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The Glengoyne Experiment

As one of the few independent whisky-makers in Scotland, producing some very lovely drams in a wide variety of styles as well as providing some mighty fine distillery tours in the process, I felt their latest release was worth a mention.

The first of four annual single cask releases - from the same cask.

The first of four annual single cask releases - from the same cask.

When I visited in May, it was self-evident that Glengoyne are not afraid to try something new. The distillery shop devotes an entire wall to single cask bottlings; some of these I listed in my write-up for the distillery and may still be available if you make the fourteen mile trip north out of Glasgow. However, it seems Stuart Hendry, Brand Heritage Manager, wishes to push the envelope still further and to that end 100 bottles of The Glengoyne Christmas Cask shall be available at the distillery on the 28th of this month (December, just in case there are some of you who are temporally challenged and have not been able to equate the wintery weather and the incessant Christmas commercials to a fixed point in the year).

This is, say Glengoyne, a world’s first. Instead of draining a whole cask at once for a single cask release, they shall draw off 70 litres at a time for the next four years to demonstrate how a whisky evolves within the cask. Personally, I love this idea. Mr Hendry knew the nature of us whisky enthusiasts when he said, ‘we at the distillery are able to taste caks as they mature, witnessing their highs and lows, their flavour peaks and troughs as they wind their way towards maturity. What if we were able to share that with our anorak-wearing whisky chums?’ I cannot take offence at the anorak label, having waltzed into The Glenlivet for my first ever distillery tour three years ago sporting a nice green one.

However, this is an experiment not just in a whisky’s flavour development, but maturation more generally. As an excellent article by Ian Wisniewski in the latest Whisky Magazine explains, the ‘headspace’ is normally sacrosanct, subject to the mores of maturation atmosphere and the occasional master blender’s valinch. The practise is not normally to remove such a proportion of spirit at any one time. The whisky world, therefore, in addition to Glengoyne aficionados, shall be monitoring the developments of First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butt Cask 790, filled in 2002, closely. Allegedly ‘rich, with hints of rosehip syrup, cocoa beans, oak and spice’ at present, ‘it still clings to the last of its spirited youth, but delivering plenty and promising much more.’

Glengoyne is not unfamiliar with the concept of single cask releases.

Glengoyne is not unfamiliar with the concept of single cask releases.

Available only at the distillery, this inaugural release is priced at £100. I only hope they do little sample bottles, too – that would be truly scientific, and mean that I might stand a chance of trying some!

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