A trip to Scotland is incomplete without visiting a whisky distillery – unfortunately many of them are fairly hard to reach or simply too far to incorporate in a city trip to Edinburgh or Glasgow. Not so Glengoyne Distillery! This Highland distillery is easy to reach by public bus and thus makes for a great day trip from Glasgow. There even is a hill behind the distillery, to make the whisky tasting even more well-deserved.
About Glengoyne Distillery
Glengoyne Distillery is the southernmost Highland distillery in Scotland and is located south of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Nestled among green hills and sheep farms its surroundings are as stunning as the glen where the distillery gets its water from. While the founder George Connell started distilling secretly here quite a bit earlier (and possibly wasn’t even the first in his family to distill whisky in this location), the distillery was officially founded in 1833. The uncertainty of the distillery’s history is due to British laws banning and taxing Scottish whisky distilleries in order to limit production.
Up until today, the distillery is a family-run business that produces 1,200,000 litres of whisky every year. Other than the Island distilleries that use peat, Glengoyne only uses Barley that has been air-dried – so there is not smokey, peaty taste to its whisky. The distillery is very committed to its traditional process, even though there are cheaper alternatives to its wooden fermentation barrels, traditional stills and maturing casks. Glengoyne whisky is stored and matures in custom-made sherry oak casks from Spain and the US as well as bourbon casks to give it its specific taste.
The Head Stillman Duncan McNicol has been working for Glengoyne since 1977, ensuring that every bottle tastes exactly the same – there’s no way this process could be automated; Duncan decides when the whisky tastes right.
The Gold Medal Parade
For my second visit at Glengoyne Distillery we went for the Gold Medal Parade. I have developed a taste for whisky lately, so I was ready to move beyond the standard tour and go for something more sophisticated.
The Gold Medal Parade kicks off with a brief overview of the history of the distillery. Our guide Gordon gave us a run-down of the specificities of the whisky distilled here over a glass of 12-year old Glengoyne whisky. The tour continues with a visit to the actual distillery, where every step from drying the barley to distilling the whisky in the big copper stills is explained. From the distillery the whisky is brought to the storage halls across the road to mature.
After understanding the process, it was time to do some more tasting. Inside the distillery’s Tasting House Gordon introduced us to the 18- and 21-year-old Glengoyne whiskies. These whiskies are real superstars – the reason why the tour is called Gold Medal Parade. Between them they have won seven gold medals at the industry ‘Oscars’ – the International Wine and Spirit Competition and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. While I had tasted the 18-year-old before (still awesome) it was my first rendezvous with the 21-year-old. While the younger Glengoyne’s are made up of a mix of whisky matured in sherry and bourbon casks, the 21-year-old is sherry cask whisky only, giving it a much deeper copper colour and a sweeter taste.
Not to mention how warm and fuzzy it makes you feel, when you drink three whiskies within an hour…
The tour ends at the distillery’s shop with a taste of the Glengoyne cask strength whisky. ‘Cask strength’ means that the whisky is bottled as it comes out of the cask at 58.7% – if you’re not drunk yet, this will get you there.
By the way, if you for some reason don’t want to have all your whiskies right away, your guide can fill your taster into a little glass jar to take away for you!
The Golden Medal Parade tour costs £26.50 and includes the tasting of four whiskies as well as a tour of the distillery. You can book it here in the distillery’s website.
We decided to combine our whisky tasting day trip from Glasgow with a little hike in the hills behind Glengoyne Distillery.
The trail up Dumgoyne and Earl’s Seat is a short, but steep climb – but the views are worth it. We followed the description from Walk Highlands but decided to walk it the other way around after not finding the start of the trail – the distillery staff at the Welcome Desk can point you in the right direction!
Our hike started by crossing a large meadow with sheep grazing and cute lambs being undecided whether to be curious or afraid of the humans. Once we arrived at the top, the sun had disappeared and we decided to skip the second part of the hike over to Earl’s Seat. After descending back through the woodland trail on the other side of the distillery (great to spot bluebells!) we ate our packed lunch at the waterfall behind the distillery and waited for the tour to start.
Getting to Glengoyne Distillery
Glengoyne Distillery lies along the A81 road leading from Glasgow to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Instead of driving yourself though, it is advisable to get here by public transport. The First bus B10 leaves Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station once an hour and drops you off right outside the distillery. The journey lasts around an hour and costs roughly £10 for a return ticket.
The distillery is also a popular stop for day tours from Glasgow or Edinburgh, such as Rabbie’s Stirling & Loch Lomond tour I did in 2016.
Our day trip to Glengoyne Distillery and hike up Dumgoyne was a much-needed getaway from the city, and could be just the trip to spice up your city trip to Glasgow!
Have you ever visited a whisky distillery?
Planning a trip to Scotland?
// In collaboration with People Make Glasgow //