Origin: Speyside/Highlands, Scotland
Price: $110 (World of Whisky)
Glenglassaugh [pronounced glen-gla-soch] is a distillery located in the north east of Scotland just beyond the boundary of the Speyside region, and it sits nestled between the coast of the North Sea and the Burn of Fordyce. The distillery was built in 1875 and it subsequently was in operation for almost 100 years, closing its doors in 1986 after an economic downturn in the whisky industry during the 1980’s (which also saw the closure of some other famous names, such as Port Ellen, St Magdalene and Brora to name a few). Glenglassaugh remained silent for just over two decades but in 2008 it was purchased by an independent group of investors and then in 2013 by the BenRiach distillery. The once silent distillery is now revived, and with this revival comes a few interesting expressions which adopt a refreshing twist to whiskies that tend to come out of Scotland. Three of those expressions include the Revival, Torfa and Evolution. In this review Malt Mileage takes a look at the Glenglassaugh Evolution.
The Glenglassaugh Evolution has been aged in George Dickel Tennessee whiskey barrels and is bottled at 50% alcohol volume. This ageing in Tennessee whiskey barrels, while not completely unheard of, is less common than the practice of ageing whisky in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The main difference between Tennessee whiskey (such as George Dickel and Jack Daniel’s) and Kentuckey bourbon (such as Jim beam, Wild Turkey etc) is that the new make spirit for Tennessee whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal before it is placed in barrels to age, whereas Kentucky bourbon is distilled and put straight into the barrel without this filtering. The charcoal filtering, known as the “Lincoln County Process”, tends to give Tennessee whisky a more mellow flavour than bourbon. Glenglassaugh is therefore using George Dickel barrels deliberately, to give its whisky a distinct flavour profile that sets it apart from the rest. The trick, however, is to ensure that such ageing gives Glenglassaugh a flavour profile that is distinctly Glenglassaugh rather than George Dickel. Striking balance between the whisky and the oak is often one of the hardest things for distilleries to do, so I was absolutely delighted when the distillery character of Glenglassaugh beamed in my glass and was only accentuated and smoothed by the George Dickel barrels rather than dominated by it. Glenglassaugh Evolution is definitely a high quality whisky that projects its young malt demeanor with a great deal of attitude.
The bouquet offers a unique integration of licorice, orange rind, green apple, honeycomb and soft vanillas but with the slight pinch of alcohol on the nostrils. The palate has an initial youthful burst of barley and all the good bits of new make with a creamy mouth feel that interacts with caramel, chocolate and a progressively intensifying oak as the George Dickel character begins to shine at mid-palate. The finish is medium, with lingering raisin notes and that delicious oily barley laden aftertaste I have come to love in high quality young whiskies. Tasted neat the whisky is very good, but a dash of spring water takes this fine dram to a whole new level. The pinch of alcohol is now gone on the nose, which presents with a fusion of barley, malt, burnt peanut butter brittle with earthy undertones, mashed banana, dried oats with brown sugar, candied lemon, ginger ale, licorice root and hints of sarsaparilla, chocolate and more pronounced vanillas and caramels. On the palate the bite and rigor remains, but that initial youthful burst is delayed until mid-palate when all the magic happens – cocoa dusted orange peel, rum and raisin, honeycomb, lemon flavoured cough drops and the hum of barley. The finish offers more pronounced notes from the George Dickel barrel, including mild spices, that cut through the barley rich distillery character and then gradually fade.
Overall, Glenglassaugh Evolution offers a surge of youthful malt character that is smoothed by subtle sugary notes and the oak. A dash of water takes it to a whole new level, softening the pinch of alcohol and bringing out the oak notes from the George Dickel barrel – the result is a smooth, rich, young whisky with great interplay between the distillery character and the oak to project though the Glenglassaugh style the flavours of Tennessee whisky, just tweaked and made to wear a kilt.
Glenglassaugh Evolution is available at World of Whisky.