late 1950’s the distillery was refurbished again, including new stills that supposedly abandoned the shape of their predecessors; changing the style of Glenglassaugh forever.
Despite the original owner’s intensions, Glenglassaugh, was now producing exclusively for the blending market thanks to its then owners, the Edrington Group, with the Famous Grouse being a major recipient. This was during the midst of another whisky boom that came crashing to a halt in the early 1980’s, with Glenglassaugh closing again in 1986. Many thought this was it for the distillery which had no real single malt identity to speak of, but then one of the oddest acquisitions in whisky history takes place. In 2008, the distillery is purchased by the Scaent Group for the princely sum of £5 million. With no real ties to the whisky industry, this energy group set about reviving their purchase and begin releasing some single malts, as their deal included maturing stock sitting in warehouses.
Looking back now with hindsight, Scaent were treating their project as a new distillery rather than a revival. Ahead of their time, they released a spirit from the stills that was too young to be called whisky, but gave enthusiasts a taste of what may lie ahead. This is now a common feature in Scotland today with many start-up distilleries needing to unlock cash flow, but at the time was unusual. The same principle applies to the selling of private casks for a modest price that today is responsible for many of the bottlings from the distillery that you see on the market. Despite seemingly having plans for Glenglassaugh including the opening of a visitor centre, Scaent sold the company in 2013 to the BenRiach Distillery Company who had a track record of reviving closed or overlooked distilleries. The new owners offered more financial clout and know how to truly make full use of the Glenglassaugh.
Under their guidance a true Glenglassaugh revival takes place and a similar approach is taken to those already pursued at BenRiach and GlenDronach. This proves so successful to the group overall that in 2016, the whole group is acquired by American giant Brown-Forman. This will mark an interesting period for the trio of distilleries as each has its own distinctive style. Glenglassaugh offers those classic fruit and sugary vanilla notes, but its coastal location provides a more robust quality with strong emphasis on bold toffee and spicing. Compared to BenRiach and GlenDronach, it has less of a single malt presence despite several releases under the previous regime and a modest output of approximately a million litres per annum. Most of this is still sold to the blending market or independent bottlers, but only time will tell what Brown-Forman have planned for this remote and overlooked distillery.