One thing we've started to realise about this blogging lark is that to write from the heart, you need to have an unequivocal handle on your subject matter- be it blogging about jams, cars or even weirder stuff. Sitting in a cottage on a quiet South London suburban street is probably where most of our thoughts come together- our Caskstrength Towers. The postman delivers some samples to the door (actually pretty debatable at the moment!) and the scrumptious sound/sight of liquid gold hitting Glencairn is often all that's needed to take the mind off to a happy and contemplative place.
But for all the descriptors and adjectives a writer has at their disposal, the one thing missing is the sense of 'being there'- living the moment in the location you are writing about.
To really write about a particular scotch, there is simply no excuse than to try and visit its birthplace- and literally drink in the surroundings!!
Today we got just that sort of opportunity when we visited the Glengoyne distillery, about 40 minutes drive from Edinburgh airport.
It has the marvelous distinction of being the most 'southerly' highland distillery, something of a contradiction and certainly a useful piece of info in any whisky-related pub trivia game (should such a thing exist) One other amusingly delicious fact which was revealed by our hosts, is that the borderline between highland and lowland actually splits the distillery from its warehouses- meaning that when the spirit runs from the still it's a highland, but cross the road and you'll find the casks sleepily maturing in the lowlands!
Certainly perhaps the first indication that this is no ordinary whisky. The second indication hits you when, on the way up to the visitor's centre, you are confronted by a majestic waterfall rolling down from the towering Dumgoyne Hill in background. How's that for a water source eh.
Our mission today was to try the newly launched 40 year old expression, which is the oldest whisky the distillery has ever produced. But we got a lot more than we bargained for...
From the light and fruity 10 year old expression, through the 'as yet to be unreleased' - and newly formulated 12 year old, (more on this soon) to the weighty and charismatic 21 year old, a theme almost certainly runs true with the whisky produced at Glengoyne. There is a clarity, a sparkle and an unquestionable attention to detail that distillery manager Robbie Hughes ensures is present: From the use of Golden Promise barley, the impeccable timing during the spirit run and to the quality of the sherry butts / bourbon barrels they mature their spirit in.
We also experienced something of a first for Caskstrengh- 3 different cuts of new make spirit; straight off the still, then 15 and 60 minutes into the spirit run. Again, a hugely revealing insight into what Robbie and his team are attempting to capture in the character of their whisky.
After a brilliantly balanced lunch prepared by chef Tom Lewis, it was time for the main event, the unveiling of the 40 year old. Would we still be able to identify the inherent distillery character in such a mature bottling??
Glengoyne - 40 year old - 45.9% - 70cl - limited to 250 bottles
Nose: Stewed red apples, spiced cedary notes, hints of soft dried fruit and the feint aroma of licorice. All hallmarks from the new make we tried earlier, but in such tremendous volume and complexity. Lose yourself in this for hours and you'll still be finding new layers.
Palate: A wonderful mixture of silky mouthfeel, comprised of golden syrup, layers of sticky Oloroso sherry, ripe banana and demerara sugar. With a bit of time in the glass, more perfumed and fresh fruit flavour's start to arrive. Again, still unmistakably Glengoyne, just more detailed and refined.
Finish: More of that rich and thick sweetness, leading into some heavier, more woody, sherried dryness. Extremely classy.
Overall: Well, as much as you can argue that maturation in wood hugely affects the character of the spirit within, Glengoyne have proven that by producing a quality spirit, they can maintain a level of consistent 'house style' from their whiskies, no matter what age they happen to be. This whisky represents that perfect balance between great wood and spirit and full marks to Robbie and his team for piecing the bottling together.