Glenglassaugh Torfa

Glenglassaugh torfaScore: 88/100

ABV: 50%

Origin: Highlands, Scotland

Price: $135 (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 Torfa.

Glenglassaugh Torfa is the third release by the Glenglassaugh distillery and it is described as “a richly peated Highland malt” which is bottled at 50%. It is aged in ex-bourbon barrels and peated to 20ppm. “PPM” is an abbreviation for “parts per million” and it is the scientific measurement for showing “phenols” in whisky absorbed by barley when peat is burned to dry that barley and get it ready for mashing (where barley is placed in hot water to get sugars out of it), fermenting (where that “sugary” water is combined with yeast, which converts sugars to alcohol) and then distilling (where that now alcoholic water, similar to a strong beer, is heated to above 78.4 but below 100 degrees Celsius so that the alcohol (ethanol) can be collected when it boils at 78.4 degrees). By way of comparison this whisky is not as heavily peated as some of the Islay heavyweights such as Ardbeg (54ppm) or Laphroaig (40ppm), but it still has a fair bit of peaty goodness at 20ppm to get the taste buds salivating for a mouth full of dirt and foliage from Scotland (only we peat lovers will ever understand).

On the nose the peat does not dominate and instead sits beneath green apple, candied lemon peel, cough drops, soft vanillas, raisin and honey with scorched peanut skins and the smell of black dirt.  On the palate the peat becomes more noticeable, interlaced with citrus candy, apple and ginger beer. The peat then becomes more pronounced at mid-palate, and the spicy ginger intensifies with chocolate coated raisins, vanillas and oak notes. The finish offers lingering oak, especially cocoa with some hints of coffee, and a fading mainland peat.

Overall the Glenglassaugh Torfa is a richly flavoured malt that offers a hefty helping of peat on the palate and the finish, but obviously not as much as the peaty malts from the big Islay distilleries. It is young, with pronounced apple indicating its youth, but the bourbon wood in which it is aged certainly gives it some depth that interacts nicely with the firm, but not overly dominate, peat.

Glenglassaugh Torfa is available from World of Whisky.

Glenglassaugh Revival

Glenglassaugh RevivalScore: 87/100

ABV: 46%

Origin: Highlands, Scotland

Price: $99 (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 Revival.

Glenglassaugh Revival is the first malt from the re-furbished Glenglassaugh distillery. It is aged in first and refill casks, finished in 1st fill Olorosso sherry butts for 6 months and then bottled at 46% alcohol volume. These sherry butts appear to give this whisky an interesting sulphur rich character that projects an associated spent firecracker or cap gun smell, and this character prompts a short explanation why – contrary to what whisky legend Jim Murray might say – sulphur ain’t that bad! Some sherry casks are “disinfected” by burning sulphur candles inside them and this practice, surprise surprise, infuses the wood with the aroma of sulphur dioxide (that firecracker, cap gun smell). In his mediocre rating of Glenglassaugh Revival Jim Murray takes issue with the use of present day sherry butts  saying they should be avoided “at all costs” because he says the chances of running into sulphur is high. In my opinion, whether or not sulphur is palatable is a matter of taste. Jim Murray does not like it, but there are numerous whiskies I have tasted which are accentuated by the sulphur influence from oak casks and it is this influence that gives them an interesting twist. Copper stills are used to help remove sulfides from new make spirit, but the right amount of sulphur can help give a whisky its unique character. Some people may be sensitive to sulphur, but for the rest of us it may be hated, loved or tolerated – it is just a matter of taste. To say that a whisky is bad because it contains the smell or taste of sulphur in my respectful view misses the point of whisky as a subjective experience. My Dad abhors the smell of peat, so he thinks all peated whiskies are “bad”. Is he right? Of course not! Most whisky lovers, myself included, live for a mouthful of peat and burning hospitals. That’s whisky.

Glenglassaugh Revival offers some chocolate, raisin, Spanish style rum notes with the faint hue of drying nutty Olorosso and honeyed nuts alongside sweet caramels and diluted ginger ale. I am not sure the interplay between the distillate and the bourbon/sherry cask influence works as well as in the Glenglassaugh Evolution, but it is still very good. The sulphur also seems to give it the hum of struck matches throughout, and – whether from the cask or distillate – a more “meaty” finish that is difficult to describe with descriptors alone. Honey glazed leg ham lingers with those struck matches, the drying oloroso and caramels on the finish.

Overall, Glenglassaugh Revival is a young, sweet, sugary, sulphur infused whisky that has a very interesting flavour profile that I think is improved and given an interesting twist by the sulphur treated oloroso sherry butts. It is not a bad first attempt by the new Glenglassaugh distillery, but in my view just falls behind their second attempt, Glenglassaugh Evolution – definitely an evolutionary step up from the Revival. I wonder if Glenglassaugh meant this in the name?

Glenglassaugh Revival is available for $99 at World of Whisky.