Glengoyne is a curious distillery; a Highland Single Malt, distilled in the Lowlands. Yep. As Ally, my fantastic guide for the day, and with an ever so uncanny resemblance to Alec Baldwin told me: “Greg, we distil in the Highlands, but mature our whisky in the Lowlands, quite literally across the road.”
The back story to this random situation lies somewhere between admin and tax collection, as so many things do in the whisky industry.
You see, the Glengoyne distillery itself is located a couple of metres above the Highland Line which is the administrative invisible dividing line between the Highlands and Lowlands, but the maturation warehouses are located in the Lowlands as Ally mentioned.
If rumour is to be believed, they also operated illicit stills here back in the early nineteenth century with a convenient location that managed to be missed by the tax man… allegedly.
A 100% unpeated single malt whisky, The Glengoyne distillery dates back to 1833 and is now owned by Ian Macleod Distillers producing around 1.1 million litres of spirit per year that is used in both blends and their fantastic single malt products.
Often described as the “most beautiful distillery in Scotland”, the Glengoyne distillery itself is really quaint, cute almost and has been designed to educate visitors not only about their whisky production and the general whisky process but to also give them an education on their wood programme with an incredible ‘Maturation Room’ that showcases how whisky ages in the various casks they use, see the photos below to see what I mean.
This is arguably one of my favourite educational installations at a whisky distillery, and I do not say that lightly.
My wife and I were fortunate in that Ally had been assigned to us for the afternoon so we were able to take our time and walk around with him as he told us stories about thedistillery.
Just ahead of the tour starting, we wandered up and saw the waterfall before watching the brand video with a welcome dram of the Glengoyne 12 Year Old – every distillery should provide a welcome dram in my opinion, it relaxes and instantly give you something to talk about.
After the video we walked through the production area of the distillery to see how things work; their malted barley comes in from Simpsons (like many of the distilleries in Scotland nowadays), is milled using a Porteus mill, mashed, fermented and distilled as you’d expect.
What is always great to see however, is some of the old hands-on production methods utilised where possible such as levers being turned by hand (by tourists too if they are in at the right time) and huge dipsticks being used in the low wines tank and handwritten production notes along the way.
Very curious to see the Queen Mother’s Royal Seal proudly up in the still house; cannot remember the last time I saw one of those, it dates back over thirty years when the previous owners, the Lang Brothers, were designated whisky suppliers to the Queen Mother and has since been reassigned to Ian Macleod through acquisition.
Then on to Warehouse 1, with its comically massive padlock and displays mentioned above.
Once I had finished cooing at the Maturation Room’s brilliance, Kirsty and I were asked to draw samples from two casks; a 1997 fully bourbon cask matured 19 Year Old and a 2002 14 Year Old fully sherry cask matured whisky.
These two samples typified the brilliance of the Glengoyne distillery product, different maturation lengths and wood types but both absolutely stunning, we later bottled one of each to take home – they definitely will not last long.
All in all we had an amazing time – in the next Glengoyne post, I will tell you all about how Kirsty and I blended our own single malt at the Glengoyne distillery, a fascinating experiment.
Thanks to Ally for being an incredible host, and for Glengoyne for hosting us. Kirsty and I were on the NO.1 WAREHOUSE TOUR that lasts 2 hours and costs £80.00 and must be booked in advance, more information available: http://www.
Also published on Medium.