Tag Archives: Glengoyne

The Glengoyne 12 vs. the Springbank 10

Aaaand in this corner….

OK, so this really is not some kind of “scotch vs. scotch” duel to a single malty death, I merely decided to share observations from a side-by-side tasting I did with expressions from two of the three distilleries I visited last summer. In practice the two distilleries are quite different: Glengoyne prides itself on the “slowest” distillation process, and Springbank has an odd two-and-a-half times distillation method. Glengoyne fervently proclaims that their malt is never peated, and Springbank produces two lines (“Springbank” and “Longrow”) that are either lightly (the former) or heavily (the latter) peated. And maybe it is also not fair to compare a twelve-year-old to a ten-year-old single malt… the more time they spend in the cask, the more the flavor matures and absorbs a greater amount of the character of the wood. But again: this is less of a side-by-side comparison than it is a celebration of the unique traits of each malt. On to the notes!

Glengoyne 12-year-old

A light yellow-amber color. The nose features a pleasant oak aroma, a good deal of pear and some light vanilla characteristics. There is a noticeable burn in the nose when the malt is first poured, this mellows a bit as the malt stays in the glass. The taste is fairly delicate, with more of the pear effect and some other notes of tropical fruit; the oak stays in the background, and the overall sensation is quite smooth. The finish is long despite a somewhat thin texture, and the lingering aftertaste is very clean.

Springbank 10-year-old

A very similar light yellow-amber color, perhaps just a shade darker. Light peat smoke is immediately present in the nose, giving way to some dark stone fruit suggestions and a touch of toffee sweetness. Very little if any alcohol burn is present when the malt is poured. The immediate sensation in the mouth is of a somewhat viscous liquid in which the toffee character becomes predominant; plum notes and a slight peatiness feature in the second layer of taste. The finish is long, and the peat/smoke character lingers considerably more than any of the other taste elements.

Summary: two excellent drams which I will enjoy for quite some time. Which one will I have? It will depend upon my mood… the peatier (Pete-ier?) I feel, the more I will go in the direction of the Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhona – definitely the smokiest of the malts currently in my possession, with the Springbank 10-year-old being perhaps the least peaty. The Glengoyne 12-year-old is quite delicious, and with its smooth texture and lack of peatiness it makes for an excellent change of pace. Sláinte!


The Take

The collection of products that my trip to Scotland yielded…. Sadly, none of this panoply of flavorful malt beverages will accompany me back to the US as I traveled with only a carry-on – but they will be shared in good company before my return trip! I am still curious about the Icelandic birch “whisk(e)y,” bottles of which I may be able to stash in the carry-on… provided that it is good enough to purchase. The folks at the Glengoyne shop pooh-poohed the very idea of a distilled spirit from Iceland, so the gauntlet has been thrown down.

the take

back row: Drygate Ax Man (rye IPA), Drygate-Yeastie Boys Yeastenders (pale ale with kiwi)

front row: Glengyle (mixture of 10- and 11-year old), Glengoyne 18-year-old, Springbank 12-year-old (I think…)

Slàinte mhath!

The Glengoyne Afternoon

The Glengoyne distillery outside of Glasgow makes several unique claims: 1) it is the most scenically located distillery; 2) it has the slowest distillation process; 3) it is the southernmost “Highland” distillery; and 4) it is historically responsible for the Scotch Whisky Association “rule” that a spirit cannot be called a “whisky” until it has matured in a wooden cask for three years and one day. The final claim can be attributed to a taxman who worked at the distillery in the middle of the 19th century, and the third claim is verified by the fact that the road that one must cross from the car park to the distillery is the dividing line between the Highland and Lowland whisky regions (interesting aside: most of Glengoyne’s warehouses are on the other side of the road, making it the only whisky distilled in the Highlands and matured in the Lowlands). The second claim rests on the process by which the temperature of the spirit still is raised very slowly, allowing the alcohol vapors to have a longer amount of contact with the copper sides; this is thought to impart a greater variety of fruit notes upon the finished whisky. Perhaps all distilleries could be polled for the length of time the low wines spend in their respective spirit stills in order to verify this claim, but certainly the first claim is entirely subjective. Not having visited every distillery (and still remembering the scenic farmland location of Kilchoman on Islay), the rolling countryside, forest, and mountains surrounding Glengoyne (and it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere) do make for a scenic location –perhaps one of the most scenic, but as they say: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lacking the ability to take aerial photographs, this is the best I could do to capture Glengoyne’s setting.


Before going on the tour (during which photographs inside the distillery were unfortunately not permitted) I took a walk around the back of the visitor centre to have lunch by a pond and within sight of a little waterfall. This was the original water source for the whisky, and it is still used to condense the alcohol vapors back into liquid form as they exit the stills. (The water source for the waterfall is the same as for the reservoir from which treated water is pumped to the distillery.) Spied on the ground was an odd little stone tablet inscribed with the date of the distillery’s “legal” beginnings.


visitor’s reception building

reception & pond

pond behind the reception building



memorial slab

memorial slab

The distillery is a fairly large complex, with several buildings that may have at one time served as housing for the whisky-making crew. One warehouse is on the Highland side of the dividing line, while the majority of the maturing does take place on the Lowland side.

distillery house

distillery house

garage & sign



main warehouse



The only inside photographs I was able to take were of the stills (from just barely outside the building): there are three of them, with the leftmost being the wash still and the other two both being spirit stills that run in parallel to distill the low wines… and apparently very slowly.



One of the more interesting features of the tour was a brief stop in the Highland warehouse where bottles of whisky were on display, showing the change in color as the whisky matures in various types of oak casks (each bottle represents one year of aging, from left to right and top to bottom). Also noteworthy is the decreasing amount of liquid in each bottle as the years progress, indicative of the percentage of liquid that escapes the cask during each year of the maturing process (the “angel share”).

warehouse diagram

Most distilleries (and breweries) make claims that the spent grain after the mashing process has been completed is picked up by farmers to use as feed for their livestock; while I know this to be true firsthand from the brewery where I have been working (let me tell you – shoveling the spent grain out of the mash tun and cleaning the false bottom through which the wort progresses into the next stage of the process is not the most fun job!), this may have been the first time that I saw the “draff” being collected at a distillery.

draff pickup

And yes, the Glengoyne whisky is very good. Normally the usual 40% abv (with some cask strength expressions around 58.2% abv and higher), it is totally unpeated, has a clean, crisp flavor with a variety of stone fruit characteristics and some vanilla-caramel notes, and a long finish with just a bit of bite at the end. I had the pleasure of having a dram of the 12-year-old at the beginning of the tour and a dram of the 18-year-old at the end; well worth investigating if/where it can be found in the US.

The Return (not exactly…)

In just over two weeks another trip to Scotland gets under way… distillery tours will again be the primary focus, but this time I am unfortunately not making it all the way to Islay. During the trip two years ago I ran into some (fellow) German whisky tourists who raved about their visit to the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown; they were touring Islay (and the adjoining mainland) by van, so they were able cover a slightly wider geographic range – and also got around a little more quickly than yours truly on a bike. (They had time to take the ferry from Port Askaig across to Jura and visited the lone distillery on that island… Germans tend to be quite organized and efficient.) Even my dad is aware of the Springbank distillery: some time ago he sent me a link to an online article discussing their unique two-and-a-half-times (?!?) distillation process. Well, curious as I am, I have wanted to visit Springbank for some time and will finally do so in mid-June. A second distillery in Campbeltown – Mitchell’s Glengyle – has also recently begun producing whiskies, making the long trip (four hours by bus from Glasgow, after a four-hour train ride from London) “worth the journey.” Passing by the ferry terminal at Kennacraig will bring back fond memories… as long as I am not asleep when that stop is made.


Glasgow-Campbeltown Continue reading The Return (not exactly…)