Mothballed in 1956 until bought in 2008 and subsequently bought again in 2013, the Glenglassaugh distillery, situated next to the sea and a lovely beach and who's name means 'valley of the green fields' could not have been more of a surprise gem.
I did not recognise the bottle when presented with it last Christmas by my brother-in-law but on my shelf has sat a bottle of Glenglassaugh Revival waiting to be sampled, but I’m glad I did not get around to opening it until after visiting the Glenglassaugh distillery as it now means so much more.
My Instagram post immediately after visiting read ‘possibly the best distillery visit I’ve been to’ and I stand by it still.
Often you get a really good feeling about a place when you are there and in the moment but then a few hours later you dissect the experience properly and maybe the initial reaction does not ring true. This place though was not one of those times.
It all started without much funfair. Duncan, our Scottish Routes tour guide, had driven us to the Glenglassaugh distillery early so we could spend time walking along the beach, putting our hands in the sea, a tradition started by my father-in-law when meeting a new sea on his travels around the world, and climbing up a hill to be able to see the bay in which it sits in all its glory.
We walked into the visitor centre, which felt quite temporary, then wandered down to the maltings which are no longer in use but retained in all their lovely old whisky heritage glory that dates back to around 1922.
They use concerto and moonshine grain strains, have a Porteus mill that dates back to the 1930s (but only installed in 1959 during a refurb) and the whole distillery is operated by cogs and turns with only one switch panel that looks like something out of the Dharma initiative’s base in the TV show Lost.
Three stillmen, working in shifts, operate the stills and lurking around the corner were four wooden and two still washbacks with the wooden ones dating back to… 1875! All of which produce ~1.5million litres of spirit per year.
Sitting within the highlands region of Scotland, we wandered through the warehouses, walking amongst sleeping casks that each has a story to be told. The distillery itself was on its summer hiatus when we visited so no spirit was being produced but you could tell by just observing the resting machinery that this was a well loved distillery.
We smelled casks, saw some superb old whisky casks ‘resting’ through the site, some dating back to 1963 (which is coincidentally the year single malt became commercialised alongside blended Scotch). All in all they have 17,194 casks just in warehouse five.
Then the tasting.
Dram 1 – Revival – 46% – NAS (around 4/5 Yeas Old)
Nose: Sherry, deep, fresh
Palate: Sweet, heavy sherry influence, young, fiery
Finish: Medium length, sweet
Dram 2 – Evolution – 50% – NAS (around 4/5 Years Old) – First fill bourbon
Nose: Caramel, butterscotch (salted caramel once water added)
Palate: Lighter, grassy, sweet
Dram 3 – Torfa – 50% – NAS (around 4/5 Years Old) – 33ppm
Nose: Sweet peat, reminiscent of Highland Park, medicinal
Palate: More smoke than the nose, lingers
Dram 4 – 6 Year Old first fill Olorosso Sherry bottle your own – 58.1%
Nose: Chocolate, lots of sherry, immense
Palate: Ace, sherry obviously, sweet, thick
Dram 5 – Nassandra Connection 39 Year Old – 50.7%
Nose: Treacle, toffee
Palate: Savoury, meat tones, like a steak and ale pie
With that I bottled my own, wandered outside to take more photos and we soon drove off reminiscing over a really nice, genuine distillery experience although when trying to convey the atmosphere I’m struggling. For me this place needs to be visited to experience the history, the scenery, the work ethic and of course the spirit itself. The pictures may help you to understand why we loved it so much. Duncan was right – definitely worth the drive.