Glenglassaugh Distillery Visit
A visit to the highland Distillery Glenglassaugh constitutes our ~ 60th visited distillery. Whilst many of these have been undertaken under our own behest – hence the enormous delay in writing up most of them! – this was most definitely a distillery visit with a difference!
A little about Glenglassaugh:
Positioned overlooking Sandend bay east of Portsoy, this little distillery sits just outside of the Speyside region and is classified as both Coastal and Eastern Highlands. Established in 1875 but with a rather chequered history starting with the sale by the sole remaining founder in 1892, it operated on and off, including a rebuild in 1960, until it was definitively closed and mothballed between 1986 and 2008. It was recently run by the BenRiach distillery company (along with BenRiach and GlendDronach distilleries) until their purchase by Brown-Forman in April 2016. Brown-Forman also appointed Master Blender Rachel Barrie as Whisky Maker for their three newly acquired single malt Scotch distilleries.
A little about our trip:
As I mentioned above, this was certainly a trip with a difference. Understandably proud of, and rather excited by, the acquisition of their new distilleries, Brown-Forman via Spey Progressive Communications invited us along to get to know Glenglassaugh (and BenRiach – though that’ll be another post) intimately on the 20th September 2017! A quick rail journey to Aberdeen and transfer by Speyside executive hire had us stood by Portsoy harbour and donning waterproofs during the briefest of introductions and a quickfire quiz on the history of Portsoy harbour (location for much of the latest Whisky Galore filming) by Rachel herself in quick time.
We were then sped by RIB courtesy of North 58° Sea Adventures to investigate the local seascape, wildlife and geology of the region, including a close up look at Bowfiddle rock where Rachel explained the links between Portsoy marble and the Palace of Versailles during her explanation of how the regions geology impacts both on the water and local barley available to them at Glenglassaugh distillery.
Speeding back across Cullen bay we arrived at Sandend bay where Rachel led a tasting of Glenglassaugh’s Evolution bottling whilst we gently bobbed at sea and watched bemused Cormorants and Gulls scoot by.
Arriving in Sandend harbour by boat to visit a distillery is definitely a first for us and other than Oban I can think of few other Scottish mainland distilleries that can be approached in this fashion. Arriving at the visitor centre we were greeted by Distillery Manager Alan McConnochie and treated to a buffet lunch in the quaint visitor centre and shop. While most mused over the traditional gift shop items and glass cabinets of Glenglassagh’s much older stock I dove straight into the written history of the Visitors Book. A beautiful written history of those that have had the dedication to visit Glenglassaugh, the period between 1986 and 2008 is elegantly drafted between the pages, how wonderful it must have been to make that 2008 entry and revive distilling here, the page almost sings with anticipation!
Alan and Rachel took us through the operations, past the Porteus Mill, mashtun, stillhouse (via the balcony) into the washback room to sample the wash and finally into the stillhouse proper to explain the unusual back-to-front configuration of the stills and how the large wash neck and unusual spirit boil ball give Glenglassaugh it’s signature spirit character. Exiting the rear of the stillhouse for a panoramic tasting of firstly new make spirit and then Revival and Torfa expressions, we enjoyed the view over Sandend bay as Rachel continued her #Elemental commentary on how Glenglassaugh and its whisky are shaped and influenced by its location and environment.
Finally (the best bit – as always) we decamped into the warehouse to pop some bungs and sample just a little of the spirit maturing at Glenglassaugh. We started with some whisky produced after the re-opening, before turning our attention to some of the much older stock including:
12/12/2009 distilled and matured in Massandra Winery ex-Madeira wine cask 2014
18/06/1975 distilled, re-racked in Massandra Winery ex-Madeira wine cask 2014
9/11/1973 distilled, bourbon matured then re-racked 2015 in PX sherry
27/05/1967 distilled, ex-Sherry matured re-racked 2015 in ex-Oloroso Sherry
It would be disingenuous of me to compile a full tasting note for each of these whiskies as these are direct-from cask samples provided for education purposes and did not represent their full potential, as works in progress their character when deemed ready for bottling may differ greatly. The 1975 vintage however was deemed well worthy of bottling as sampled!
Finally, after a short walk back to the beach at Sandend, we were treated to a BBQ dinner and paired tasting of 4 new Glenglassaugh wood finished expressions developed and introduced by Rachel herself. These included:
Port Wood Finish
Peated Virgin Oak Wood Finish
Pedro Ximenez Sherry Wood Finish
Peated Port Wood Finish
Taste notes and price details of Glenglassaugh’s new Wood Finish collection available soon.