Glengoyne is a Scottish distillery that straddles the traditional border between Highland and Lowland regions. Technically, I believe their stills are located north of the imaginary line, and their maturing facilities are to the south. They don’t use any peat for drying their barley, and are thus probably closer stylistically to the typical lowland producers.
They are also known for their reliance on sherry casks for maturation. That is not to say all their expressions are “sherry bombs”, but you can typically detect a consistent sherry flavour motif running across their lines.
They used to produce a 12 year old cask strength single malt, but this was replaced a few years ago with a no-age-statement version, prepared in defined batches. As with the GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 4/5 recently reviewed, you can expect some variability from batch to batch. For this review, I have a sample from a recently acquired batch 4 bottle – brought back from the distillery by a colleague of mine.
Glengoyne reports that the composition of this whisky is 20% first-fill European oak sherry casks, 10% first-fill American oak sherry casks, and 70% oak refill casks. It is not chill-filtered, no colouring is added, and is bottled at cask strength (58.8% ABV in the case of batch 4).
Here is how it compares to other Glengoynes, and similar cask-strength whiskies in the Meta-Critic Database:
Glengoyne Cask Strength (batch 1): 8.74 ± 0.47 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (batch 2): 8.69 ± 0.40 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (batch 3): 8.49 ± 0.81 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (batch 4): 8.58 ± 0.15 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (all batches): 8.61 ± 0.48 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 10yo: 8.22 ± 0.34 on 12 reviews ($$$)
Glengoyne 12yo Cask Strength: 8.57 ± 0.40 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 12yo: 8.50 ± 0.40 on 10 reviews ($$$)
Glengoyne 15yo: 8.47 ± 0.54 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 17yo: 8.44 ± 0.21 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.99 ± 0.31 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
BenRiach Cask Strength: 8.85 ± 0.11 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Benromach 10yo Cask Strength (100 proof): 9.09 ± 0.12 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 1): 9.06 ± 0.28 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 2): 9.05 ± 0.09 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 3): 9.02 ± 0.36 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 4): 8.91 ± 0.31 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 5): 8.87 ± 0.10 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask: 9.14 ± 0.35 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan Cask Strength: 8.89 ± 0.40 on 12 reviews ($$$$$+)
Redbreast 12yo Cask Strength: 9.02 ± 0.32 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
There is an unusually high variance in scores across most batches of the Glengoyne Cask Strength. The number of reviews are low across batches, but it seems like there are higher differences of opinion than usual. There also seems to be a trend toward lower scores over subsequent batches, but that is hard to tell for certain – the numbers are low, and I have few examples of repeated batch testing by individual reviewers.
Here is what I find in the glass, for batch 4:
Nose: Intense dark brown sugar, almost Demerara level. Maple sugar too – so sweet, I can imagine the crunchy sugar crystals. A bit of cream thrown in. Mixed berry compote, with a pastry note (berry crumble). Figs and raisins, but not very pronounced. Oat cakes. A bit of alcohol singe (which water oddly doesn’t help). A nose for baked fruit lovers!
Palate: More fruit shows up now – apple, pear, and peaches – none of which I detected on the nose. And even more raisins and sultanas, very ripe and juicy. Cinnamon toast. Peppery kick. Rich mouthfeel, somewhat buttery. You can feel the higher ABV, but it doesn’t need much water to tame it – I recommend just a few drops.
Finish: Medium long. The buttery oak flavours linger a good while, along with cinnamon and a stronger white pepper presence. Pancake syrup sweetness initially, but bitterness comes in over time, and builds over sips, which detracts for me personally.
A real dessert dram, with all its sweet fruit, brown sugar, and baked-goods notes. As an aside, I checked the producer’s tasting notes after finishing my own above, and was pleasantly surprised to find such a close concurrence. Didn’t notice any banana initially, but I can kind of see that too.
I initially thought I would rank this one higher than some of the equivalent age-statement Glengoynes, as the Cask Strength benefits from the higher ABV. But I don’t like the lingering bitterness in the finish, which increasingly detracts for me as I sip it. In the end, I think the Meta-Critic average score for batch 4 (and all batches overall) is fair.
But I can see why reviews of this whisky would be so variable – while some might like the punch it packs, it is likely going to be too sweet for others. Nathan the Scotch Noob has just posted a review of batch 4. Although of the previous batch 3, André and Patrick of Quebec Whisky neatly encapsulate the widely differing opinions of this whisky. Otherwise, Serge of Whisky Fun was very enthusiastic for batch 1, and only slightly less so for batch 2. Thomas of Whisky Saga gives a typical score for batch 2. Redditor xile_ gives a low-normal score for batch 4.