Monday 16 June 2014

Glengoyne 25yo Australian launch lunch (Tasted #96 - #102)

A few weeks ago I was asked if I'd like to attend the Australian launch of Glengoyne's latest 25yo expression, at a lunch to be held at Glenguin Estate winery in NSW's Hunter Valley. The 25yo was to be joined in a tasting by the full Glengoyne lineup, presented by Jonathan Scott (Glengoyne's Brand Ambassador) who had made the trip out from Scotland.

Not really a question you say "no" to, is it?

So on a sunny Thursday last week, a small group of whisky fans, media and PR folk boarded a coach bound for Glenguin Estate.

A few hours later we arrived at the picturesque winery, where we pottered around, cameras in hand, capturing photos of the estate and scenery (and one winery dog) while enjoying a few delicious canapés.

I have to admit when I first read the invite, I assumed the Glengoyne / Glenguin connection was by name only, and that DEC PR had found the venue, which just happened to offer a great backdrop, space and food.

Not so.

Turns out the Glenguin / Glengoyne connection goes back to the late 1800s, and in fact "Glengoyne" distillery was known as "Glenguin" until 1908. The full story can be found on the Glengoyne website here, but in short sees a family connection between the two entities that still exists today, and was celebrated in 2010 with the release of a 16yo Glengoyne finished in Glenguin Shiraz casks (20 of which were shipped from Australia to Dumgoyne, where Glengoyne is located just North of Glasgow). Sadly the above bottle sleeve is all that remains of the whisky (at Glenguin, at least) though we're told it was a trademark Glengoyne with berry hints and a very dry, tannic finish as you'd expect from a red wine finished whisky.

After introductions to the friendly chaps from Glenguin, and of course Jonathan from Glengoyne, it was time to taste the Glengoyne lineup:
  • Glengoyne 10yo
  • Glengoyne 12yo
  • Glengoyne 15yo
  • Glengoyne 18yo
  • Glengoyne 21yo
  • Glengoyne Cask Strength
  • Glengoyne 25yo

(Just your average Thursday lunch, right?)

After taking our seats (and yes, a few comments were made about the tasting tumblers - though Jonathan from The Whisky Ledger took it upon himself to find us proper tasting glasses for the 25yo) Jonathan (the Scottish one) talked us through the history of Glengoyne ("Valley of the Wild Geese"), touching on the interesting location (technically Highlands, but literally across the road from the Lowlands), ownership history, their "Macallan philosophy" when it comes to wood management, and the six brand philosophies (Tradition, Unpeated, Patience, Oak Casks, Maturation and Natural Colour).

Then it was time to taste...

Glengoyne 10yo (40% ABV, 10yo, Highlands, Scotland, $69.99AUD)
Colour: Light golden.
Nose: Fresh linen, stewed pears.
Palate: Light initially, then growing in flavour. Apples, pears, some toffee.
Finish: Medium, sweet. Pears and some raw sugar.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100.

Glengoyne 12yo (43% ABV, 12yo, Highlands, Scotland, $79.99AUD)
Colour: Honied gold.
Nose: Apples, but no pears this time. Coconut. More sherry influence than the 10yo.
Palate: Bigger mouthfeel, more spice, cinnamon, still apples. The extra ABV is welcome.
Finish: Medium length, sharp, spicy / peppery notes.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Glengoyne 15yo (43% ABV, 15yo, Highlands, Scotland, $108.99AUD)
A slight departure from the usual sherried Glengoyne style, with American Oak (we presume ex-Bourbon) aged whisky making up "25-50%" of this.
Colour: Golden amber
Nose: The sherry influence is definitely there, but it's a sweeter, lighter dram.
Palate: Toffee, vanilla, some hints of spice. Light, almost too light.
Finish: Medium to long, with sweet candied orange notes.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Glengoyne 18yo (43% ABV, 18yo, Highlands, Scotland, $148.99AUD)
Colour: Amber
Nose: Ah, now we're talking. Christmas cake, stewed pears and peaches.
Palate: Rich, nutty, with less spice than the previous drams.
Finish: Medium to long, glacé cherries.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Glengoyne 21yo (43% ABV, 21yo, Highlands, Scotland, $219.99AUD)
Colour: Deep, dark amber, almost copper.
Nose: Dried fruits, Demerara sugar, cinnamon.
Palate: Rich, full, almost too smooth. Liquid toffee.
Finish: Tannins, berries, coconut. Reminiscent of an older Macallan (an 18, or even the new Sienna), but more subtle on the oak and sherry influence.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Fantastic dram, but needs slightly more on the ABV side of things.

Glengoyne Cask Strength (58.7% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, $98.99AUD)
My favourite from the last time I'd tried Glengoyne.
Colour: Golden amber.
Nose: Youthful, but with hints of oak. Also toffee, berries and custard.
Palate: Creamy custard, with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Finish: Long, peppery and spicy.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Just inches out the 21yo as my favourite so far.

Then it was onto what we'd all come to taste - the 25yo. Given I enjoyed the 21yo, but thought it needed a bit more age, the 25yo at 48% ABV sounded like a winner. Plus, who can argue with 25yo full maturation in first-fill sherry casks, from a distillery who place serious emphasis on their wood selection?

Glengoyne 25yo (48% ABV, 25yo, Highlands, Scotland, $599AUD)
Colour: Deep, deep rich copper. I'd heard that "light struggles to penetrate it" and I'd heard right.
Nose: Hints of spice and Demerara sugar, with a big toffee hit.
Palate: Beautiful. Liquid dessert. All the elements of the nose, with a thick, syrupy mouthfeel and incredibly smooth. ABV feels spot on.
Finish: Long, sweet, toffee and Christmas cake. Residual Demerara again, with Christmas cake and just a hint of cinnamon at the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Truly a magnificent dram, one to savour on its own, after (or even as) dessert.

Any other tasting, and you may well leave at this point feeling suitably content. But no...after all those whiskies, it was time for a beautiful lunch, consisting of:
  • Main: Duo of Lamb - Dukkah Crusted Lamb Loin, Lamb Shank Croquette, Smoked Eggplant, Beans, Thyme Jus
  • Dessert: Dark Chocolate Delice, Coconut Ice Cream, Cherry Confit 

As a change from whisky (don't worry, we came back to it) we were served a few of the Glenguin Estate wine lineup. Particularly impressive for me was the 2009 "Ironbark" Tannat ($30 AUD), billed as the world's most tannic / dry grape variety. Dry it certainly was, but it also had a fantastic taste. The Aged (2006) Semillon ($30AUD) was also a great wine, though I do love a good Hunter Semillon.

You might think that was enough food and drink for one lunch...but you'd be mistaken. Next up - chocolate pairing! The full list of pairings is included below, but while they were all good, it was those in bold which really impressed me:
  • Glengoyne 10YO – Milk chocolate with tablet (34% cocoa content) and cranberry dark chocolate (54% cocoa content)
  • Glengoyne 12YO – Ginger dark chocolate
  • Glengoyne 15YO – Apricot and Cranberry White chocolate
  • Glengoyne 18YO – Banana and Pecan Milk chocolate 
  • Glengoyne 21YO – Pistachio Dark chocolate and Ginger Dark chocolate 
  • Glengoyne 25YO – Orange and Cardamom Dark chocolate 
(Guess I mixed up the 10yo and 15yo pairing...either way, the 10yo went brilliantly with the white chocolate.)
After chatting to Jonathan a bit more, a few more photos and another dram or two of the 25yo, it was time to bundle ourselves into the coach for the long (and snoozy) trip back to Sydney.

A 10/10 day. A huge thanks are in order to Glengoyne and DEC PR for putting on such a fantastic day, and to Jonathan Scott for making the trip out from Scotland.

 - Martin.

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