To get some confusion out of the way, I want to clarify the title of this write-up. This is a side-by-side comparison of Glengoyne‘s 21-year-old distillery bottling next to Glengoyne’s 21-year-old single cask independent bottling by Douglas Laing from their Old Particular range. The latter is a single cask from 1997 distillation (REF – DL12817). Yes, almost the same, but not! To make things a bit more clear, from now on, I’ll just refer to these two as the distillery and the DL bottlings. Also, I’ll skip the background on this Highland distillery – I’ve covered a bit of it in this post. So this should be very interesting. Excited? I am! Let’s jump right to it, but first, we need music! Now playing: Murcof – The Alias Sessions.
Both bottles are natural in colour. The distillery bottling is a bit darker and looks a tad more viscous – I can tell that just by swirling the liquid in the glass, and of course, by the oily legs left behind. I immediately think that since the distillery bottling is not from a single cask, there could be other, older whiskies mixes in there, with the youngest being at least a 21-year-old. So, it’s a mental reminder that it’s a vatting of an unknown number of casks to bring the flavours up to the desired quality and consistency. And since we already started speaking about a single cask, the DL bottling is delivered at “natural cask strength”, resulting in 48.5% ABV (yes, it’s not 60%, but that’s because it’s old[er]), while the distillery bottle is at a consistent 43%. We’ll have to do with that and maybe later add some water to the DL. But, let’s move on to the nose! I’ll start with the distillery bottling. Sweet sherry, toffee and stewed apples are all there – this is expected because Glengoyne is a non-peated single malt matured exclusively in sherry [seasoned] casks. There is a slight tingling of cranberries or green mango – a sour faint, but not from a citrus family. The DL bottling is more green apples but with a banana on the side, a bit more honey, toffee and vanilla. The latter is a little lighter on the nose. OK, let’s take a sip.
The distillery bottling is smooth and silky. It comes in round and chewy like a Christmas cake. More sherry on the taste buds and the finish. The DL, although the same age, tastes a little older, with some woodsy complexity extracted from the casks. It is indeed less viscous, as I have already visually noticed, and its alcohol is nicely carrying the finish from the sherry to the end. I can’t tell if it’s American or Spanish oak – it just says it is “charged from a refill hogshead.” In fact, it could even be an ex-bourbon hogshead, but from the nose alone, I’m sure it’s sherried. I’ll add some water [a drop to the distillery and slightly more to DL bottling] and try again. The distillery bottle got even smoother, softer, and sweeter, with more sherry flavour and more honeyed cake. We’re almost in the “sherry-bomb” territory here [I mean it neither as a compliment nor an offence at this point in the tasting – we’ll see about that later]. The DL has also mellowed out, but it is oakey still, with a pretty long burnt caramel finish. I feel it needs another drop to get in line. Ah, there it is, about the same in ABV now, yet “cleaner” on arrival, direct and pristine spirit. We have to choose now, don’t we, friends? Is that the delicate predicament we find ourselves in? To do that, why not pour some more for one more spin around this whisky.
I think that either way you cut it, a single cask will always be a unique experience. In fact, my DL bottle is one of only 140, which pretty much just outright states that your chances of tasting the very same single malt are slim to none. I think I like it for its honesty and candour, but even I could probably not get a chance to reach out to this friend in need. And yet distillery bottling is readily available. It’s deep and rich, and although a bit pricey (at £175 a bottle), I think it is worth it – it’s a 21-year-old, after all! Plus, you can order yours on Amazon today. For that alone, I think for this tasting, I will pick the distillery bottling as the winner, and as this write-up ends, I buy a few more for my stash.