A day in the Hunter with Glengoyne
A little while back I received a cordial invite to spend the day in the Hunter Valley, eating delicious food and tasting the full line-up of Glengoyne whiskies. Let’s just say that it didn’t take too long for me to RSVP.
Arriving in the Hunter Valley
After the two and a bit hour trek north, we arrived at the Glenguin Estate in one of New South Wales’ premier wine-producing regions, the Hunter Valley. The location may seem rather extravagant and somewhat out of the way for a tasting (hey, I wasn’t complaining!), but it was actually chosen for good reason.
You see, Glenguin Estate and Glengoyne distillery have a rather intimate family connection dating back well over one hundred years. The full story is explored here, but it essentially begins with Arthur William Tedder, born in Glenguin, Scotland to a Customs and Excise officer of the Glengoyne distillery.
Fast forward a few generations and we’re introduced to Arthur’s grandson, Lord Robin Tedder. After leaving Scotland in his teens Lord Robin, the third Baron of Glenguin, eventually settled in NSW’s Hunter Valley. Here he established the Glenguin Estate in 1988, thus giving us the wonderful reason to be here on a warm winter’s day.
Being winter, the vines were rather bare and the property was perhaps not as lively as it would be at other times of the year. But one thing was still apparent, and that was how peaceful and serene this place was – can you believe that was a winter’s day!?
Even Jonathan Scott – Glengoyne’s Asia Pacific Brand Ambassador – seemed pretty impressed.
In case you still doubted the Glenguin/Glengoyne connection, I spotted this interesting tube on the counter and dearly hoped we’d be tasting it.
The story goes – around 2007, Glenguin sent 20 ex-shiraz casks over to Glengoyne in Dumgoyne, Scotland where they were filled with 16 year old Glengoyne whisky and left to work their magic. After being carefully monitored for a number of months, the ten best casks were selected and in June 2008, 3,800 individually numbered bottles were released.
Naturally I asked whether there happened to be a spare bottle lying around, but as I suspected, they’re all long gone. I wonder how the other ten casks are coming along?..
Jonathan Scott bringing Glengoyne to life
Re-entering the main room, it was time to take a seat with Jonathan and get down to business. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes, Jonathan is Scott by both name and heritage.
Jonathan walked us through the history and heritage of Glengoyne, from Arthur Tedder’s days to the present. Personally, I love the history and stories almost as much as whisky itself, so here are some of the interesting tidbits that really appealed to my whisky nerdism:
- Glengoyne have a staff of nine and produce in the region of 900,000 litres of spirit per year.
- They also claim to have the slowest distillation in Scotland. Exactly how slow are we talking? Jonathan tells us that the spirit is collected at a flow rate of just 4.5 litres per minute.
- Whilst strictly a Highland distillery, you could literally cross the road out the front, walk a short distance and you’d find yourself in the Scottish Lowlands, with distillery neighbours such as Auchentoshan.
- Up until 1908, Glengoyne was actually called the Glenguin distillery
- The full Glengoyne range is natural colour and all Glengoyne whiskies are matured in traditional dunnage warehouses, racked three barrels high.
- Wondering how old their oldest stock is? Around the 40 year old mark.
Apart from getting my nerd on, we were lucky enough to taste through the whole core range. I’ll keep my notes limited to the following expressions as this is where I personally encountered the most notable variation in character.
Glengoyne 10 year old
A make up of both American and European Oak, including around 30% from first fill American Oak casks. Bottled at 40% ABV.
On the nose I got clear toffee apple notes, some light honey and subtle nuttiness. Quite delicate and sweet while being very approachable. These notes translated fairly closely to thin, delicate palate with noticeable pear and apple sweetness, some grassy notes and a fairly short, pleasing finish. I thought this was actually very solid for an entry-level expression.
Glengoyne Cask Strength Batch 1
Again, a composition of both American and European Oak vatted as a small batch release and bottled at a respectable 58.7% ABV.
On the nose, plenty of creamy honeyed vanilla notes, thick and rich with less of the apple and more zest, custard and a hint of spice. Creamy and mouth coating on the palate with richer sweet vanilla and more spice. A noticeably longer finish than the 10 year old (to be expected), but perhaps not quite as long as you’d expect from a dram at this ABV.
Glengoyne 18 year old
A higher percentage of ex-sherry casks in this expression, bottled at 43% ABV.
Much richer on the nose with more of those typical sherry notes, a lot more spice, some citrus peel, red apples and dried fruits. On the palate, some initial citrus notes (orange), more malty and oaky with a slight zestiness and more spice. This especially showed on the finish, which was slightly nutty with a hint of oaky bitterness and the very end.
Glengoyne 21 year old
A visibly different beast here, so no surprise that this is made up of 100% ex-Oloroso sherry cask spirit. Bottled at 43% ABV
Textbook sherried whisky here, with a rich ‘rounded’ nose of berries, dried fruit, toffee and gentle spice. The nose translated nicely to a palate of stewed red fruits and honeyed spice fading to a spicy and chewy finish.
I found all the flavours to be rounder than the younger expressions, pulling this whisky together as a much more balanced dram. In saying that, I feel as though this could benefit from a slightly higher ABV (not much – maybe 3% to 5%)
Hard work makes me hungry..
..which is a good thing, as a rather delicious lunch of was being quietly prepared in the background as Jonathan took us through our tasting.
Lunch consisted of a delicious main of dukkah crusted lamb loin, lamb shank croquette, smoked eggplant and thyme jus.
This was followed but a seriously decadent dark chocolate delice with confit of sour cherry and coconut ice cream.
Both courses were matched with some cracking Glenguin wines, including an amazingly tasty Ironbark Tannat. Not a varietal I’ve ever tried before, this red was super dusty, dry and tannic all while remaining somewhat fresh – which we’re told are hallmarks of this grape from south-western France.
The main event – tasting the Glengoyne 25 year old
The moment we’d all been waiting for! Truth be told though, I was slightly concerned about the prospect of getting the most out of this dram from a short tumbler, but a small amount of ferreting around in one of the cupboards yielded some small copita glasses – perfect for getting a good nose and palate out of the 25 year old.
On the nose, ever richer (than the already rich) 21 year old, with some polished oak notes, wet brown sugar, toffee, more citrus and spice. This translated nicely to a much thicker, richer mouthfeel loaded with tart dried fruits, spice and a lingering oily sweetness. The finish was fairly long and rather oaky, but not in a bitter old wood sense.
No desire to add water to this one and that slightly higher strength of 48% seemed spot on to me. It really allowed you taste more of that complexity from the nose. A really satisfying and special dram.
The presentation of the Glengoyne 25 year old is rather special as well. The clear glass bottle differs from the core range with a thick weighted base, silver neck medallion and a weighty oak and metal stopper. This handsome bottle is then packaged up and presented smartly in an oak and card case.
You may have noticed a fair amount of chocolate popping up here and there in the images above. That’s because there was a whole lot of it and it wasn’t there by mistake either!
We rounded out the day with a Glengoyne and Scottish chocolate pairing, including some delicious combinations like:
- Glengoyne 10 year old + 54% dark chocolate with cranberries
- Glengoyne 18 year old + Banana and pecan milk chocolate
- Glengoyne 25 year old + Orange and cardamom dark chocolate
Fancy your own Glengoyne tasting?
The full Glengoyne range is currently available nationwide through Dan Murphy’s and select specialty retailers. The Glengoyne 25 year old will retail for AU$599 when it’s released in September as an online exclusive through Dan Murphy’s.