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Interview: An Hour with Jonathan Scott

Jonathan with the Smokehead Range

We have been fortunate to get support from Asiaeuro Singapore and Ian Macleod since we started the blog. We are grateful that the company has always looked after us. Last year, Glengoyne distillery and Jonathan had also gone out of their way to host our writer, Mr Hongfu Teo, when he visited the distillery.

This year, we are once again, grateful, to be invited to the Asiaeuro’s office for an exclusive interview with Jonathan when he popped by Singapore for a really short time. As we had mentioned our love for Islay and peaty whiskies the last time we met, we are invited to cover for their iconic Islay Single Malt whiskies – SMOKEHEAD!

Of Growing Up in Speyside and Tomatoes…

Jonathan Scott grew up at the edge of Speyside, and interestingly, his first memories for whisky is Glen Garioch. We spent some time talking about how to pronounce the distillery’s name, and finally, we agreed that it should be called “Glen Gary”! It helps the unschooled Asian tongue to pronounce the name and also makes it acceptable for the Scottish ears.

Jonathan shared that his childhood in Speyside revolved pretty much around tomatoes. The reason was simple – Scotland does not have the ideal climate to grow tasty tomatoes. Most of their tomatoes come from Spain. Therefore, tomatoes were a large part of his childhood. Nonetheless, tomatoes have had nothing to do with his passion for whisky…

Working in the Industry…

Jonathan works in the whisky industry for the past 15 years. His experiences are varied, and that was what makes things so exciting to him. Considering his many years of experience, we asked him the critical question – What are the differences for Glengoyne, Tamdhu and Smokehead when compared to others?

Glengoyne and Tamdhu Distilleries

Tamdhu 12 and 15 Years Old

Sherry. It is always the sherry wood cask that these distilleries use. Both brands have their reputation built around the excellent sherry oak casks that they use for maturation of their whiskies. They use both first-fill and refill sherry oak casks that can cost up to a £1000! Each sherry oak cask comes from Jerez, Spain, and it is not a readily available item due to the shrinking sherry industry and the inflation of prices for the sherry casks.

Besides the exclusive usage of sherry casks, Tamdhu (in Speyside) also sourced its water from underground springs. Unlike many other distilleries around the area, Tamdhu does not use water from the river Spey. This makes Tamdhu unique as I do believe that water plays a part in the production of whisky.

Smokehead

The Smokehead Trio

The range of Smokehead is the most interesting to me. Despite the various expressions available in the global market for about 16 years, Smokehead remains mysterious in its ways. Ian Macleod works with multiple distilleries on Islay to buy their casks for the Smokehead range. Smokehead started with one expression – the classic Smokehead, and then move on to release other expressions, including the 18 years old and the Sherry Bomb. While there may not be a name put to each Smokehead expression, we probably could tell from the palate when we enjoy the whiskies.

The Interesting Portfolio of Ian Macleod

Jonathan shared an often overlooked characteristic of Ian Macleod’s current portfolio. They have a distillery in the three major regions of Scotland. Tamdhu in Speyside region, Glengoyne in the Highlands, Rosebank in the Lowlands and of course, Smokehead (as a brand) on Islay. Perhaps the next step for Ian Macleod after restoring Rosebank is to build a new distillery on Islay!

They also have two gin distilleries – The Edinburgh Gin Distillery based in the city and a larger distillery in Leith.

Rosebank Robbery and its Restoration

Diageo mothballed Rosebank Distillery in 1993, and the robbery took place over the Christmas of 2008/2009. The thieves stole all the original Rosebank copper stills, but they left the whisky alone! If we looked at the context of that period, we would realise that copper was probably more expensive then whisky! In some ways, that was lucky! Otherwise, we would not have any remaining Rosebank whisky now.

The restoration of the distillery is underway now. As all the stills were never recovered, Ian Macleod has to rebuild all the stills in its original form. That is taking up much of their time, but patience will pay off eventually. While Jonathan does not have an exact timeline for us right now, we can be assured that Rosebank distillery will rise from the ashes again soon!

New Releases from Ian Macleod

Smokehead Sherry Bomb

Smokehead Sherry Bomb

Exciting new releases from the three brands are coming to Singapore in June and July. First up, we have the brand new Smokehead expression – the Sherry Bomb. Strong peat, creamy vanilla, and some fruits came through on the nose. Oily, black smoke, peat and burnt banana filled the palate. The long finish has hints of sweet sherry and a tinge of saltiness to remind you of the origins of the whisky.

Besides the Sherry Bomb, you can still find the classic Smokehead, the 18 Years Old, and the High Voltage expressions in Singapore too.

Tamdhu 12 and 15 Years Old

Tamdhu launches the 12 and 15 Years Old whisky recently, and Singapore will be getting them soon. If you are a sherried whisky fan, these are to die for. Try them for yourself and let us know what you think.

Glengoyne The Legacy Chapter One

The Legacy is one of the newest NAS bottles from Glengoyne, and we understood that the expression would only come to Singapore sometime in July. Even though it is not yet in Singapore, we are positive that this bottle will be again an extraordinary expression. We have received a sampling portion and will soon be posting a review of the whisky. Stay tuned for it!

Where can you find these products in Singapore?

Some of our bars in Singapore are carrying the brands from Ian Macleod. One bar of special notice is The Wall at Tanjong Pagar. They have the most number of bottles from Ian Macleod, from Tamdhu to Glengoyne to Smokehead. In fact, the bar is stocking up with some of the new releases such as the Smokehead Sherry Bomb, Tamdhu 15 Years Old and Glengoyne Legacy. Smokehead Sherry Bomb is available now, while Tamdhu 15 and Glengoyne Legacy will arrive in July.

Besides our friends at The Wall, you can also find Tamdhu 10 and 12 Years Old at The Connoisseur Divan! There will be more places in future, so do keep an eye out for them! In the meanwhile, head over to the two bars to try these delectable whiskies!

 

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Guest Writer: Hongfu’s take on Glengoyne’s Production

Glengoyne is a beautiful Highland Distillery with a warehouse just across the road in the lowlands. They have a long reputation of using quality casks and produces whiskies that are sweet, unpeated and sherried. It came as no surprise to me when M&S chose to feature a 14-year-old in their range! Glengoyne holds many special memories for me – Jonathan Scott conducted my first proper whisky tasting at The Single Cask @CHIJMES, and I had Glengoyne 21 year old as a gift on my 21stbirthday from a generous friend!

With the help of Zerlina from WhiskyGeeks and Jonathan Scott of Glengoyne Distillery, I got an exclusive tour to learn the production of this delicious golden nectar! As a way of saying thanks, I asked Zerlina if I could write an article for WhiskyGeeks to share my experience at Glengoyne, and so, here it is!

My Glengoyne Experience

Glengoyne is a mid-sized distillery producing approximately 1 million litres per year. Glengoyne has two water sources. It uses the water from Loch Carron for production and Blairgar Burn for heating and cooling. 100% of the malt used is the Concerto variety coming from Simpsons, a malting company just to the right of Edinburgh. That might change in the future as more distilleries start switching to the Laureate variety. Some other distilleries have allegedly had their highest yield in their wash during experiments, so this seems promising for the future of this barley variety!

The Production Process

Mashing

The mill crushes the malted barley to grist to break open the husk of the grain. The rollers of the mill grind barley to a standard ratio of approximately 20% Husk, 10% Flour, and 70% Grist. This ratio is vital to prevent clogs and blockages in the pipes. The grist mixed with water to form a mash, with a porridge consistency, which is similar to adding hot water to a bowl of oatmeal. A traditional rack style mash tun, which has rakes turning continuously, mixes the “porridge” mash. The hot water helps dissolve some of the soluble sugars and to start breaking down the starch in the barley into sweet soluble sugar. This process separates the sugars from most of the solids. Hot water is added three times at Glengoyne to extract almost all the sugars from the mash. Each stream of water is hotter than the previous one.

Glengoyne’s way

At Glengoyne, the first stream of water to mix with the grist is at 64oC, followed by a second stream of water at 78oC. The first and second streams break most of the starch in the grist into sugar.  The third and final water stream comes approximately between 88-90oC to take away any remaining sugar. The process strips almost all the sugar in the grist, much like how hot water dissolves more chocolate and much faster than cold water. The temperatures of the water streams gradually increase so as not to change the natural qualities of the malted barley.

Fermentation

The sugared water from the first and second streams is called wort. The distillery cools the wort to below 20oC before channelling it to the washbacks for fermentation. The temperature is crucial as yeast cannot survive in high heat. The sugary liquid from the third stream of water is called the sparge. Sparge is very hot and have low sugar content. The sparge isn’t wasted though; it is piped away to be used as the first stream for the next mash at 64oC. The remaining barley solids in the mash tun is called the draff, and though it has almost no sugar, it is high in proteins. The draff is sold to farmers as cattle feed. It builds a very strong relationship between Glengoyne and the farmers around the area. Draff also grows healthy cows and produces delicious Scottish beef!

Fermentation at Glengoyne

A 20kg bag of Pinnacle Distillers Dry Yeast (MG+) – Photo by Hongfu Teo

The distillery uses Douglas Fir Wooden Washbacks for fermentation. Douglas Fir trees have fewer branches with lesser weak points, making them strong and lasting as washbacks. Each washback can last a couple of decades.

Each mash pipes into one of six Douglas Fir Wooden Washbacks for a fermentation period of approximately 56 hours. The team adds MG+ Pinnicale Dry Yeast into the washback to start the fermentation process. The yeast will change the dissolved sugars in the wort into low strength alcohol. This fizzy beer-like liquid brewed in the washbacks is called wash, and when the team completes the fermentation, the wash has an alcoholic strength of approximately 8.5% abv.

Distillation

Glengoyne’s Stills (from left) – Wash Still and 2 Spirits Stills (Photo by Hongfu Teo)

This wash is then sent to the wash still, which is the bigger pot still with three windows on the left of the photo. The wash still takes away some of the water and all the solid particles. This is done by heating the liquid until it bubbles. The vapours rise to the top of the pot still and down the lyne arm, to a shell and tube condenser that turns the vapour into liquid. The distillate from the wash still, known as low wine, flows down the lyne arm at approximately 16L/min. This low wine has an abv of 24%. The low wines enter the tank called the low wine receiver.

The stillmen have to ensure that the wash does not boil over the still and go down the lyne arm by monitoring the bubbles constantly. This is to ensure that the low wine does not have solid particles. The window on the still is usually the indicator that this still is a wash still.

A Second Distillation

The stillmen split the low wines between the two small onion-bulb Spirit Stills (in the picture above) to be distilled a second time. The second distillation increases the alcohol percentage of the final product. The pair of spirit stills is on the right of the photo above. The distillate comes out of the Spirit still in three stages: the Foreshots, the New-Make and the Feints (aka the Head, the Heart and the Tail).

The foreshots are cloudy and undesirable as it contains a lot of alcohol and lighter flavors. At approximately 75% abv, the distillate becomes clean and clear and smells sweet. This is the start of the “heart” or new make. The stillmen collect the distillate from this moment as the new make. Heavier flavours appear at approximately 65% and the stillmen direct the distillate to feints. The foreshots and feints are then channelled into the still again as there is still a significant amount of alcohol in them. The figures of 75-65% are approximate because temperature affects the reading. Stillmen usually use charts to ensure that the Glengoyne new make spirit is sweet and clean.

The Slowest Distillation

Glengoyne also has the slowest distillation from the Spirit Still at a volumetric flow rate of 5L/min. This slow distillation allows the liquid to have prolonged contact with the copper stills. This copper contact takes away sulfur compounds, which is another reason why the Glengoyne spirit character is so unique, and clean.

The New Make

Casks on display at Glengoyne (Photo by Hongfu Teo)

The new make is usually around 71% abv, and Glengoyne watered it down to 63.5% before filling it into a cask. Glengoyne has a 3-fill cask policy so after the third use; they stop using the cask. This policy ensures that every cask provides adequate maturation to the new make. The distillery shipped Oloroso sherry casks whole from Spain and seasoned them for at least two years. The process also strips the rougher tannins off the wood, giving the casks more Oloroso character! The casks give Glengoyne whiskies notes of raisins, dried fruit, nuttiness, chocolate, cinnamon and Christmas Cake! The sherry casks also provide all of Glengoyne single malt’s colour; the distillery does not use E150a caramel colouring!

An Extremely Educational and Enjoyable Journey

It was a lovely trip to the Glengoyne distillery and a one which I learnt a lot from. Thank you, Jonathan Scott, for the insightful tour! I am sure that I will be back again in future!

All this talk of Glengoyne is making me thirsty. Now, excuse me as I pour myself a dram of my favourite Glengoyne Core Range Bottling; the 21yo aged in 1stfill Oloroso cask… for 21 years!

Slainté!

 

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Whisky Events – Glengoyne & Tamdhu

 

If you are looking forward to the whisky events that we have spoken of in our previous article on Glengoyne Distillery, listen up now! We have received news from the organisers and here are the three finalised events curated just for you!

Jonathan Scott, Business Development Director (Asia), will be here with us for all three events. He hails from Speyside, Scotland and has experiences working with other distilleries such as Jura and Dalmore before joining Ian Macleod Distillers to head both Glengoyne and Tamdhu as their Business Development Director in Asia.

Picture from AsiaEuro

He will be sharing his passion and knowledge for whisky with the participants at all three events. Jonathan will also answer any questions that you have regarding Glengoyne and Tamhdu, so if you have a burning question to ask, you must go to at least one of these events, if not more.

The White Rocket – Glengoyne Masterclass

The White Rocket is a cafe located at 5 Stanley Street that provides a fantastic food menu to go with the whisky of your choice. In this Glengoyne Masterclass, Jonathon brings you four different drams from the Glengoyne core range. Going for this Masterclass means you will get to taste the following Glengoyne expressions:

  • 12 Years Old
  • 15 Years Old
  • 18 Years Old
  • Cask Strength

Details of the Masterclass:

Date: Monday, 21 May 2018
Venue: The White Rocket (5 Stanley Street, Singapore 068724)
Time: 7 pm
Cost: $48
Reservations: The White Rocket Facebook Page or call 6221 0108 or email thewhiterocketsg@gmail.com

Flying Fish Izakaya & Bar – Whisky Pairing

Join Jonathan Scott as he works hand-in-hand with the Flying Fish Izakaya & Bar to deliver a superb whisky pairing dinner for you at the newly-opened izakaya located at Riverside Point. We are sure that you will salivate just looking at the menu on offer that night.

  1. Nama Kaki with whisky passion fruit sauce paired with Tamdhu 10 YO
  2. Otoro with whisky miso sauce paired with Glengoyne 12 YO
  3. Pan-fried Wagyu or Kurobuta with whisky truffle sauce paired with Glengoyne 15 YO
  4. Fried whisky inaniwa udon paired with Glengoyne 18 YO

Details of the Whisky Pairing Session:

Date: Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Venue: The Flying Fish Izakaya & Bar (30 Merchant Road, Riverside Point #01-07, Singapore 058282)
Time: 7 pm
Cost: $128++
Reservations: Email andrewkj.tan@yahoo.com.sg or Call/Whatsapp/SMS 96325338

The Wall SG – Glengoyne Whisky Masterclass

For those of you who know The Wall SG well, you will know that Jeremie is going to treat you right. Join Jonathan, Jeremie and Samantha as they bring you on a tasting journey through the premium range of Glengoyne expressions. Showing in this Masterclass will be the following:

  • 15 Years Old
  • 18 Years Old
  • 21 Years Old
  • Cask Strength

Feel free to stay on after the event to enjoy more whiskies at this bespoke whisky bar!

Details of the Masterclass:

Date: 23 May 2018
Venue: The Wall SG (76 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088497)
Time: 7 pm
Cost: $68++
Reservation: The Wall SG Facebook Page or call 6225 7988 (Alternatively, drop Jeremie or Samantha a PM) 

Enjoy yourselves!

Do choose one of the events and head to the venue to enjoy a night of whisky and fun. Learning is always more pleasant when whisky is available! If you want to learn more about Glengoyne Distillery before going for any of the above events, do check out our article on the distillery here. Have fun!

 

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The Glengoyne Way – No One Takes More Time & Care

Glengoyne Distillery nestled deep within the beautiful landscape of Dumgoyne, north of Glasgow, Scotland. Within the surroundings of the distillery, a hidden waterfall waits to surprise first-time visitors. The miniature glen that Glengoyne sits is an amazing sight to behold. There is no wonder that visitors often named Glengoyne Distillery as the most beautiful distillery in Scotland.

History of Glengoyne

George Connell was the founder of Glengoyne distillery. History has it that Connell began distilling at Burnfoot Farm – the current Glengoyne distillery – in 1820. Safe within the miniature glen that hid the farm from the Exciseman, Connell escaped the notice of the law. Connell was not the first man to distil at the farm illegally as he learnt the trade from his grandfather.

In 1823, the law changed with the introduction of the Excise Act. Many underground distilleries took the license to operate, but Connell did not. In 1833, he finally decided to work with the law and obtained his license. He named the distillery Glenguin of Burnfoot. Connell took a 99-year lease on the land where Glenguin sat in 1836. It gave him the right to use the water of the property at any future time. Critically, Connell also made the decision not to use peat in his distillation process. His decision to deny peat in his whisky behold his legacy until today.

The Distillery Changed Hands

The distillery changed hands in 1876 to the Lang Brothers in Glasgow. History has it that the Lang brothers wanted to change the distillery name to Glengoyne, but a clerk made a mistake, and the distillery became Glen Guin. The name Glengoyne did not take effect until 1907. Did you know what Glengoyne means? It comes from Glenguin, which means Glen of the Wild Geese.

The Lang brothers took ownership of Glengoyne until 1965 before selling it to the Robertson & Baxter Group. The R&B Group eventually becomes Edrington Group. Under Edrington, the distillery underwent a rebuilding project between 1966 and 1967. They added one more still to the distillery, expanding it from two to three stills.

In 1984, Glengoyne became suppliers of whiskies to the then Queen Mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s household. The Royal Warrant can still be seen on all the Glengoyne products today.

The Beginning of the Modern Era

Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd acquired Glengoyne Distillery in April 2003. The taking over included both the “Glengoyne Single Malts” and “Langs Blended Whisky” brands. Under the family-run company, Glengoyne expanded rapidly regarding output capacity and sales. Ian Macleod keeps to the traditional way of making whisky at Glengoyne, and instead, increase the equipment onsite to increase output. Today, Glengoyne has eight working warehouses with a total capacity of nearly two million litres.

Before we move on from the history of Glengoyne, it is worthy to mention that Glengoyne distilled whisky in the Highlands and matures its whisky in the Lowland. What? Yes, it is true because the distillery sits upon the Highland Line, which divides the Highland from the Lowlands. Glengoyne, however, is still regarded as a Highland Whisky.

The Glengoyne Way

We spoke of the Glengoyne way of making whisky, but we have yet to tell you what it is. The Glengoyne way is six guiding principles that keep the distillery true to their past and the original decision that George Connell made in 1833. The distillery team believes that to change one element would alter the bold and complex flavours of Glengoyne.

Principle #1 – Unpeated

Glengoyne’s whisky is always unpeated. In 1833, the decision was one that was out of necessity. There was no peat in Dumgoyne. Unpeated whisky defines what Glengoyne stands for today – it produces only the most exceptional sherried whisky. The distillery uses Golden Promise barley, similar to The Macallan in Speyside. Perhaps that is why Glengoyne tasted somewhat like The Macallan. Is that the barley making its stake in the whisky?

Principle #2 – Patience

Glengoyne runs the slowest stills in Scotland. The distillate interacts immensely with their copper stills to eliminate the undesired chemical compounds. The result is a smooth, hugely complex spirit that the distillery is known for.

Principle #3 – Sherry Oak Casks

Before the 1870s, Glengoyne did not use sherry oak casks for maturation. However, the boom in sherry in London during the 1870s yields high-quality sherry casks and Glengoyne took the economical route by utilising the sherry casks for maturation. The result was stunning; taking Glengoyne whiskies to new heights and new depths. In today’s market, sherry is not so readily available, and Glengoyne needs to make a decision. They did by sticking to their principle. They use only the best sherry casks and control the process from oak forest all the way to the distillery.

Principle #4 – Maturation

The warehouses at Glengoyne are traditional. Made of stone walls and earthen floor, each warehouse protects the maturing casks from extreme temperature changes. The casks are not stacked close together either. By giving them the space needed for maturation, the distillery creates the consistent evaporation rate that they want in each of their casks.

Principle #5 – Natural Colour

By taking control of the sherry casks they procured, the distillery ensures that the colour of each whisky is natural and without added colour. The clear spirit from the distillery takes on the colour of the cask that they matured in, before getting bottled and released to the market.

Principle #6 – Tradition

It is hard to keep to tradition, but Glengoyne does it, every single day. From 1833 when Connell took the license to operate the distillery legally, the intricate steps he chose to make the whisky are still in use today.

The Glengoyne Whisky

The range of whisky from Glengoyne Distillery is impressive. Starting at ten years old, the core range moves up to 25 years old and a NAS cask strength edition. In between, we have the 12, 15, 18, and 21 years old. The distillery is moving away from the ten years old in recent years and in the future, the 12 years old will be the entry point of the core range.

Besides the core range, there are also rarer whiskies to be found. The Glengoyne 30 years old and 35 years old are expressions to behold. The 30 years old boasts of intense sherry notes with cinnamon, cloves and tangy marmalade. The 35 years old (distilled in the 1970s) boasts of tropical fruits, liquorice and a dark chocolate finish. It also comes in an artistically-designed decanter. Only 500 bottles are available worldwide.

What to Expect Next

Ian Macleod plans to focus on Asia for the Glengoyne brand shortly, so we can look forward to tasting events and food pairing sessions. While the organising committee is getting the logistics sorted out, let us wait patiently for the news. We will inform our readers when the events are ready!

 

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