I can’t get enough of heavily sherried single malt scotches, colloquially known as “sherry bombs”. I was in favor of Glengoyne’s 12 year-old bottling, although it didn’t quite qualify in the “bomb” category, so I was interested to see how the producer’s NAS Cask Strength release compares to similar heavy-hitters like Aberlour a’bunadh and Glenfarclas 105. As usual with big corporate spirits websites, Glengoyne’s is gorgeous but provides exactly no useful information about the making of this dram. That ever-flowing font of questionably-sourced information, The Internet, reveals that this release replaces an earlier 12 year-old cask strength edition, which is a sad but oft-repeated refrain in today’s insane whisky market. One can thus deduce that the average age of this bottling hovers somewhere between 9 and 12. Some equally unsubstantiated information suggests that this batch was aged exclusively in first- and second-fill sherry casks.
Glengoyne’s whisky is distilled from Golden Promise barley, a low-yield heritage strain of barley used rarely in today’s big-volume whisky industry (The Macallan is also known for using the strain). Glengoyne is also notable for the speed of its distillation (purportedly the “slowest” in Scotland), its total lack of peat even in the process water, and its location very near or perhaps on top of the invisible line dividing the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland. The Cask Strength batches are bottled without added coloring and without chill-filtration. I tasted a sample from Batch #4.
For an interesting meta-analysis of batch variability, see selfbuilt’s Whisky Analysis of this Glengoyne.
Nose: Sherry bomb. Unlike Glenfarclas 105, this sherry is more resinous and jammy, with blackberry, blackcurrant, and fig notes, reminiscent of the house style of GlenDronach. There is also a deep caramel note.
Palate: Thin body. The sherry translates directly to the tongue, with the same berry notes. After an intense fiery tongue burn, notes of dark chocolate, fig, and browned pie crust dominate.
Finish: Medium-long. Here the fruit notes are more dried, specifically dried cherries. The chocolate remains, which is a nice combination, and both remain long enough to convey a chocolate-covered cherry coincidence. A little bitterness invades as the rest fades.
With Water: A few drops of water add a tinge of vanilla to the nose, and seem to improve the body. The dark chocolate notes become a little closer to milk chocolate, for what that’s worth. I recommend a little water with this, especially at a whopping 58.8% ABV.
Overall: A pleasant but fiery dram worthy of both the names Glengoyne and Cask Strength. Like Aberlour a’bunadh, this delivers both sherry and alcohol in a one-two punch. Between the two, I prefer the Aberlour’s fresher fruits. Still, when a’bunadh reaches the $100-ish mark later this year, you might still be able to find Glengoyne’s cask strength batches in the $60 to $80 range, which would make it the new king of value when it comes to cask-strength sherry bombs. This is especially true when compared to the other “value” choice in cask-strength sherry bombs, Glenfarclas 105, which I think shrivels in comparison to this. With those chocolate notes, I could see this alternating with a’bunadh for the cask-strength sherried spot in anyone’s cabinet.