Glengoyne: Distillery Tour

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

At the foot of the Highlands you'll find the tiny, yet well formed, Glengoyne Distillery. It resides at the foot of Dumgoyne Hill and along the road that separates the whisky classification between lowland and Highland. So in essence Glengoyne is distilled in the Highlands but crosses this tiny divide to age in the lowlands. For the record I'd view it more as the latter with its delicate fresh tones.
The distillery takes its water from the hills which looms large beyond its location. A waterfall and gushing stream are to the rear of the distillery, a tranquil viewing spot from the visitor centre balcony allows you to gaze out to the essence of a Highland setting before embarking on the tour fully. There is also a brief waterfall walk or you can go out up the hill if you feel more adventurous!
It's worth highlighting that Glengoyne offer a wide range of tours which you can discover here. For the size of the distillery (I'd say it's slightly larger than Balblair with its annual output around the 1 million mark) there is a tour for everyone. Even though we visited the distillery on a Tuesday in November, our own Master Blender tour was fully booked it seemed. So, as I always recommend book ahead! Being near Glasgow, it is very accessible and offers international visitors a brief taste of what may await further north.
The small site is deceptive. Glengoyne packs a great deal of content into just a few buildings. The distillery shop is well stocked with the full range of Glengoyne including single cask editions, 12, 18, 21 and the last bottle of 40 year old; a snip at £3750. A unique bottle that is worth checking out is the Teapot Dram, which takes us back to the good old days where workers would receive 3 drams throughout the day. Any refusals were dispensed into the teapot and given out at the end of the working day. The dram itself was picked by the manager at the time, so quite often workers would be receiving the best whisky and in the case of this release a first fill from a sherry butt, hence the rich and powerful taste. I'm not a huge fan of sherry whisky and this is the dominate force but I'm thankful for the opportunity to experience it.
The distillery also allows you to pour your own bottle from a specially selected cask and the range of LSA glassware gives the overall impression of quality.  It is certainly one of the better stocked stores we've visited. After all that, we were ready to start the tour. It begins in a stately bar area with a dram of the 12 year malt and a short film about the origins of the distillery. Then a moment to pause on the balcony, take in the surroundings and finish off that dram.
The tour of the distillery is not the longest, there isn't much to see because of its size and due to the warehouses being across a road these are not included. As an introductionary tour to whisky I think it offers just enough content for tourists and a brief snapshot of the various stages. Sadly photographs are not allowed internally, so the Oregon pine washbacks and mashing remain out of sight of my lens. You are able to take pictures of the still room from outside after the tour is over.
Normally the standard tour would end at this stage with a return to the shop. However on the master blender tour we were taken to the blending room, where science meets magic and gives us a unique blend to create and take home in a 100ml bottle. I've only previously attempted a quick blend once in Bowmore in Warehouse no.1 from a sherry and a bourbon cask. It gave me the taste for doing it again. Normally it is an expensive bit of fun at home to use up a few dregs from bottles or mask the taste of a blend you just don't like!
Your blend is made up from 60ml grain (either North British or Invergordon) and then the remainder from selection of 6 single malts from unspecified distilleries divided into the regions of Scotland. So while these weren't named clearly Islay was Laphroaig, Islands was Talisker and of course Glengoyne was also available. To create your blend you had 40 minutes and the whole group had a great time, nosing and tasting each of the single malts and their own work in progress. And even before all of this commenced you receive a dram of the Isle of Skye blend, which is perfectly drinkable if a little rough.
A sheet allowed you to record your progress and recipe for success. You were then able to label your bottle and receive a master blender certificate, which is great fun overall in a relaxing environment. An added touch is that if you keep your blend sheet and return to the distillery at a later date with the empty bottle, they'll fill it to your original blend once again. And that's not it, after the blending session the shop awaited with another generous dram on offer; this time the 18 year old. 
2012 has been a great year for visiting distilleries as you can see from this blog, hopefully you'll find it useful and as always all of my Glengoyne photographs are here to view. I still have many more distilleries to visit and 2013 should see me finishing the Diageo malts book and hitting Speyside (again) and Highland Park remains a must. However we're not done with this year as I will be visiting Deanston to round off 2012. Slainte!

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