Glenglassaugh Rare Cask Release Batch 3 Whisky, Cask #3510: A 50-Year-Old Treasure From 1965
by Ken Gargett
Glenglassaugh is a distillery that is probably either not well known by most of us or one that has not, at least until recently, given that tingle up the spine. Things may be changing.
Now, a confession. One would imagine that doing these pieces, a little research would lay out all the history and facts pertaining to a distillery (or winery or humidor, etc.).
Oh, that it were so. It rarely is, but never before have I come across a place with more variations on the history than this distillery. Open, shut, reopened, mothballed, a new beginning, sold to, purchased by – this place has had it all.
So forgive me if the dates don’t quite line up, but I’ll do my best.
Colonel James Moir, a local businessman, established the distillery at Sandend Bay in 1875. It was built around three mills, one of them described as a “rare Scottish windmill.”
With his two nephews, Moir exhibited a talent for making quality whisky. In 1892, following the passing of Moir and half of the nephews, the enterprise was sold to Robertson and Baxter and then immediately purchased by Highland Distillers.
Reports suggest that it was mothballed between 1907 and 1931 when it was back up and running with a modern (for the time) revamping around 1959/1960. During World War II, it was partly used as a bakery.
One report suggested that the owners were keen to make a Speyside-style malt but “Glenglassaugh stubbornly remained a Highland character.” This was attributed to the hardness of the local water.
Another view is that the whisky produced was extremely complex and worked best as a small component in blends (it happens – every distillery is different). Apparently, attempts were made to change the character of the whisky, but to no avail.
Consequently, it closed again in 1986 and remained firmly shut (apart from an apparent blip of production in 1998), though the warehouse remained in use. In 1998 the distillery was purchased by a Dutch consortium, but (again) remained closed until late 2008.
In 2013, the BenRiach Distillery Company took control (my experiences with BenRiach malts have been very positive). In 2016, Brown-Forman acquired not only the Glenglassaugh Distillery but also The GlenDronach and BenRiach distilleries. Brown-Forman also owns Jack Daniels.
Nothing happens quickly in the whisky industry, but the future is looking bright for Glenglassaugh and it will hopefully take its place among the elite producers. It will be fun to watch.
Post 2008, the distillery started with three aged whiskies: 21 Years, over 30 Years, and over 40 Years. Plus a couple of “spirit products”: The Spirit Drink That Dare Not Speak Its Name and The Spirit Drink That Blushes To Speak Its Name.
I have no idea what those are.
There is a line of whiskies that sound utterly fascinating to me: the Massandra Collection (I can’t provide any notes, not having seen any of these whiskies, but they are at the top of the bucket list).
For these, Glenglassaugh purchased casks from the famous Crimean winery Massandra, which was built back in the 1890s by Prince Lev Golitsyn. It has an absorbing history and story behind it, not least that it is the proverbial stone’s throw from where the Yalta Conference was held. Hard to imagine that Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt didn’t at least sample these local wines. There are supposedly more than a million bottles maturing in the cellars, many of their own making but also many of the great wines of Europe from days gone by.
These whiskies are part of the Rare Cask program. And that is what really will bring Glenglassaugh to the attention of whisky aficionados: the Rare Cask Releases.
These come from a collection of vintage casks re-discovered in recent times. They date back to before the distillery fell quiet, forgotten treasure, and have been bottled in batches without chill filtration, each cask telling its own story.
The first batch had eight different bottlings. The casks were from 1968, 1972, 1973, two from 1975 and 1978, and one from 1986. They were finished in a range of butts, hogsheads, and puncheons: Manzanilla, Oloroso, Moscatel, and Port.
The second batch of casks, eight releases again, were from 1972, two from 1973, 1974, two from 1975, 1976, and 1978, finished in hogsheads, barrels, and puncheons with several from Massandra, which held Madeira, Rum, Aleatico, Pedro Ximenez, and Port.
Now we have Batch 3. These come from 1965, 1967, 1968, two from 1972, 1973, 1975, 1978, and 1986. Puncheons, barrels, and hogsheads that held Madeira, Pedro Ximenez, Bourbon, and Sauternes.
Each cask is individually numbered. Highland malts of varying character and exceptional quality. Expensive certainly, but the chance to try a malt of this age, complexity, and excellence is a rare treat indeed.
Glenglassaugh tasting notes
Winding back to reality, the Evolution is value at AUD$90 and will lead the resurrection of Glenglassaugh. The immediate impression of this slightly pale malt is of florals and lemons, a hint of grapefruit and pineapple, with the merest whiff of vanilla. Cream and caramel. It is finished in former Tennessee whisky barrels.
A malt of finesse rather than force, notwithstanding that it was bottled at a fairly hefty 50 percent. Seriously impressive length. Hard to imagine anyone will be disappointed with this youthful malt.
As enjoyable as the Evolution is, the Rare Cask series is on another level altogether. However, there are two impediments preventing us from enjoying these malts on a regular basis: availability – needless to say, these are extremely limited – and price.
In Australia, Cask #3510, a 50 Year Old 1965 from Batch 3, will set one back around AUD$8,000 (overseas, it seems to be nearing £5,000 per bottle).
As only 285 bottles were ever released, many will consider these to be collectibles only. A shame, as this is a glorious malt. The good news is that the prices vary considerably. The 1986 is less than a tenth of this amount.
To describe this whisky is a real challenge. Every time one returns to it, more is revealed. An amazing malt. There are florals and bright tropical notes. Hints of oatmeal, stone fruits, glacé fruits, a note that is akin to rum raisin ice cream.
The finish, incredibly long, has a lovely soft creamy caramel character. Intense, complex, and full of flavor, while maintaining a line of elegance throughout.
This is, as they say in the classics, a malt to be sipped on bended knee.
For more information, please visit www.glenglassaugh.com.