I like Glengoyne rather a lot. I think they’re one of the great modern Scotch brands out there, offering both value and integrity, and with a splendid shortage of bullshit marketing. I visited the distillery a couple of years ago and left the place very impressed. The signs are simply that they do good things – take time with their production, rather than making efficiency savings at the expense of flavour. The distillery is a lovely site, too – a great spot for a day-trip, if you’re up that way.
A good thing about Glengoyne, however, is the sheer value for money of their whiskies. The Glengoyne 12 Year Old and the 15 Year Old are ones I’d recommend to many who are after something in those respective price brackets. Best value of all has to go to their Cask Strength whiskies, which are simply among the best whiskies available at around the £50 mark.
But what about at the other end of the scale – the posh stuff? I mean, it’s all right having some good youthful whiskies, but is it scalable? Were they doing things well 30 years ago? And not all distilleries are like that. Production methods change over the years, and the 1980s and 1990s are notorious for pumping out shit whisky and putting into third- and fourth-fill casks, when the arse was falling out of the industry during that era.
That brings me to the latest limited edition release from the distillery. It’s the Glengoyne 30 Year Old, a new expression that’s made up of a vatting of 33% first-fill European oak Sherry butts, and 66% refill Sherry butts. I mean, it all sounds pretty sexy doesn’t it? And although I’m pretty prejudiced in wanting first-fill (why should I spend my money when the brand couldn’t be arsed to spend their money on decent casks?), I can accept a refill butt when we’re getting to a resplendent vintage such as 30 years.
In the press material that accompanied the release, Robbie Hughes, Glengoyne distillery manager, said, “The refill butts impart plenty of flavour and colour but do not dominate or overpower our spirit with too much oak. They also tend to be fresher and fruitier, good for balancing the richness and weight of the sherry casks, adding pleasant top notes and complexity. In this instance, the task was finding the right mix of refill cask to best showcase the sherry exceptional oloroso sherry casks we spend six years sourcing, ensuring incredible colour and an exceptional flavour profile.”
The colour is stonking, I must say, but we’ll get to that. Bottled at 46.8% ABV, a bottle of the Glengoyne 30 Year Old will knock you back about 600 quid. That isn’t cheap, I realise that. Nor does it sound outrageously expensive in this day and age. It comes in a solid oak box with a rose gold bung and hessian square – the sort of thing that’s designed to reflect the traditional cask sampling method used at the distillery. All very fancy, I’m sure, but how does it taste?
Glengoyne 30 Year Old Review
Colour: burnt umber. It’s exceptionally dark.
On the nose: spectacularly deep and intense sherried aromas, but it manages to be balanced. Black Forest gâteau, bitter dark chocolate, morello cherries. Those cherries – black cherries now – really are dominant. Not too musty, though there are those pencil-like woody notes and old cellars. Figs, and a quite meaty component: rare roast beef in gravy. Drifting into big-ass Malbec territory, with the cherries and plums. HP Sauce, that balsamic edge.
In the mouth: eye-wateringly intense now, cloying, chewy, with the meatiness (that roast beef in gravy) and cherries leading the way. Figs, raisins, blackberries, elderberries. Nutmeg. Sundried tomatoes. Again, the Malbec notes carry on – it is that deep red-wine quality, with a little clove, pepper, tannins and so on adding the edge to the heady dark fruits. Damsons, red onion chutney. Surprisingly little woodiness for something so old. Balsamic vinegar on the finish.
Quite frankly, a delicious whisky. Though I have given it an 8, it was very close to being given a 9 – but I’ve not awarded one of those in our new scoring system just yet, so I’m saving it for the obscene stuff.
It’s part Sunday roast, part cherry – rather than sherry – bomb, it’s a meal in and of itself. It actually manages to pitch itself somewhere different, too – it’s headier than your traditional sherried whisky: blacker fruits, a bit more tartness whilst avoiding the bitterness. Whilst many old whiskies can feel quite polished, there’s something pleasingly aggressive about this – more Robert Carlyle than Colin Firth, for example. Plus it would make for an epic after-dinner dram.
£600 is a lot of money, let’s face it, but if you’re going to splurge on a whisky of this age then I reckon this is a very reasonable deal. Glengoyne have smashed it again.