It's been a wee while since we took a trip to visit some distilleries, what with the last few months being so busy with whisky festivals and tastings (such is life, we try not to complain). With our colleague Brendan, who runs the bar / spiritual home in Singapore, taking some much-deserved vacation time to visit Scotland it seemed a perfect (if cold) time to tour some of Speyside. As you might expect, this quickly turned into a whistle-stop tour of the entirety of Speyside...
I actually caught up to the team in the Highlands, at the GlenDronach distillery. Incidentally this led me to the idea of travelling up the East coast via Aberdeen so as to avoid the dreaded A9 - this was a mistake and is by no means recommended.
The first of many stillhouses...
GlenDronach's old-school mash tun and still configuration produce a bold, heavy spirit that is well-suited to maturation in ex-sherry casks. The distillery has changed hands a number of times and was in fact mothballed from 1996 to 2002. It was recently acquired by Brown-Forman along with the rest of the Benriach Distillery Company, and the brand has gone from strength to strength.
Fortunately I arrived just in time for a wee whisky tasting, which took us from the core range to some excellent cask strength expressions. As usual I am biased towards the more heavily-peated end of the scale, and while the peated edition matured in port pipes is certainly one to watch out for, I have to say the highlight was a 26-year-old whisky from an ex-sherry butt, still at almost 59%abv but smooth as silk. A surprise for someone who tends to shy away from whisky with a strong sherry cask influence, but a welcome one and an indication of the kind of whisky we'd discover in the coming days.
From there it was a short drive to Glenglassaugh, which has also undergone something of a renewal in recent years and of course resulted in a nip of their core expression, the Revival. The name is very appropriate, as the facility was inactive for the majority of the 20th century after its construction in 1874. Fortunately with some excellent spirit in production it looks like Glenglassaugh is here to stay. The distillery today is an amalgamation of old and new, with the more recent stillhouse situated amongst the old warehouses and still featuring a number of old pieces of equipment along with more modern apparatus such as a pair of stainless steel washbacks.
Considering the number of years for which the distillery has been inactive there are a good number of drams on offer, including the perfectly-peated Torfa and a number of expressions utilising port and sherry oak to produce whiskies that punch above their age bracket. If these are any indication of the whiskies we can look forward to in the coming years, the future of Glenglassaugh is bright.
The weather did its best to dampen our visit but couldn't detract from Glenglassaugh's impressive surroundings. The original distillery buildings used to be tucked away in the hillside by the shore, taking advantage of the small burn that flows out to sea, while the new buildings overlook this site as well as the picturesque beach of Sandend.
Not a bad end to a December afternoon
Despite appearances we do try to get some work done occasionally, so we bid farewell to Glenglassaugh and made for home base with a car-load of cask samples that were in fact from our own cask collection, ready to debate long into the night over which might be ready for 2019. The result of our deliberations will no doubt be the feature of another post in the near future, as will the rest of our Speyside road-trip, which next took us over the firth towards another distillery being brought back to life...