I’m sure a local once said to me that the best road to Fort William is the one that takes you away from it as quickly as possible. Time has not been kind to this once splendid town on the banks of Loch Linnhe in the Scottish highlands and an air of decay has descended from the ominous mountains that surround it.
If you take the A82 road towards the town, then you will pass through some of Scotland’s most iconic, atmospheric and eye-watering scenery. From the majesty of Glencoe, often populated by James Bond fans seeking some form of divine intervention or bumping into M at least, to the epic nature of Loch Linnhe that has the power to mesmerise as you navigate its banks.
A convoy of coaches and backpacker minibuses will always accompany you on this voyage through prime tourist country. Arguably, the James Bond fans may have moved on towards Aviemore, where scenes from the latest film were shot. Yet the majestic nature of this route remains intact. Personally, I’m more a fan of the haunting isolation of the A86 that takes you around and then away from the Dalwhinnie distillery. Through some rugged, dense and remote Scottish landscapes, before giving you the option to turn towards Fort William.
The appearance of this signpost always represents a decision. You see, when I’m in this neck of the woods, I’m heading towards the Isle of Skye and a new benchmark of scenery. Fort William itself doesn’t offer enough of a pull as a destination. You can detour for supplies and fuel, or as a whisky enthusiast walk amongst the remnants of Glenlochy, or even take your chances on a Ben Nevis distillery tour. This is always an interesting experience in my experience and those of friends who retell stories of their tours. Sadly, the distillery lacks any exclusives or bottle-your-own options, so its appeal is somewhat diminished. More often than not, I leave the memories of Fort William by the roadside and turn towards bright lights of Plockton, the Kyle of Lochalsh and onwards to Skye.
Nevertheless, dear reader, you’re here for Glenlochy and a sense of a lost distillery, so for you, we’ll turn left and head into town and revive memories of a fallen distillery that we’re covered previously, but always is deserving of more of your precious time.
Firstly, my thanks once again to Michael, who kindly provided a sample of this whisky along with a Rare Malts 1978 Benromach and a 1971 Glenury Royal. A kind gesture that allows us to experience these bottles that are only increasing in price and scarcity. I’ve always said when it comes to whisky, that we can only appreciate today’s expressions, by exploring the past and allowing us to put these things into context.
Thanks to the nature of samples, trades and generous offers, we can catch of glimpse of the past. I’d always recommend swapping samples and meeting up with whisky enthusiasts when you can. Broaden your horizons, blaze your own path and never swallow completely what the marketing department or brand ambassadors are trying to force-feed you this week.
With all the money within whisky nowadays, it still depresses me that corporations are allowed to bulldoze distillery buildings. These are part of Scotland’s legacy. A reason for visiting, exploring and celebrating the past. All such things should be grade listed for the benefit of the country. Yet time and time again, we see such things removed because of the need to improve: whether as a visitor attraction or part of the production process.
In their place arrives a new, shiny and sleek modern replacement. The ultimate expression being the new Macallan, which is less of a distillery and more of a sterile office environment. The old distillery still stands but has been relegated to the history books by those at Edrington who seek a new visual exterior. Many of us accept these changes as progress when they are anything but. A visit to Mortlach will confirm just how alien and upsetting such developments can be. As for the Macallan? It is as soulless and vapid as the whisky itself nowadays and I still state they missed a trick in not putting a 5-star hotel alongside the facility. Ah, but Jason you might say. You’re growing old and philosophical. Perhaps I am, I’ve always enjoyed being surrounded by history and the tactile ability to see and touch these things. Once they’re gone, unfortunately, they’re gone. Glenlochy still stands partially as residential accommodation and its splendid brickwork is always worth seeking out, if only once.
More and more of this history is being erased. The sands of time slipping through our fingers as a previous generation dwindles and their anecdotes and knowledge are lost. It is this sense of loss and what if, I consider as I explore Scotland. When faced with the ruins of an old croft, the life that was experienced here and what happened to the workers and their families. In whisky, we have the precious liquid, but in many cases little else. Thankfully, some in whisky do care about the past and not just in liquid form. I could write about Glenlochy here, but it strikes me as an opportune time to highlight the resource that is Glenlochy.com. Here an enthusiast has gone to great lengths to document and research their passion for the distillery. Yes, the website as such is basic, but it contains the history, photographs and details of former employees. It leaves us wanting more information and new impetus to explore Glenlochy.
Yet again, it falls to the motivated fans with a passion for research and compiling these details. From individuals such as Dr Patrick Brossard, who spent over a decade researching the old Clynelish (Brora) distillery, or Glen Garioch before it, or the owners of Kennetpans distillery seeking to rescue the site. Without such efforts, details would be lost and our appreciation would be more fragmented. In reality, this shouldn’t be the case. With so much money within whisky nowadays how much of it resides in Scotland for the good of the people and future generations? More should and could be done to ensure the legacy whisky is passed onto the next generation, as intact as possible.
This Glenlochy is bottled at a mammoth 62.2% strength after 25 years maturation. It’s worth highlighting that there is another Glenlochy 1969 bottled as part of the Rare Malts range, but a slightly lower strength of 58.8%. A comparison would have been fun yet the prices of these bottles nowadays are out of my reach – just in case you decide to purchase a bottle on the basis of this review – please make sure it is the correct one.
Glenlochy 1969 Rare Malts – review
Colour: golden sand.
On the nose: I’m greeted by a dusty, wood chip, sandy aspect. It feels a very clean malt. Almonds, pears, cream crackers and lemon rind. Very approachable for a Glenlochy. Sappy oak, a hint of UHU glue, wafers, wine gums and saline. Time in the glass is beneficial and reveals more citrus and a hint of smoke.
In the mouth: Juicy oak, more meadow fruits but not vibrantly, flour, a touch of soap or lotion midway and white pepper. It doesn’t taste like 62% strength with only minor alcohol showing on the fringes. Barley sugar, light honey, quite oily and creamy with engine residue and limescale. The finish is surprisingly faint.
A more accessible Glenlochy for sure with some interesting characteristics. Some flavours and aromas that you rarely see in today’s whiskies. For its strength, it has a gentle and refined quality to the experience and a pleasant mouthfeel. Suggesting that it deserved more of the single malt spotlight that rather heading into blends. I enjoyed the dram, but thankfully not at today’s prices.
Photograph kindly provided by Whisky Hammer.