Glenglassaugh Clearac and Peated Spirits – Review

*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.

Glenglassaugh (pronounced glen-GLASS-och) is one of those distilleries whose history is not only marked with the requisite changes in ownership, but also marked with long periods of inactivity. Indeed, for a while there in the 1900’s, the distillery was like a toddler playing with a door…open, closed, open, closed, open…

Initially founded in 1875 by one James Moir, Glenglassaugh has always been a well-regarded malt, if not a sporadically produced one. In 1892, it was purchased by Highland Distillers, who eventually integrated into what today is the Edrington Group, home of Macallan, Highland Park and the Famous Grouse. By 1907, things were not going so hot for the Scotch whisky industry in general and Highland Distillers  in specific, and as demand had dwindled for Glenglassaugh, they mothballed it. With the exception of a brief period of production following the end of Prohibition, the distillery stayed mothballed until major repairs and renovations were made and it was re-opened in 1960. By 1986, it was closed again, and stayed that way, more or less, until 2008 when a Dutch company, the Scaent Group, purchased the distillery and installed former William Grant & Sons director Stuart Nickerson as the managing director. Over the last three years, they’ve released award-winning bottlings taken from the older stocks and at the end of 2011 they bottled the first official aged-for-3-years whisky created under the new owners. Up until then, they’d been making  and selling booze and experimenting with different wood finishes, but they technically couldn’t call the stuff “whisky”. The four spirits I’m taking a look at over the next couple of posts were first released as 200ml bottlings in 2009, and give the serious whisky fan a chance to try something you rarely see outside of a distillery visit, the opportunity to try a distillery’s new make.

Glenglassaugh Clearac

This is Glenglassaugh’s new make, fresh from the still, 100% without a trace of maturation.

The Nose:  A very fresh, clean nose, almost reminiscent of clean linen somehow. There are also notes of warm, old plastic, stewed pears…under-ripe ones at that, and fresh raspberries.  Faint feint-y notes come across as a sourdough sourness hovering in the background.

The Palate:  Crisp, just barely ripe Anjou pears and juicy granny smith apples. It’s mostly all about the tart fruit, with maybe a dusting of a bit of cinnamon. There’s also a nice, brash, crackling hint of the malt that picks up just the slightest bit of sourness towards the end.

The Finish:  Shortish with another swell of crisp pear and an added slight saltiness.

Thoughts:  Surprisingly drinkable for a new make/clearac/whitedog/ whathaveyou. I was expecting a lot more alcohol-driven harshness, sour feint-tinged grain and overwhelming sense of “interesting but…”. Instead, I found this to be crisp, clean and lightly flavorful. I’m not sure I’d opt for this over a “real” whisky, but it’s impressive enough on its own to be worth a try. A good indication that Glenglassaugh’s going be one to watch when their aged product comes out.

Glenglassaugh Clearac, Highland…but damn near Speyside

50% ABV

———-

Glenglassaugh Peated

Again, this is an un-matured, new-make spirit, but this time around the barley has been peated. The peat level is 30 parts per million (ppm), which is a substantial amount of peat when you consider that peaty Islay stalwart, Laphroaig is peated at around 40ppm.

The Nose:  Lots of peat in the form of burnt rubber, wet newspaper, and cigarette ash.  If there’s any fruit at all, it’s bitter lemon. Not unlike the Clearac, there’s a subtle cast of clean wet linen in the background.

The Palate:  Crisp peppery peat hits early, a bit of the lemon comes through briefly but it’s quickly replaced by quite salty and quite ashy peat. By the end, it gets almost too ashy and bitter.

The Finish:  Not surprisingly, what lingers longest is the rather raw, bitter ashy peat.

Thoughts:  Assuming that 8-10+ years in some kind of oak is going to add a lot of complexity and smooth out some of the rawness here, I’m really looking forward to the mature version of this spirit. As it is now, though, it’s a little hard to enjoy on its own. The peat is strong and does have a certain complexity, but it’s a bit raw and harsh at this point and needs that tempering that maturation will give it.

Glenglassaugh Peated, Highland…but damn near Speyside

50% ABV

———-

Scores:  Not going to bother with scoring these, a new make spirit is far too different an animal to judge and score on the same basis as other aged whiskies and I don’t have enough experience with other new make to make an objective comparison.

…stayed tuned for another youthful two-fer…

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2 thoughts on “Glenglassaugh Clearac and Peated Spirits – Review

  1. I was at a tour recently, had a chance to try their clearac, and unpeated, they do seem rather tasty – but then, the french make all their Eau de Vie’s, which as essentailly clearac using another base – raspberry is meant to be particularly good. The idea of the peated one just does nothing for me though.

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