The Glengoyne distillery is located near Glasgow - less than half an hour by
taxi from the city centre. Glengoyne is said to have been founded in 1833 on
the strangest of locations; precisely between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
And while the 'house style' used to be relatively similar to that of other
'Midlands' distilleries like Deanston and Tullibardine (at least to my palate),
they now seem to be aiming for a more pronounced 'Highlandish' profile.
After Glengoyne was founded in 1833 it passed through the hands of a string
of different owners, including John McLelland and Lang Brothers. They
changed the name of the distillery to Glen Guin in 1875, and then back
again to Glengoyne around the year 1905.
Burnfoot is another alternative name that has sometimes been used for the
Glengoyne distillery and whisky in the past. In 1965 Glengoyne became part of
the Robertson & Baxter group - who later evolved into and/or merged with the
Edrington Group (owners of Macallan and part of Highland Park distillery).
Glengoyne was rebuilt in 1966 and 1967, at which time the number
of stills was extended from two to three. This is fairly unusual; most
malt whisky distilleries in Scotland have an even number of stills.
These three stills quietly buzzed along for over three decades
and nothing really exciting happened, apart perhaps from the
release of the Glengoyne 15yo Scottish Oak Finish in 2001.
On April 16, 2003 new owners took over Glengoyne distillery.
Ian Macleod Distillers - founded by one Leonard J. Russell.
They started out as a blender and bottler and already built a
reputation as proprietors of Isle of Skye Blended Whisky.
Other brands include Macleod's, The Chieftain's and Dun Bheagan ranges, Lang's Blended
Scotch Whisky, Hedges & Butler, King Robert II, London Hill Gin, Smokehead Islay Single Malt,
Six Isles Island Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, Wincarnis Tonic Wines and the Single Malt Whiskies.
The company produces and sells over 15 million bottles of spirit per year.
By acquiring Glengoyne, Ian MacLeod Distillers obtained their first actual distillery.
That makes it all the more surprising that they managed to get the brand back on its feet so soon
again. Around the turn of the millennium bottles of Glengoyne could be found in the bargain bins
of most liquorists - and even then it wasn't exciting enough for me to frequently purchase a bottle.
It was a decent enough malt whisky, but many bottles showed a 'Midlandish' oily trait that I'm personally just not too
fond of. After Ian MacLeod took over at Glengoyne they managed to release a series of exciting new bottlings that
quickly put the brand in a much more respectible 'weight class' than before. Especially some of the single cask
bottlings in the (discontinued) 'choice' range proved to be great. The 'Ronnie's Choice' bottling shown above
won a silver medal in the Malt Maniacs Awards in 2005, while Duncan's and Ewan's choices also won medals.
The Glengoyne distillery is located at the very edge of the
Western Highlands - close to both the Midlands and Lowlands.
It’s located close to Glasgow with Auchentoshan, Deanston,
Loch Lomond and Littlemill as its closest neighbours. A drive
from the airport takes less than half an hour, so Glengoyne is
one of the easiest distilleries to visit for international visitors
that are flying into Scotland.
Furthermore, Glengoyne is an attractive and traditional distillery with a charming little waterfall near the open air
bar behind the tasting room. So, if you only have time to visit one distillery during your trip, this is a great candidate.
1) In recent press releases, Glengoyne's PR
people claim that Glengoyne is "Scotland's most
beautiful distillery". Having visited a few Scottish
distilleries myself, I happen to know that this could
be perceived as somewhat of an exaggeration by
the owners of distilleries like Ardbeg, Laphroaig,
Blair Athol and Royal Lochnagar. That being said,
the waterfall and open air bar behind the distillery
are quite unique, so there’s that...
2) Glengoyne distillery offers a wide range of
guided tours. Starting with the Glengoyne Tour
for the friendly price of £5.50 per person, the
range ends with the Master Blender Session
and the Masterclass for £100.00 per person.
3) Glengoyne distillery uses six washbacks made out of Oregon pine wood.
4) Glengoyne is arguably one of the Scotch whisky distilleries that is most accessible to foreign visitors.
It is conveniently located near Glasgow; only a short drive away from the airport.
5) Around the year 2010, the visitor centre of Glengoyne distillery draws around 40,000 visitors per year...
2003 - Ian Macleod Distillers took control of Glengoyne
(their first distillery) on April 16, 2003.
2010 - For a little while it seemed that Glengoyne might have
run out of their REALLY fabulous casks, but I'm happy to
report that they still manage to release some stunning
Scottish whiskies that reveal a high level of craftsmanship.
2005 - The ‘choice’ bottlings from employees are released.
2017 - Glengoyne’s owner Ian MacLeod has acquired the old buildings on the site of the old Rosebank distillery,
along with the remaining casks that were held by previous owner Diageo.
2008 - After Ian MacLeod took over the Glengoyne distillery,
they performed very well for a few years. However, around the
same time they changed their logo their focus apparently
shifted a little from the single malt whisky that they produced
to promotion and PR. Let's hope that Glengoyne doesn't
lose sight of what sets it apart from the big corporations...
2018 - Glengoyne releases its Cask Strength Batch No. 6 - matured in ex-sherry casks and bottled at 59.8% ABV.
Glengoyne 13yo 1997/2010 (46%, Whisky Doris 'The Dram', sherry butt, 220 Bts.)
Nose: Big and sweet with tertiary fruits. Heavy sherried notes, balanced with lighter bakery aroma's.
Taste: A sherried punch, followed by quite some smoky notes. Heavy tannins. Almost like a finished whisky.
Score: 85 points - My style of whisky, but it does show some rough edges that keep it from the upper 80's.
Glengoyne 21yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Polished, sweet and a little fruity. Some fresh minty notes in the background. Furniture polish.
It grew much sweeter and better integrated after some ten minutes of breathing. Spices. Cinnamon?
Taste: A sweet, fruity start, quickly followed by some smoky and woody notes. Toffee. Long, steady centre.
Lots of tannins in the finish. In fact, it grows extremely dry at the very end; a little TOO much for my tastes...
Score: 88 points - could it be that they have a few too many active sherry casks and too few old refill casks?
Glengoyne 37yo 1972/2010 (57%, The Perfect Dram, refill sherry wood, 220 Bts.)
Nose: Spicy and very faintly smoky. Pleasant enough, but undiluted most of the pleasure is on the palate.
More sweetness emerges after fifteen minutes and the addition of a little water. The spices evolve as well.
Taste: Smooth and strong. Passion fruit! That's usually a 'marker' for very old whiskies. Round finish.
Cassis. The centre is sour & sweet & round, with tannins slowly creeping forward and fading away again.
Score: 91 points - this dram does indeed approach perfection. Simply lovely stuff...
Glengoyne 13yo 1995/2009 SC (56.1%, OB, Oloroso Hogshead #2082, 256 Bts.)
Nose: Hurray! A rich, sherried profile with lots of fruits and woody notes. Spices and a whiff of olive oil.
Very expressive. Cinnamon. The profile is quite extreme - and possibly too much so for some people.
Taste: Heavy smoke and loads of sweet fruit. This feels very thick, almost like a liqueur. Quite dry.
Score: 88 points - I like this heavily sherried profile a lot, but it has a few rough edges.
Glengoyne 23yo 1986/2009 SC (53.6%, OB, Sherry Butt, C#399, 548 Bts.)
Nose: Aaah! Lovely complex sherried sweetness! Passion fruits. Great development over time as well.
Speculaas herbs gradually emerging over time. I'm happy to see Glengoyne back to releasing masterworks.
Taste: Big, sweet and fruity. Spices. Quite stunning. The tannins in the dry finish are almost perfectly tuned.
Score: 90 points - a really fantastic example of a fine malt whisky, produced after the clearings of the 1980's.
Glengoyne 1973/2009 (55.1%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Cask #677, 138 Bts.)
Nose: Sweetish and a little herbal. A little flowery. Melon. Spicy with more organics after a while.
Great development. Other fragrances in the background (anthracite, dust, tangerine), but it remains very subtle.
Taste: Sweetish start with some herbal influences emerging after seconds. Honey? Pleasant mouth feel.
Passion fruit. It feels very solid and remains sweet for a while. Long but harsh finish with some pine.
Score: 84 points - although I imagine opinions will be very divided about this one...
Glengoyne 11yo 1997/2008 (56.3%, OB, Sherry Hogshead, Cask #2692, 301 Bottles)
Nose: Loads of heavy sherry, woody and smoky notes. Unbalanced. A real sherry bomb. Some spices.
Too extreme for me. I usually love this type of profile but here it somehow feels artificial and pressure cooked.
Taste: A fruity second before it becomes extremely smoky. Ashes and tar in the centre and harsh finish.
Oh boy, this reminds me of my smoking days - even a little of Loch Dhu. This really is a little too extreme for me.
Score: 78 points - still above average because it's my kind of profile, but I couldn't really recommend it...
Glengoyne 18yo 1989/2007 'Robbie's Choice' (55,1%, OB, Ruby Port Hogshead C#328, 277 Bts.)
Nose: Big, deep, woody and fruity - like #115. Subtle sweetness. Spices. Ginger? Lots of complexity.
Taste: Sweet and woody. Wonderful tannins in the finish, not too strong. These notes only scratch the surface.
Score: 90 points - a Brilliant mouth feel at cask strength. Goes well with water.
Glengoyne 18yo 1989/2007 'Billy's Choice' (54,1%, OB, Amontillado Hogshead C#1202, 249 Bts.)
Nose: Wowie! Loads of character; woods and dark fruits and a wonderful sweetness. Asian spices.
Then celery and organics appear. Hint of tea leaves? Responds very well to a few drops of water.
Taste: Fits the nose like a glove; fruit and wood - and some tea. Grows smokier towards the finish.
Smidgen too extreme for the 90's? Well, I enjoy it - but not everybody might. Tastes like an oldie.
Score: 92 points - as far as I'm concerned this deserves a solid gold medal in the MM Awards.
Glengoyne 1991/2006 'Jim's Choice' (57%, OB, American oak sherry butt #1083, 693 Bts.)
Nose: Not particulary 'partizan', but very pleasant. Some intriguing organics in the back of the nose.
Taste: Sweet oatmeal on the palate with soft tannins in the finish. Some 'Midlands' oily elements.
Score: 83 points - a recommendable dram but a bit too 'generic' for a score in the upper 80's.
Glengoyne 1989/2006 'Charlie's Choice' (56%, OB, 1st fill Oloroso Sherry Hogshead #1231, 279 Bts.)
Nose: Sweet, polished, sherried and quite lovely. Organics in the nose - this needs time.
Taste: A lovely balance between the fruit and the wood on the palate with a very enjoyable hint of toffee.
Still, there's a hint of oil there that keeps it from rising any further. The wood on the palate is almost too much.
Score: 90 points - a fabulous malt but just a few rough edges...
Glengoyne 1986/2006 'Peter's Choice' (51%, OB, Pedro Ximenez Butt #433, 603 Bts.)
Nose: Oh yes… Sherry and wood. Soy sauce? Cookery smells. Wonderful complexity if you give it time.
Taste: Loads of wood - 'good wood'. Lovely fruits and quite some tannins. Hubba Bubba bubblegum?
Score: 90 points - for me, one of the big surprises of the MM Awards 2006; it won the 'Dark Horse Awards'.
Glengoyne 15yo 'Scottish Oak Wood Finish' (43%, OB, Bottled 2005)
Nose: Restrained sherry. The faintest hint of smoke? Furniture polish. More organics after five minutes.
Growing complexity, but it remains restrained. You really have to work at this one. Hint of pepper sauce.
Yeah, this is nice... All the goodness of sherry, but not 'in your face'. Fruits and some organics.
Taste: Sweet start, growing very fruity in the centre. Growing depth and cohesion towards the chewy finish.
Score: 83 points - although it would have climbed a little higher with some more power in the nose.
Glengoyne 19yo 1986/2005 'Ewan's Choice' (51.5%, OB, Sherry Puncheon #441, 600 Bottles)
Nose: Lots of sweet sherry, just like the ultra-dark colour suggests. Hot spices. Red peppers? Hint of maggi.
Yup, this is a sherry monster in the nose. Brilliant on the palate, but very extreme. But I love it...
Taste: Smoky and very dry. Winey. Concentraded fruits. The tannins almost create a vacuum in your mouth.
Score: 89 points - although I expect this is just a tad too extreme for some. Very serious on the palate.
Glengoyne 32yo 1972/2005 (48.7%, OB, white Rioja cask #985, 328 bottles)
Nose: Wow!!! Extremely rich and extremely sweet and fruity. Strawberry jam. This is quite lovely!
Strawberry fruit sweets. Spices in the background. The nose definitely deserves a score in the upper 80's.
Taste: Hey, that's odd. Hardly any sweetness at first. No wait - there it is, in the centre. A tad herbal? Weird.
Score: 90 points - quite unique in the nose. On closer inspection the palate isn't like anything else either.
There's lots of stuff that I usually don't like, but this is unlike anything else. This should be rewarded.
Glengoyne 37yo 1967/2005 (47.6%, OB, Sherry butt #975, 246 bottles)
Nose: Relatively soft start, then heavy sherry and cough syrup. Sweet pastry. Caramac. Then organics. Brilliant!
Vegetable stock. Maggi. Serious and playful at the same time. A bouquest to get lost in; fantabulous. I love it...
Round two: Hurray, still full of goodness. The nose keeps changing over time, like a 'magic candy ball'. Hint of mint.
Taste: Very sherried start, growing friendlier and fruitier towards the centre. Drops off towards the woody finish.
Score: 92 points - I had it at 93/94 for quite a while but it loses a few points in the finish. Still fabulous, though.
Glegoyne 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997)
Nose: It is the strangest thing... The nose has become very 'dusty'. Malt and sherry. Fruity with a little smoke.
Taste: Some dust in the (smooth and warming) taste as well, along with sherry and malt. Coffee and mocca?
'Chewy' finish. A bit woody and bitter; warm, very long, becoming drier. Quite some staying power.
Score: 73 points - this was bottled quite some time before the revival of the distillery in the noughties.
Glengoyne 12yo (43%, OB Lang Brothers, Bottled early 1980's, 5cl)
Nose: Light and very slightly oily at first, sweetening out. In fact, it becomes remarkably sweet.
Taste: Not nearly as sweet as the nose at first, but it gets there. Mouth feel improves over time as well.
Score: 77 points - Certainly not a bad dram, but it's not quite 'up there' with the bottles from the 1990's.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glengoyne malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glengoyne I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glengoyne.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
Just like the Bruichladdich distillery, Glengoyne was lifted from obscurity
by the enterprising spirit of a small company. And that's not the only
similarity with Bruichladdich. Both distilleries managed to increase
the average quality of their output considerably compared to the
previous owners. On the other hand, both distilleries have done
some serious 'cherry picking' among the available casks in the
warehouses. After an impressive re-launch, they're struggling to
meet the high expectations of their customers on every occasion.
Since the new owners released some of their very best casks not
long after they took control, later vattings had to be drawn from a
slightly impoverished 'gene pool' of older casks in their warehouses.
Fortunately, the new casks they laid down themselves are almost mature.
Meanwhile, just like the malt whisky distilled at Glengoyne, the
-logo has undergone some subtle changes too. The old logo
---(pictured above) still had the 'royal seal' on it (by appointment
-----to H.M. Queen Elizabeth), which they've cleverly replaced
-------with some sort of pagan grain bushel. I have to admit that
--------I didn't realise the logo had changed until somebody
---------pointed it out to me. So, the designer did a great job...
--------There were some other subtle changes as well. For
-------example, the text at the bottom of the old logo said:
-----"Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky". They've used the
---very same words in the new logo, but now the focus has
-shifted subtly to the word 'Highland'. It's almost like they wanted
to distance themselves from the Lowlands region to the South.