Glengoyne distillery is completely unique from all other Scottish distilleries in one way: you have the opportunity to create and bottle your own whisky.
This is the only place in Scotland you can do this. My boyfriend and I have been whisk(e)y* collectors ever since our last trip to Scotland, so when I heard about this experience, I knew that I just had to surprise him with it. Shortly after, we began planning our second trip to the Highlands.
There are a few types of tours to consider when booking tickets to Glengoyne. First of all, there’s the basic distillery tour, where you get to see “Scotland’s most beautiful distillery.” Because Glengoyne is only a half hour from Glasgow, it’s the perfect place to get a sense of the Scotch whisky culture. Even if you’re not a whisky connoisseur, I’d recommend a visit.
Next there’s the tour with the addition of various tastings and pairings. Why not enjoy your first taste of whisky with decadent chocolate?
Finally, there are the Malt Master Tour and the Masterclass. Although we would have been so down to do the full five-hour Masterclass, we were a bit short on time and Glengoyne had limited availability, so we opted to squeeze in the two-hour Malt Master Tour.
The Glengoyne Tour
Upon arriving at Glengoyne, one really gets a sense of the simple and peaceful beauty that inspires the distillery to this day. Surrounded by hills and greenery, one would never think that Glasgow is so close by. You can even visit the original stream they used to make the whisky, located in behind the distillery.
After entering the main building, we were sat down for a bit of a history lesson on Glengoyne and given a “wee dram” (a shot of the Glengoyne 12 year). A few sips later and we headed off on our tour through the grounds.
The tour itself was much like any whisky tour we had been on. Honestly, it’s a great tour to start with if you’ve never visited a distillery before. The guide was polite, humorous, and informative.
At the end of the tour, they have a beautiful display of ageing whisky bottles. Another thing that’s unique to Glengoyne. The wall is such a great example of the Angel’s Share*, as well as the colour absorption from various types of casks.
The Malt Master Tour
After the tour, we headed into our class. The room looked like a chemistry lab. We were about to brew our own potent potions: a Glengoyne single-malt*.
This rare opportunity to marry the casks* and create our very own single-malt was exciting. Tasting five different Glengoyne casks, we each concocted something that perfectly complimented our taste. It was quite the process of sampling and resampling, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I would not recommend driving anywhere or operating heavy machinery after this task.
After about an hour, your whisky is ready to be bottled and taken home, wherever that may be.
Glengoyne’s whiskies are great for those who prefer something a little softer and sweeter. The slow stilling process and the absence of peat* in the drying process makes for a light and non-smokey whisky. Many of their single-malts even have chocolate notes, making a great dessert pairing. Glengoyne is a great whisky for those just beginning in their whisk(e)y love affair, and also for those with a really refined taste.
For any whisk(e)y lovers, Glengoyne’s master classes are a once in a lifetime opportunity: something you won’t find anywhere else. Even for those new to Scotch, visiting this beautiful Highland distillery is not to be missed.
It’s so easy to get there from Scotland’s main airport in Glasgow, and the tour is a great introduction into one of Scotland’s main exports. A visit to a whisky distillery is an excellent look into the past, as well as the current culture of this country.
* Learn more about Whiskey:
Whisky, spelled with no e, is Scotch. It’s trademarked. Whiskey, with an e, is any spirit distilled from malted grain.
The Angel’s Share is a term that describes the process of evaporation as a whiskey ages. Once in the casks, about 2% of the whiskey “magically” disappears each year. This loss is known as the Angel’s Share.
A single-malt is a whiskey that is distilled at one distillery, whereas a blended malt is a bottle that contains single-malts of many distilleries. An example of this would be Johnnie Walker or Ballantine’s.
When we were creating our own whisky, we were NOT blending them. Because we were taking whisky from separate casks that all had been distilled and aged at Glengoyne, we were simply marrying them. Marrying the casks is something all Master distillers do to create a perfect bottle of single-malt.
While most Scotch whisky uses peat (ancient moss and soil cut from the ground and used as a fossil fuel when dried) to add a smokey flavour, Glengoyne very purposely does not. Typically, peat flavours are added when the barley grain is slow-roasted and dried out, before it becomes a liquid solution with water. Glengoyne dries it’s barley without peat.
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Not sure if our smiles are from all the whisky or from getting to be Malt Master’s for a day.