Glenglassaugh has been on my radar for a while now, even more so since BenRiach Distillery bought it last year.
The Glenglassaugh distillery has had a colourful past. It was founded in 1875, north-west of Aberdeen, in a town called Portsoy. In Barnard’s classic, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom (1887), he describes it as “a charming little seaport town, beautifully situated and rapidly rising in notoriety”. He goes on to describe the distillery’s handsome buildings, built on the slopes of a steep hill close to the sea, and its water being supplied by the Glassaugh river. (He’d have a heart attack over some of the modern buildings, no doubt.)
Things were a bit on and off at Glenglassaugh. Though its output traditionally went into blends like the Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark, which are not exactly unsuccessful products, the distillery experienced three periods of closure, notably between 1986 and 2008. In 2008 the distillery was bought by the Amsterdam-based Lumiere Holdings, who promptly created the Glenglassaugh Distillery Company and started producing new spirit at around 200,000 litres per year (though the place is capable of over a million litres).
Glenglassaugh Evolution was the second such whisky that this new era produced when… plans changed. BenRiach, spearheaded by master blender Billy Walker and his partners, whisky entrepreneurs Geoff Bell and Wayne Kieswetter, stormed in to buy the distillery. Now, I really like BenRiach, who also own the fantastic GlenDronach distillery, so this was a cracking move in my eyes. What about the whisky? Glenglassaugh Evolution is matured in “hand-picked ex-Tennessee first-fill whiskey barrels”. It’s bottled at 50% ABV, without any colour or chill-filtration.
Colour: pale as a Glaswegian’s rear end, this one. Well, more seriously this is more like Pinot Grigio. On the nose: young, of course, but creamy, briny and lively. More subtleties open up: herbal and mossy, then crisper notes like cucumbers and melons.
In the mouth: woosh, that’s interesting stuff. Yes, definitely young, but a heck of a lot of flavour. Lime marmalade. Shortbread. No, sweet pastry instead with a dash of vanilla. It’s like one of Mr Kipling’s apple pies, fresh out the oven. Really thick and chewy, and perhaps – curiously – with a little creamy mashed potato.
For its age, this is exceptional. Worth it at £55? Definitely. The Glenglassaugh Evolution is most definitely worth buying, if not to show you just how interesting young whiskies can be. Based on this alone I’ll be picking up some more of their whiskies soon. I can only imagine the kind of treasures that will be produced with the folk at BenRiach at the helm…