Let’s go a bit east from Glen Moray to Glenglassaugh, the distillery that sits right outside the Speyside in the eastern Highlands. It’s a distillery with a checkered history: built in 1875, closed in 1907; rebuilt in 1960, closed again in 1986; and then re-opened again since 2008. I have not had any of the malt made since the stills fired up again. This 2016 release of the 30 yo was, of course, made before the distillery’s most recent closure. As I noted in my only other review of a Glenglassaugh—an even older indie release distilled in 1972—the character and quality of this malt will have no bearing on what’s being made there now.
Before I get to that quality, a word or two on the bottle. I hate to talk about packaging but it’s hard not to with this one. It’s a heavy bottle with a striking teardrop—or is it pear?—shape. Much of the weight seemingly is in the stopper—a honking great, garish gold monstrosity that plugs an extra large mouth. God help you if the cork on your bottle breaks as you open if for the first time—no other cork you may have saved up for emergencies will fit. This over-the-top design approach, thankfully, didn’t extend to the box, which is made of cardboard not wood; doubtless saving me another £20-30 at the least. Don’t get me wrong: it’s nice to have some character in bottle and label design—but maybe lay off the gold a little bit? Anyway, I assume the current releases have regular corks. Maybe I’ll get some use out of this one as a paperweight when the bottle is done.
Glenglassaugh 30, 2016 Release (42%; from my own bottle)
Nose: A rich, raisiny welcome with saddle leather, salted nuts and caramel mixed up with some dried orange peel. On the second sniff there’s a bit of soy sauce as well. With time some toffee emerges to join the other notes. A few drops of water and there’s some plum sauce in there too now along with polished oak.
Palate: Comes in as promised by the nose but as I swallow there’s a bit of char, some bitter notes of coffee grounds that add a lovely counterpoint. The citrus is a little brighter here: between orange and lemon. The texture is maybe just a touch too thin. Stays pretty consistent with time. As often happens with lower strength older malts, a few drops of water adds more weight to the texture. Water also brings out the toffee and oak that showed up on the nose.
Finish: Medium. That coffee note turns to dark chocolate on the finish. Longer with water with the citrus now hanging out for some time.
Comments: This is a very elegant old whisky. It took a few pours from the bottle for it to open up and reveal all its charms. Reminiscent of some older official Highland Parks of an earlier era in the balance of heavier sherry notes with citrus. A few more ticks of abv would have given it more depth and taken it into the next tier but it’s very, very good as it is.
Rating: 89 points.