Glenglassaugh is a 'coastal' distillery, founded in 1875 and located on the north
coast of Speyside near Banff and macDuff. The rivers Spey and Deveron flow into
the North Sea nearby. One of the most remarkable characteristics of Glenglassaugh
distillery is probably the fact that it has been silent for more than half of its life.
Construction of the Glenglassaugh distillery began in 1873 on Craig Mills farm
and was finished in 1875. It was built by the Glenglassaugh Distillery Company,
which was owned by James Moir - a local wine & spirit merchant. He started a
partnership to make whisky with local coppersmith Thomas Wilson and his
nephews Alexander and William Morrison.
Getting the Glenglassaugh distillery up and running for the first time
required an investment of circa 10,000 GBP. That seems like a fairly
modest amount, especially if one compares it to the 5,000,000 GBP
that was required a little over a century later when the Scaent Group
(an energy company from abroad) bought the mothballed distillery
from the Edrington Group in 2008. In fact, refurbishing the distillery
that hadn't been used since 1986 cost another two million pounds.
That’s a tidy sum, but starting fresh would be more expensive.
The new owners of the Glenglassaugh distillery were able to aquire some of the old stocks,
but mostly they had to start again from scratch.
But I'm getting ahead of myself now - let's have another look at history.
When the founders built the distillery their idea was to supply bottled single malt whisky under
the label of "James Moir & Alexander Morrison". However, much of the whisky they produced was
sold on for blending to William Teacher & Sons in Glasgow. After Moir and Wilson had passed away,
Alexander Morrison decided to re-equip the distillery with brand new stills and washbacks between 1887 and 1892.
Opinions are divided on the whisky region where the
Glenglassaugh distillery is located. Some would say it
is in the Highlands while others place it in in ‘Deveron’.
Glenglassaugh draws its process water from two wells,
located about one kilometre from the distillery.
The address of Glenglassaugh is Portsoy, Banffshire, AB45 25Q, Scotland, UK - Telephone +44126182367.
1) When Alexander Morrison decided to re-equip
the distillery with brand new stills and washbacks
between 1887 and 1892, new barley separators
were added as well.
2) The Glenglassaugh malt whisky distillery has
been silent for more than half of its lifetime. So, in
2008 the old Glenglassaugh distillery had worked
for only 58 years since it was founded in 1875.
6) An earlier version of this profile stated that Glenglassaugh fell silent from 1907 to 1931 and operated again until
1936. However, Managing Director Stuart Nickerson informed me that there has been no actual proof of any
operation in the 1930's. So, the actual situation around Glanglassaugh at the time is debated.
3) Glenglassaugh has a cast iron mash tun and
6 washbacks, although 2 of them are not connected.
When the new owners took over Glenglassaugh in
2008, the four wooden washbacks were used again,
but not the two others (made out of stainless steel).
4) Glenglassaugh was built on "Craig's Mills Farm".
The name of this piece of property (also known as "Craigmills farm") probably refers to two water powered mills
and one wind-powered mill on the site. The base of the windmill was still part of the Glenglassaugh distillery
complex when the distillery was refurbished in 2008.
5) In 2009 Glenglassaugh started to experiment with the production of (mildly) peated whisky.
2005 - A 22yo official bottling is released
by the Edrington Group (the then owners).
2009 - Freshly distilled Glenglassaugh
whisky is not available yet, but the new
owners were able to provide fans with
an alternative to whisky - "The Spirit
Drink That Dare Not Speak Its Name".
2010 - The 21yo OB is replaced with a
26yo Scotch whisky. Both came from old
stocks that the new owners purchased
from previous owners Edrington.
Earlier 40yo expressions by previous owners had been single cask bottlings. This new bottling (with a retail price
of around £1,200.00 including VAT) is a vatting of several casks. The initial run consists of +/- 800 bottles, but the
40yo is intended to remain part of the regular range.
2008 - Scaent Group buys the
Glenglassaugh distillery and 21yo, 30yo
and 40yo bottlings are released.
2017 - Glenglassaugh (now owned by Brown-Forman) launches its third batch of Rare Cask whiskies, including a
50-year-old expression. The latest collection of Rare Cask whiskies includes spirits distilled between 1965 and 1986.
2013 - Glenglassaugh is acquired by
the Benriach Distillery Company Ltd.
In December 2013 the new owners
released a new 40yo official bottling.
Glenglassaugh NAS 'Fledgling XB' (50%, OB, Hand bottled at distillery, Bottled +/- 2010, 20cl)
Nose: Whoah! Sour and extremely farmy. Oy, oy, oy... Sorrel. Hint of chalk. Sorry, I REALLY don't like this.
Gentian? Vaguely oily. It's hard to analyse it properly because my nose reacted like it's Ammoniac.
Palate: Sweetish but very sharp. Some aniseed? A bit like a cross breed of pernod and grappa.
Score: 46 points - I simply don't like it. If this spirit is any indication, I won't like the new Glenglassaugh whisky.
Glenglassaugh NAS 'Peated' (50%, OB, Hand bottled at distillery, Bottled +/- 2010, 20cl)
Nose: WHOOPS! That's weird… Raw beans. Hint of rubber? Stale beer. Pfff, this must be new make spirit.
A spot right in-between a tub of lard and a pile of sweaty old socks. Sorry, this is just not my cup of tea.
I wouldn't go for more than +/- 15 points for the nose alone at first, although it evolves in a sour direction.
Palate: A little sweet and a little peaty. It tastes MUCH nicer than it smells. But that doesn't mean I LIKE it yet!
Score: 33 points - and I should add that the taste is the redeeming factor that lifts the score just a tad.
Glenglassaugh 1967/2010 'Managers Legacy' (40.4%, OB, 200 Bts.)
Nose: Wow! An explosion of fruits with some leather in the background. The nose alone is worthy of the 90's.
It evolves into a spicier direction. Whiff of rhubarb? Maggi? Perhaps some furniture polish. A real classic.
Palate: Oy... The taste is nice and fruity, but the mouth feel is quite weak. Strong tannins though...
Score: 88 points - and this whisky might have even reached the 90's with a slightly higher proof.
Glenglassaugh 26yo (46%, OB, Sherry, Pear shaped decanter, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Lovely broad fruity spectrum. Plenty of flowery aspects as well. Sweetness & growing complexity.
Tea? After some breathing more honeyed and "bakery" aroma's emerge. This one needs time to blossom.
Palate: Round, sweet and flowery. On the edge of perfumy, but not disturbingly so. A fair amount of tannins.
Score: 88 points - up one point from my initial score; this one benefits from some breathing.
Glenglassaugh 23yo 1984/2007 (46%, Wilson & Morgan 'Barrel Selection', Butt, C#187)
Nose: Shoe polish. A little musty. Organics. Lovely farmy & fruity profile, but it needs some time to develop.
Palate: Second of weakness, then the woods and fruits power up. Big sweet fruity centre with some toffee.
Hint of smoke. Strong tannins. It needs quite some time to get to 88 points.
Score: 88 points - a strong contender during the Malt Maniacs Awards 2007.
Glenglassaugh 27yo 1978/2006 (56.8%, The Whisky Fair, Artist Edition, 211 Bts.)
Nose: Farmy and fruity - and unusual combination. Salmiak or something salty here as well after a few minutes?
Whiffs of paint now and then. Quite fresh for its age and it keeps changing. Sweetness grows more prominent.
Taste: Quite sweet, solid mouth feel, not too woody. Rubber? Just a smidgen too much wood in the hot, dry finish.
Score: 84 points - but leaning towards 85 or even 86 most of the time.
Glenglassaugh 30yo 1975/2006 (45.6%, DL OMC for Parkers Whisky, REF 2585, D. 09/'75 Btl. 04/'06)
Nose: Light, spicy and very expressive. Passion fruit and a hint of acetone. Growing fruity subtlety.
More citrussy aroma's join the party after a few minutes. Brilliant development of the sweet & sour.
After around half an hour more spicy elements emerge - and even some cheesy and organic elements.
Taste: Loads of passion fruit on the palate as well. Very smooth; almost flowing into perfumy territory.
Gentle, everlasting finish, growing drier in the end. Much more subtle & complex than most 'summer' drams.
Score: 89 points - and that's despite the fact that this comes dangerously close to 'perfumy'.
Glenglassaugh 28yo 1976 (51.9%, Dormant Distillery Company, Cask #2376, 279 bottles)
Nose: Sweetish, grainy and a hint of lemon. Quite big; this profile usually comes with more modest malts.
Hint of toffee. Some spices join the party after a minute, developing into organics. Nice development.
Taste: Gentle start, quickly developing into a sweet, malty centre. A tad bitter in the finish - too much.
Score: 82 points - a great nose, but a tad too bitter and uneven in the finish to climb further into the 80's.
Glenglassaugh 1986/1998 (40%, MacPhail's Collection, 70cl)
Nose: White wine? String beans. Chicory. Dust. Sweeter & sherried with time. Rum filled chocolate. Shoe polish.
Taste: Soft & smooth start. Sweeter and fruitier with time. Menthol? Flat, bitter centre. Woody and winey.
Score: 80 points - recommendable, but really on the edge. Might have done better at a higher proof.
Glenglassaugh 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1992)
Nose: Wow... Shoe polish. Very rich. Hint of leather? Faintest suggestion of fruit in the background.
Taste: Owww... That's too bad. Not quite as interesting as the nose. Short with a bitter finish.
Score: 78 points - I like it just fine (above average), but not quite enough to actively recommend it.
Glenglassaugh 31yo 1967/1998 (55.8%, Silent Stills, D 6/67, B 6/98, Cask #2893, 217 Bottles)
Nose: Grainy & a little sour. Slightly creamy. Rhubarb? Gooseberries? Medicinal with time. Hint of menthol? Maggi?
Taste: Very odd. No real body. Something smoky? Pine? Something 'historical'. Loses quite a few points here.
Score: 83 points - not bad at all, but then again I would expect something special after three decades.
Glenglassaugh 1973 (40%, Family Silver, Bottled +/- 1999, 70cl)
Nose: Distinguished. Sherried, fruity & sweet. Slightly herbal. Spicy. Butter? A whiff of smoke. Lemon drops!
Taste: Ooof... Sherry & smoke. Soft & sweet. The finish lingers on and on and on. Like Glendronach 15yo.
Score: 86 points - given the friendly price, this one offers excellent value for money.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glenglassaugh malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glenglassaugh I've tried over the years, but the notes
should convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glenglassaugh.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
When William Morrison died in 1892, Alexander first sold the Glenglassaugh
distillery to Robertson & Baxter - who then sold it on in the same year to the
Highland Distilleries Co. Ltd. for GBP 15,000. After the new owners took over
the production rose to 110,000 gallons by 1898. However, production decreased
again after the end of 'the whisky boom'.
It's difficult to get precise details about the history of Glenglassaugh - their website
is filled with lots of romantic stories from the early days when the distillery was
founded, but it's very hard to say with any degree of certainty what happened
between 1908 (when Glenglassaugh was closed) and the late 1950s when
reconstruction began. Some sources claim that the distillery was revived shortly
between 1931 and 1936 but according to Stuart Nickerson there isn't actually
any proof for that.
So, the only thing I'm fairly certain about is the fact that Glenglassaugh started
producing malt whisky again in 1960 after the capacity was doubled by installing
a pair of new, larger stills. This would most likely have had a profound effect on
the style of the spirit that was produced at Glenglassaugh, but after half a
century very few people would worry about that.
In the words of Australian malt maniac Craig Daniels: "Glenglassaugh was substantially reconstructed and capacity
doubled (through the unusual yet classically utilitarian device of merely doubling the capacity of the existing stills)
in between 1957 and 1959 and after the work was completed it was regarded as one of the best designed
distilleries in Scotland, although you'd wonder what the traditionalists would've thought as it was lore that you
didn't muck around with the design of your stills, but maybe the size and configuration of your stills is not
considered significant when you're in the bulk malt for blending market. It is pointless to speculate whether the
change in the size of the stills impacted on the profile of the final spirit as you'd need to have a stack of empirical
evidence to hold your ground on any side of the argument."
Between 1960 and 1986 Glenglassaugh produced malt whiskies
for the blending market; their malt whisky was a component in
the Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse blends. However, like almost
two dozen other malt whisky distilleries, Glenglassaugh suffered
from the decline that plagued the Scotch whisky industry in the
early 1980's. Glenglassaugh was mothballed in 1986 as one of
the last distilleries to be affected by the recession. But while some
other distilleries that had been temporarily closed were re-opened
in the 1990's, it seemed like Glenglassaugh was closed for good.
The Glenglassaugh malt whisky was popular with blenders, so
there was no real need to push it as a single malt whisky. As a
result, there have been only four (semi-) official bottlings
of Glenglassaugh until the mid-noughties.
Independent bottlings have been fairly scarce too; in 2009 there were less than 50 bottlings on the MMMonitor.
Since 1986, the owners Edrington Group had no plans for the revival of the distillery.
However, in 2008 Glenglassaugh was purchased by the Scaent Group (an energy company) for the
friendly sum of five million pounds. Ah, and to think you could buy (or build) a distillery for as little as
10,000 pounds a century ago... In fact, that was exactly the sum that was required for the construction
of Glenglassaugh in 1875.
I'm not sure why the Scaent Group felt like adventuring into the whisky world, but they refurbished
Glenglassaugh and began hiring staff in 2008. The brand new managing director Stuart Nickerson
made great progress in getting Glenglassaugh up to steam again. Because the distillery had been
mothballed over 20 years ago, a lot of the original equipment had to be replaced - like the boiler,
the boiler chimney, the pumps and the heat exchangers. The old stills, malt mill, grist case, mash
tun and washbacks could still be used.
Scaent Group managed to obtain modest stocks of mature Glenglassaugh whisky from Edrington.
Thanks to this purchase, the new owners were soon able to offer a 21yo, a 30yo and even a 40yo
official bottling. These bottlings performed quite well - but they were made by another crew using
other raw materials and equipment, so that doesn't say a lot about the style of the malt whisky
that is being produced by the new owners.
Because Scotch whisky has to be matured for at least three years, the newly distilled Glenglassaugh spirit couldn't
be sold as 'whisky' until 2011. Nevertheless, the Scaent Group wanted to make some of their money back as soon
as possible. So, they decided to release their own immature (and sub-standard) product already as early 2009,
naming it "The Spirit Drink That Dare Not Speak Its Name". Despite the poor quality, they attached some
"premium" price tags to it. That didn't bode well for the quality / price ratio of the new generation of Glenglassaugh.
There’s hope for the future though. On March 22 2013, Benriach sent a press release about their acquisition of
the Glenglassaugh distillery. Excellent news as far as I'm concerned. When Billy Walker & friends bought Benriach
in 2004 they managed to quickly re-establish the brand and build on that with their acquisition of Glendronach.