Tuesday 22 August 2023

Halcyon Spirits 30yo Single Cask 1993 Macallan [Tasted #646]

Whilst this blog may feature a lot of "OB" whisky, you only need to see my Instagram stories on any given day to know I'm a fan of Independently Bottled whisky...to the extent that it probably makes up 80% of what I drink these days.

I have my favourites of course, but I also love trying whiskies from new "Indies" on the market - no easy feat, considering the difficulties in obtaining quality casks these days. Heck, the scene has changed so much that even IB stalwart Gordon & MacPhail recently announced their intention to cease independent bottling!

I was recently contacted about a new Scotland-based Independent Bottler, Halcyon Spirits, family-owned and based in Aberdeenshire. Founded by Daniel & Craig Milne (responsible for both Whisky Hammer & Still Spirit, now 49% owned by HK-based Rare Whisky Holdings) the bottler has a warehouse of over 2,000 casks which presumably means we'll be seeing many more bottlings to come.

Kicking things off with a bang, Halcyon released their first bottling in June - none other than a 30yo 1993 vintage single cask Macallan (from a First Fill Sherry cask no less).

Bottled by Halycon at a cask strength 49.8% ABV, the whisky comes in at £2,950 per bottle, with only 238 bottles available here (at the time of writing, there were only 97 remaining). As nice touch, Halcyon Spirits will also fund the planting of ten trees for every bottle sold, meaning this inaugural release will result in 2,380 trees being planted.

Described by David Robertson (former Macallan Master Distiller) as “a superb example of a well matured Spanish oak sherry vintage whisky", I was fortunate enough to receive a sample from the folk at Halcyon so I could share my own thoughts.

As a side note, when I taste samples I'll often taste half, then come back to the other half a little later and see how it's evolved. This time "a little later" became several weeks, and it was interesting to see how the whisky evolved over that time, with the breathing space adding an extra (positive) dimension the second time around, despite the sub-50% ABV.

Halcyon Spirits "Halcyon Release #1" Macallan Aged 30 Years (49.8% ABV, Single Malt, 30yo, 1 of 238 bottles, Scotland, £2,950)
Colour: Deep Ruby-Copper

Nose: Fresh sherry and oak, with a good whack of maltiness. There's "old sherry wood" complexity here, but accompanied by the freshness and vibrancy of a younger dram too. After time, I found hints of coffee grounds, dates, and an unusual (but welcome) herbal note, along with some maple syrup.

Palate: Initially, big fruit - not the spicy, nutty oak that the colour and nose suggested, but more strawberry gum(!) and interestingly, Eucalyptus! I spoke to a few other bloggers who found it a touch soapy, but for me it was more Eucalyptus (my Aussie upbringing perhaps?) 

After another 10-15min, some trademark sherry notes started to emerge - cigar box, toffee, cinnamon, caramel, but still with an underlying Eucalypt / herbal note, and after a few weeks, more of a rounded, caramel malt note. Not exactly what I was expecting, but certainly enjoyable, and isn't uniqueness the whole point of a single cask anyway?

Finish: Long, warming oak with slight tannins only towards the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100 (Martin). A very solid showing for the first bottling from a new bottler (although clearly one with history and experience in the industry). Really looking forward to seeing what they release by way of future bottlings.

A big thanks to Halcyon Spirits & WSW for the sample.


Monday 21 August 2023

Glenglassaugh Coastal Series [Tasted #643 - #645]

Since joining the portfolio of The Benriach Distillery Company, the revival of Glenglassaugh has featured well as part of Benriach Company's reputation to revive old, forgotten distilleries. 

Dr Rachel Barrie, Brown-Forman Single Malts Master Blender noted that very few distilleries are situated by the beach with the sun, with rolling waves. The air and the high mineral water content all shape to influence the unique profile of Glenglassaugh. The minerality is derived from the geology and the landscape from where Glenglassaugh sits, with the distillery located by the beach, on the sea cliffs next to the village of Portsoy, Scotland.

Glenglassaugh has been around since 1875, during the 19th-century blend-led boom. It's been mothballed a few times, first in 1907, again in 1986 before finally being saved in 2007. Even then Glenglassaugh has always produced smaller volumes until 2010 before production started ramping up.

As Dr Rachel Barrie noted, 12 years on, the Glenglassaugh whisky from those years has finally come of age as it's reached the milestone age. She described it as the coastal awakening of Glenglassaugh. With the launch of Glenglassaugh's Coastal Series which will become their core range, the Glenglassaugh 12yo stands out as the flagship in the series.

The Glenglassaugh Coastal Series features three new expressions; a 12yo, Sandend and Portsoy. What's also apparent is the new bottle design which is said to have been inspired by the rippling sand tide at Sandend Bay and the overarching colour of the ocean.

The release of the flagship Glenglassaugh 12yo single malt embodies Glenglassaugh’s signature coastal style. The 12yo matured in bourbon, sherry and red wine casks and is akin to an evolution to Glenglassaugh Revival which also is a result of a mix of wine, bourbon and sherry casks.

Two other new whiskies, Sandend and Portsoy join the flagship 12yo. Sandend, inspired by the crescent beach of Sandend Bay, is matured in bourbon, sherry and manzanilla casks and Portsoy, the peated release, taking its name from the neighbouring harbour village, reflects the bold and deeply maritime flavour of this richly peated single malt, matured in sherry, bourbon and port casks. These three now represent Glenglassaugh's core range expressions.

As Dr Rachel Barrie noted:

“The new portfolio brings together all the key elements of Glenglassaugh’s spirit. Inspired by its truly unique coastal location, the new expressions transport us to a place where the spirit is awakened and soul invigorated, inviting us to stop, take a breath and appreciate our surroundings.”

“To taste Glenglassaugh Single Malt is to experience the coastal influence of Sandend Bay and the ancient harbour towns nearby. Shaped by the coalescence of land and sea, the senses are awakened by the imposing yet calming crash of waves and the sweet smell of gorse in the air.”

Glenglassaugh 12yo (45% ABV, Highland, Scotland, A$109.99)


An evolution to the Glenglassaugh Revival with similar cask composition for the 12yo to the Glenglassaugh Revival. This flagship Glenglassaugh 12yo release carry the dry influence from the wine cask with the added richness from the bourbon and sherry casks. 

Nose: Lots of tropical fruits, passionfruit, sour pineapple and mixed with dark raisins, fig, Christmas cake and some dried fruits.

Palate: The palate is ladened with tannin, grape tannin - likely from the wine casks. The notes that follow are sweet, candied date like followed by some spices that come alive after a while.

Finish: Medium to long

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (Hendy)

Glenglassaugh Sandend (50.5% ABV, Speyside, Scotland, A$131.99)


My pick of the three new releases from Glenglassaugh. This decadent malt from Glenglassaugh is beautiful, creamy, dessert like with burst of tropical fruit flavours. Many of the rich flavours I suspect have been derived from the manzanilla fino sherry casks which on its own is a remarkably rich sherry.

Nose: Almost ice cream like. The nose is beautiful and creamy with loads of vanilla, sweet vanilla slice, butter cookies, vanilla ice cries with a tinge of sea salt and peppermint.

Palate: The palate is equally as soft and beautiful with a tinge of slight spices, black peppercorns but with a persistent sweetness, vanilla ice cream like. The palate is lush, creamy, viscous and palate coating.

Finish: The finish is soft, gentle and slowly fizzles out.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100 (Hendy) 

Glenglassaugh Portsoy (49.1% ABV, Highland, Scotland, A$119.99)


A lightly peated Glenglassaugh release that balances the rich notes derived from the sherry, bourbon and port casks with umami flavours. This is a rather interesting expression that reminds me of everything from seaweed crisps to salted caramel crumbles. The sherry and port wine casks does bring out the dark chocolate and spices with some light bonfire smoke notes coming through. Delicious.

Nose: Rich, maritime notes. Hints of seaweed, sea salted seaweed with salted caramel. The nose is reminiscent of Japanese seaweed sheet mixed with a bit of dark chocolate and cherries.

Palate: The palate is full bodied, has a bit of the salted caramel from the nose, sweet maple syrup with a light bonfire smoke coming through from the peated grain.

Finish: The finish is light and lingers for a while.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (Hendy) 

The new Glenglassaugh Coastal Series is an exciting release from this small Highland distillery. The three new Glenglassaugh expressions will be available nationwide from September 2023 at Dan Murphy and specialist whisky stockists. 

For limited time in September, the team at Brown Forman have partnered with Sydney Oyster Farm Tours to offer a 'Sea-to-Table' whisky and oyster experience. Now, of the three, I would have thought the Portsoy to be the most decadent pairing for any oyster tasting but this package offers pairing with all three releases.

So here's your chance to savour some of Hawkesbury’s finest oysters, during peak oyster season (which runs from September to March) while submerged in the tranquil waters of the Hawkesbury River indulging in both the Glenglassaugh coastal range and Hawkesbury's finest oysters.

Visit Glenglassaugh Whisky Immerse Yourself package to check on availability across September for this particular package.

Thanks to the Brown Forman and We Are Different teams for previewing the new Glenglassaugh Coastal Range with us.