E-pistle 2007/046 – Glengoyne Ultimate Challenge

By Luc Timmermans, Belgium

Glengoyne; the ultimate challenge of the sleeping giant….
Rarely done, rarely experienced, rarely organised……

Yes, it is quite rare that you get an invitation for a Vertical Glengoyne Tasting.  I was very surprised when Serge Reynders (Casksix member) sent me an invitation for his birthday tasting party.  Not surprised for his birthday nor for the invite, but very surprised to hear about the tasting theme.  Are you sure…?  A Glengoyne vertical tasting.  Mmm, could be interesting.  It was never done before… Off course you do encounter Glengoyne expressions regularly at tastings, but you rarely encounter a Glengoyne dedicated vertical tasting.  And I was even more eager to go since Geert Bero and myself visited the Glengoyne distillery last year September, when going to the McTears auction in Glasgow.  The granted hospitality, the guided tour by Valerie Marsch, the offered drams, the atmosphere, the new-spirit experiment was so good I did not hesitate to accept Serge’s invitation to widen my Glengoyne experience.

Glengoyne Distillery lies in a tranquil wooded glen on the western edge of the Campsie Fells. It takes its name from Glen Guin, or ‘Glen of the Wild Geese’, and sits at the foot of a small waterfall tumbling from the volcanic plug of Dumgoyne Hill. Glengoyne distillery uses only specially selected unpeated malted barley i.e. barley which is malted using air from a natural fire and not a peat fire., thus resulting in a whisky that is generally fairly light. The Highland Line, which notionally divided Highland from Lowland Scotland runs through the distillery grounds, making Glengoyne the southernmost Single Highland Malt. Sold in 2003 by the Edrington Group to the independent bottler Ian Macleod.

I must say that Glengoyne surprised quite a few of us, Maniacs, when they joined/competed in the 2005 Malt Maniacs Awards and sneaked away quite some precious metal presenting us the “Choice’s Range” amongst others. So I decided to play it safe and relie on the public transportation to get to Balen, Serge’s house.  Serge did announce we would be having quite a few Glengoyne’s so I did not hesitate….but great was my surprise to see the line-up…no less then 21 different Glengoyne’s were brought together.  Bart (a big Glengoyne afficionados, and a “The Finest Notes” member), Wim (Casksix Member) and Serge (the Casksix member) had been preparing this tasting miniculously, yes. 21 different Glengoyne’s were to be evaluated, that Tuesday May 1 in Balen.

We dediced to arrange 4 flights in order to try to match the whisky more correctly.
Flight 1 was the “Get the Glengoyne Palate going….” And here my notes……..

Langs Select 12yo (40%, OB, SPA Trieste, 70cl)
Nose : Pancakes, caramel sauce, creamy crêpes suzette, a little grain, nice but simple (19)
Taste : Warm caramel, very creamy, nuts and macadamia cookie, a little peach, nice (19)
Finish: Sweet malty (19)
B/C : Nice dram to get this tasting going (20)
Total points : 77

Glengoyne 10yo 1995/2005 (50%, DL OMC Advance Cask Sample, Cask 2036)
Nose : Very new make, white flowers, oak, not much going on….some vanilla, very boring (12)
Taste : Astringent white flowers on sweat, malt, boring (12)
Finish : Short…very new make (12)
B/C : A shame for bottling this….even as Advance Cask Sample (10)
Total points : 46

Glengoyne 16yo 1988/2005 (50%, DL OMC, Cask 885, 331 Bts.)
Nose : Malty sweet, green fruits, a little brown apple on a cake, barley aroma still strong (19)
Taste : Sweet sugary, loads of vanilla, pure and simple (19)
Finish : Sugary sweet, a touch of pepper (19)
B/C : Nice but very sugary sweet (20)
Total points : 77

Glengoyne 22yo 1981/2004 (49,1%, OB, Cask 410, 234 bottles, Whiskyfair)
Nose : Sweet fruit, apples and cinnamon, sweet barly, honey, nuts and spices, clean (21)
Taste : Full taste of sweet fruits, apples and spices, quite some body here (22)
Finish : Spicy peppery sweet, a little hot but nice (22)
B/C : Good drinking Glengoyne, pure expression, An interesting ‘natural’ Glengoyne (22)
Total points : 87

Glengoyne 19yo 1985/2005 (55.8%, OB, refill sherry, cask #1227, 697 bottles)
Nose : Quite alcohol punchy start, a little rubbery, raisins, varnish, a little sour underneath, sour buttter, too long opened cider, quite a love or hate experience in this one, has quite some nice but at the same time dirty aroma’s, not easy (22)
Taste : Powerfull creamy texture, a buttery sweaty taste, applecompote and sour cream, sugary-sour expression, some pepper underneath (21)
Finish : Nice and good length (21)
B/C : You have to like the special aroma’s….but quite ok I would say (22)
Total points : 86

Glengoyne 21yo 1985/2006 (53%, OB, Cask 629, 632 Bts.)
Nose : Heavy sherry, polished leather, varnish, candy sugar, heavy dry oloroso, calvados apples, nice if you like them heavy (22)
Taste : Whauh, heavy dry, gunpowder, a bit sulphury, but so dry…..(17)
Finish : Ai ai….the sulphury notes are coming harder now…..not my kind I’m afraid (15)
B/C : The nose had something going…but the palate is not my kind…..(15)
Total points : 69 (I scored it 79 blind during the last MM Awards…but I’m afraid I’m going to adjust that score)

So far Flight n°1… my personal winner of this pack was the Glengoyne 22yo 1981/2004 (49,1%, OB, Cask 410, 234 bottles, Whiskyfair).
Not only for scoring the highest points but for its pure and neat Glengoyne profile without any flaws.
On to Flight n°2, the “Long gone Glengoyne expressions…..”

Glengoyne 17yo (43%, OB, 75cl, DAB Italia SPA, 80’s, pear shaped)
Nose : Warm peaches, heathery a little coastal even, orange blossom, fine and delicate, a little varnish, great (22)
Taste : Lovely sweet peach marmelade on a fresh warm white bread toast, good and lovely drink-ability (22)
Finish : Nice and sweet, liquid pancake peach syrup (22)
B/C : Lovely drinking expression (22)
Total points : 88

Glengoyne 8yo (43%, OB, 75cl, Giorgio Grulo Import Bologna, Black label, golden stills, early 80’s)
Nose : Very herbal start, like walking in a spice shop, loads of rosemary, parcly, polished oak, lovely depth (23)
Taste : Lovely sweet and smoky, a little peat even, old sherry, mastic, a touch of the animal, great (23)
Finish : Great finale, the spices kick back in, the cinnnamon, rosemary, lovely, a bit short (22)
B/C : Lovely expression, great drink-ability again (22)
Total points : 90

Glengoyne 1967 “Christmas Day” (43%, OB, bottled 1992, 2500 Bts.)
Nose : Nice fruity peachy Glengoyne, mashed apple compote, meadow blossom, lovely (23)
Taste : Lovely taste of sweet apricots, warm white bread, sugar (23)
Finish : Great package of fruit, a bit short (22)
B/C : Another great Glengoyne….(22)
Total points : 90

Glengoyne 1969 “Autumn” (55,3%, OB)
Nose : Intense fat nose of soaked oak, rum toffee, banana’s on a BBQ, oak-smoke, a little beerfoam, varnish, lovely (23)
Taste : Intense and bold taste, soaked oak on warm peaches, apricot jam, rum notes, a little tobacco, some smoke and pinetree juices, lovely (23)
Finish : Long building, growing, yummie yummie (23)
B/C : Super Glengoyne expression soo bold and powerfull, for BIG boys (24)
Total points : 93

Glengoyne 1969/1998 (54,4%, OB, Cask 4464, 384 Bts.)
Nose : Deep dark sherry, roasted nuts, mokka coffee, cohiba cigars, burnt smoked meat, horse leather, intense (23)
Taste : Quite harsh and biting, the deep sharp sherry hits you, cohiban cigar smoke, expresso (22)
Finish : Dry, soo dry, coffee beans and expresso (22)
B/C : Lovely nose but a bit harsh and dry, but still lovely (22)
Total points : 89

So far for the second fligth.  The winner for me was the Glengoyne 1969 “Autumn” (55,3%, OB) which I had also in Glasgow last year September together with Sukhinder Singh when we met in the Pot Still pub in Glasgow for a few drams.  This absolute fabulous Glengoyne already surprised me big time then, but now it really showed its class amongst his Glengoyne brothers and sisters.  Before starting flight n°3 Serge treated us with a lovely home made Tiramisu and a delicious Chocomousse….  Serge is really treating us like kings.
So, time for flight n°3….”Glengoyne through the seventies…”

Glengoyne 32yo 1972/2005 (48.7%, OB, white Rioja cask #985, 328 bottles)
Nose : Sweet ripe banana, crême brulée, sugar and rose blossom, lovely (23)
Taste : Sweet and ripe banana, a touch of tonicum, a lovely sweet bitter balance (23)
Finish : Sweet dry, nice (23)
B/C : Great expression, the white rioja cask has smoothen the edges (23)
Total points : 92

Glengoyne 1970/1998 (53,4%, OB, Cask 3854, 210 Bts.)
Nose : Intense varnish, pinewood, freshly cut oak, peachskin, yellow flower blossom, a little cabbage, oak, lovely (23)
Taste : Lovely intenste taste, the pure apricot, varnish, oaked, pinejuice, a little oak smoke, great (23)
Finish : Intense and long, pure pleasure (23)
B/C : What a dram (24)
Total points : 93

Glengoyne 1972/1998 (55%, OB, Cask 1428, 180 Bts.)
Nose : Pure and neat expression, orange zest and yeast, a bit refrained and shy (22)
Taste : Intense taste of orange zest, yeast, varnish, quite exotic with a lovely smoky oaky undertone (23)
Finish : Great length, sweet bitter..nice (22)
B/C : Another great Glengoyne (22)
Total points : 89

Glengoyne 1971/1998 (56,2%, OB, Cask 4855, 588 Bts.)
Nose : Raisins, plum, nuts, walnuts, chocolate, gravy on red berries, lovely (23)
Taste : Sweet thick oloroso, of the good kind, warm chocolate, velvety walnuts, lovely (23)
Finish : Lovely length, the sherry sweet coating round lovely capucinno, tiramisu and cream, lovely (23)
B/C : Great (24)
Total points : 93

Glengoyne 1972/1998 (55,9%, OB, Cask 583, 468 Bts.)
Nose : Clean sherry, smashed strawberries on brown sugar, milk chocolate, nice and delicate (22)
Taste : Full taste of red berries, milk chocolate, a tad dry, coffee, amaretto, bbq’s banana’s (22)
Finish : Good length, a bit dry (22)
B/C : The clean sherry is quite powerfull in this one and perhaps has too much control (22)
Total points : 88

So far…..for the spectacular 70’s series.  I was doubting my judgement a lot during this flight, was I getting in the mood or where these expressions simply super great ?  Since the fellow tasters were also raving about these expressions, my ratings are to be taken seriously (but never too seriously).  Quite hard to get a winner out this serie though…..mmmm, I think I would go for the Glengoyne 1971/1998 (56,2%, OB, Cask 4855, 588 Bts.) with a very strong second, the Glengoyne 1970/1998 (53,4%, OB, Cask 3854, 210 Bts.).
So up to the final flight….the “Glengoyne’s choice’s series competing the expensives…..”

Glengoyne 15yo 1989/2005 ‘Duncan’s Choice’ (55.7%, OB, sherry hogshead #1204, 350 bottles)
Nose : Deep intense sherry, a little burnt, animal, horse sweat, a bit of manure, balsamic, burnt nuts, lovely intense (22)
Taste : Deep fat rich sherry first dry and then sweet, mexican coffee on sugar, fine tannins and woodnotes (23)
Finish : Fine sweet fat oloroso….(23)
B/C : Great if you like them heavy (23)
Total points : 91

Glengoyne 19yo 1986/2005 ‘Ewan’s Choice’ (51.5%, OB, sherry puncheon #441, 600 bottles)
Nose : Refined sherry, fat and sweet, brown apple, crême brulée, brown cake, raisin cream, choco muffin, lovely (23)
Taste : Intense lovely sweet and fat, choco-truffles, lovely (23)
Finish : Liquid choco mousse, my goodness this is lovely (23)
B/C : This is great…yummie yummie (24)
Total points : 93  (I scored this one only 89 during the MM Awards 2005 but this one is definitely worth more – hence my 93 points now)

Glengoyne 1986/2006 ‘Peter’s Choice’ (51%, OB, Pedro Ximenez Butt #433, 603 Bts.)
Nose: Nice creamy oloroso sherry nose, old leather, meat sauce, choco mousse, capucinno coffee with loads milk, morello cherries, very nice melted aroma’s with a great sherry topping (23)
Taste : Lovely full taste, morello cherry, mon chéri, cooked apples on calvados, chocolate with orange zest, coffee notes underneath, great, very Macallan’ish (the old style that is) (23)
Finish : Long, sweet development with a tad of bitterness underneath and a bit drying your palate and tongue, but still nice (22)
B/C : A perfect after dinner dram that you should enjoy with a great Illy espresso coffee…yummie yummie (23)
Total points : 91 (this was very closed at first, but with time, it really opens up, give it time…)

Glengoyne 2000 AD (51,3%, OB, Millenium Bottling, youngest whisky 30 yo old)
Nose : Lovely powerfull nose of ripe apricots, varnish, oak, pine-apple juice, almond milk, smoke, lovely (23)
Taste : Exotic ripe fruits with a bitter edge, grapefruit skin, intense (24)
Finish : Great length, the bitter tonicum holds the fruits and make them grow stronger, lovely (24)
B/C : Stunning…..(23)
Total points : 94

Glengoyne 1967/1999 “The Middle Cut” (52,5%, OB, 100 Bts.)
Nose : A bit more chemical, more alcohol, you get a very pure and neat expression here, malted barley, quite harsh but very little aroma development compared to the Millenium (21)
Taste : Good and intense taste, pure malted barley mixed with ripe apricots, oak smoke, varnish, bigaro red confit fruit, sweet, lovely (23)
Finish : Great lenght, and sweet fruit (23)
B/C : Nose was clean pure and refrained, but the palate is immense, strange balance….(22)
Total points : 89

The final flight was won without any doubt by the Glengoyne 2000 AD (51,3%, OB, Millenium Bottling, youngest whisky 30 years old).  Unfortunately this bottling is extremely expensive.  It was released in a copper “spirit safe” packaging and in a “clock” version.  Both holding the same superb Glengoyne expression. Well well…. quite a tasting…. what an impressive line-up of some exquise Glengoyne’s.  If I would be asked to describe the profile of Glengoyne my final judgement would be “Apples, varnish, oak, peaches/apricots & oak-smoke”

Many thanks to Serge for hosting this tasting.
Many thanks to Bart and Wim for their contribution and my special thanks to Bart for bringing all these lovely Glengoyne expressions.