Straddling the lowlands and the Highlands, and sat at the foot of a sunkissed mountain, Glengoyne is Scotland’s most beautiful distillery.
Driving through the hills to Glengoyne is an event in itself. Before you can even smell the sweet malt, you’re in awe. Thick forests cascade down hills, snow glows in the winter sunshine and peaks which thrust into the sky. And then you round a corner and see the distillery itself, sat unassuming against its backdrop, not pretending to be any more mighty than the munro it sits beneath.
Glengoyne works in harmony with its surroundings, taking inspiration from the views, taking power from its streams. It gives and takes, takes and gives, making sure that the whiskey which comes out of these doors has the Highlands in its soul.
Our welcome was, of course, a warm one; Arthur, who was to be our guide for the day, met us with hugs and smiles and an enthusiasm for whiskey and the Glengoyne ethos which overtook our recent whispers about staying sober for the day.
First, we were led into the bar, where Arthur sat us down with a wee dram of the Glengoyne 12 Year single malt, and showed us a short video of the history of the distillery. Arthur talked, and laughed, and explained to us that the pace of life at Glengoyne is a slow one: good whiskey cannot be made in a hurry, but it is always made with love.
We were taken out into the cool March air to hang over the balcony and look at the river flowing slowly under the building. Here, Arthur tells us about Glengoyne’s environmental responsibility to the Highlands,
“After distillation, we make sure that the liquid we don’t use still goes to good use. So we treat it on site here at Glengoyne, and send it back out into our own wetlands.”
After going through a series of 12 pools, each thick with reed beds which slows down the water’s flow and gets rid of anything which could harm the natural balance of the local burn, it is then safe to join the river. This then flows on to Loch Lomond, reducing waste emitted by the distillery, helping out the local wildlife, and using less energy in the treatment process by keeping it in-house.
Next, we moved on to where the magic happens; the stills room. Here is where the flavour of Glengoyne is made ever so slowly, minute by minute and hour by hour. There are just a few men who work in shifts in the stills, and they work all through the days and nights, making sure that everything is perfect.
Onwards to a dark room behind a heavy door, where the huge and ever-so expensive oak barrels age. On the wall behind us showed how whiskey changes colour and decreases in volume over 30 years. The longer the whiskey is left to age, the darker and darker it gets, with flavours and colours depending on the kind of cask they settle in.
Next came the fun part. The part where we got to mix our own single malt and take it home with us. As we entered the mixing room, we were sat down in front of five different Glengoyne whiskies, and five glasses. First, we had to try each one and rate them in order of how much we liked them. After that, it was down to us to find the perfect match to fit our palettes and personal taste.
Now, a single malt isn’t actually what you would think it is – one type of whiskey in a bottle. A single malt is a bottle of whiskey which has not been blended with another whiskey from another distillery. A single malt is pure and unadulterated, distilled, bottled and shipped all from one place.
We left the distillery rosy in the cheeks and full in the hearts. Our afternoon at Glengoyne was fun, informative, and the highlight of our 10 day tour of Scotland. A special thanks to Arthur, who made our day all the more memorable – he had us laughing and smiling throughout the day, and had such a ball with him that instead of spending just one hour and 45 minutes on the tour, we were there for 3. Can we take Arthur on every Scottish adventure, please?
How to get there
Glengoyne Distillery is just 14 miles north and a 40 minute drive from Glasgow, and a half hour drive from Stirling. You can cycle to Glengoyne, walk to Glengoyne over the hills, or better yet, get the bus to Glengoyne; it stops right outside the front door. Parking is available in the large carpark opposite the distillery, but please drink responsibly – the alcohol limit for drivers is much less in Scotland than it is in the UK. If in doubt, order a taxi.
There are tours of Glengoyne Distillery to suit every budget. From the 45 minute Glengoyne Tour at £9.50 per person, to the five hour Masterclass at £150 a head. We went somewhere in the middle for the Malt Masters for £65 each, and it comes highly recommended.
Top tip: Ask for Arthur when booking – he’s an absolute gem of a man, with a giant smile, huge heart, and a deep passion for Glengoyne and all that it stands for.