Glengoyne is one of those distilleries that escapes attention at first, but tends to become pretty well-regarded by those willing to get fairly deep into the scotch weeds. Today, we'll get a little bit into why I like it and a few quick overviews of what I've had.
Glengoyne holds the distinction of being the most southern of all of the highland scotches. So much so, in fact, that the distillery actually straddles the line between highland and lowland, with the distillery on the north side and the warehouse on the south. The scotch equivalent of the "world's tallest midget" distinction, I suppose. While lowlands tend to have a reputation as being light and often grassy, Glengoyne's house style doesn't really tread near that flavor camp.
What's more interesting about Glengoyne is that they really don't like peat—and want you to know about it. My bottle of the 17-year absolutely drips with backhanded commentary, announcing that Glengoyne is "the taste of real malt" and that the liquid inside my bottle is "untainted by the harshness of peat smoke." On the subject of what they use to dry their barley, the bottle of the 15-year features an upper-cased NEVER PEAT on the label.
In truth, Glengoyne isn't the only distillery making unpeated styles. To my knowledge, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Scapa (among many others) are unpeated as well, while countless other distilleries either use so little peat that it's basically undetectable to most and would count as unpeated just the same. Some distillers might simply feel their marketing breath is better spent on telling the consumer what's inside the whisky as opposed to what isn't. That said, Glengoyne holds the distinction of being the only distillery I know of that seems to go completely apoplectic at the very mention of the word "peat." I find it oddly charming.
All that said, you'd think that a distillery so focused on the inherent quality of their malt would take a dim view of any other heavy-handed production method, but oddly enough they're totally okay with making extremely sherried whiskies, which to me is at least as polarizing a flavor as peat. As such, this is one of the main components I think pulls Glengoyne way outside of the "lowland" flavor profile. Like a lot of highland whiskies, a lot of what they offer are rich, malty, and juicy spirits.
If your previous experience with scotch felt like "licking an ashtray," as my mother once described it, Glengoyne is a great distillery to note simply because it offers a completely different flavor profile to what most imagine a scotch should taste like. To me, the 15 is the perfect encapsulation of the malt-forward distillery is going for—and might be one of my favorite malt-forward whiskies period—but certainly a lot of the other offerings are worth a look. Here's what I've had and/or feel inclined to comment on.
Glengoyne 10 - A decent enough introduction with a little more character than most 10-year scotches. It's mildly sherried and apple-forward. Nothing earth shattering, but a decent enough pour.
Glengoyne 15 - To me, the star of the range. Extremely grippy malt with a lot of character, and the sherry doesn't push itself forward to the point of shouting at you.
Glengoyne 17 - Sadly discontinued, but I see it turn up here and there. Very juicy, rich, earthy sherry here.
Glengoyne 18 - I consider this something of an "also-ran," where the sherry makes it taste something like an off-brand Balvenie or Macallan. Raisin and grape-heavy, which isn't my favorite. A step down from the old 17.
Glengoyne 25 - Multiple people have told me this has spoiled whisky in general for them. I've yet to taste it (the $250 price point is something of a deterrent), but it's a fair deal for the price and a sterling example of a well-aged and well-sherried bottle.