Glenglassaugh is a Highland single malt distillery located on the exposed North Sea coast of Aberdeenshire. The name translates as 'valley of the green grass' from Gaelic and refers to the shallow valley in which the distillery sits. This former blenders' workhorse has concentrated exclusively on building its single malt presence since reawakening from a long dormant period in 2008. Definitely an undiscovered Scotch whisky gem.
Glenglassaugh is known for its light, delicate and fruity style. Notes of apple, pear, freshly cut grass and lemon zest are common. Smoky whisky is produced for a short period each year and uses local Highland peat. This gives a mild, sweet and gentle style of smoke.
The core range reflects the recent lengthy period of closure, meaning whiskies are released with either no age statement or serious age. The Revival was the first new whisky release in 2012, featuring bourbon, sherry and red wine barrels. It was followed a year later by Evolution, matured in Tennessee whiskey casks. The peated Torfa (meaning 'peat' in Gaelic) joined the range in 2014. Aged bottlings include 30, 40 and 50 year olds.
The core products are joined by special limited editions, most notably the Octaves series and Coastal Casks. These come with a different wood finish in small casks or as a single cask at natural cask strength respectively.
The equipment at the distillery is largely hand operated and gives Glenglassaugh a traditional feel. There is an old Porteus mill, dating back to the 1960s, and this feeds a 5.2 tonne mash tun. This was also made by Porteus and is cast iron. There are six washbacks, four wooden and two stainless steel, with a long fermentation time of 80 hours. This leads to the fruity character in style of the whisky. One pair of large stills produce an annual capacity of 1.1 million litres. Unusually, the spirit still is marginally larger than the wash still.
The majority of the spirit is unpeated, but 5% per annum (55,000 litres) is peated to a level of 30ppm. There are a mix of dunnage and palletised warehouses on site, and a cask filling building. Here there is a long tradition of playing classical music as barrels are filled with new make spirit. This is believed to calm the spirit as it begins its maturation.
Glenglassaugh was founded in 1875 by local businessman James Moir and his two nephews, Alexander and William Morrison. It is located on Sandend Bay, one of Scotland's best surfing beaches, close to the harbour town of Portsoy. Their whisky quickly became highly sought after amongst big blending houses across Scotland. Glenglassaugh has historically featured in popular blended whiskies such as Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse.
Despite this, the distillery had an intermittent production history with three major periods of closure. Each spanned at least 20 years. The dormant times were 1908-1931, 1936-1957 and 1986-2008. Glenglassaugh's remote coastal location was a key factor.
The most recent revival came in 2008 when Glenglassaugh was purchased by Scaent Group. They took a year to renovate the buildings and equipment. They also inherited 400 maturing casks as part of the deal. Production began in 2009. The Benriach Distillery Co. took over in 2013 and in turn sold Glenglassaugh, along with their two other distilleries of Benriach and Glendronach, to Brown-Forman in 2016. They remain the current owners.