KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 15

15 12 2017

By my count this is “Glen” whisky #5 (well, 4 1/2) in 15 days of 2017 Advent, after Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Glentauchers and Dailuaine-Glenlivet all the day back on Day 1.  But the more important number for this particular Glen, Highlands’ Glenglassaugh, is three.  The distillery was founded in 1875, but like so many others it was mothballed in the 1980s (1986 to be exact), only to be near-miraculously purchased and re-opened 22 years later in 2008 (then purchased again by BenRiach in 2013, but that’s not part of this story).  I had never heard of Glenglassaugh back in 2014, when on December 7th I opened the KWM Advent Calendar door and discovered the very first whisky it had released after opening its doors again, aptly named the Revival.  The next year, on December 8th, 2015, we were treated to the SECOND ever whisky from the new Glenglassaugh, the Evolution.  And now we arrive to today, December 7+8 = 15th, and back to the number three:  today’s Glenglassaugh Torfa is the third new whisky to come out of the distillery’s doors.  The difference with this one is that it’s peated — according to the label, RICHLY Peated, although at 20 ppm (less than half of The English Smokey’s 45, which itself wasn’t over the top) it might be exaggerating things a bit.


The rather odd name of the whisky, Torfa, is a nod to its burnt-moss-imbued nature, as it is an old Norse word for peat (turf).  It is an orangey golden colour and certainly exhibits some of its namesake on the nose, beaming out the shoe leather, moss and marsh bog aromas associated with peat, but measuring those with a honeyed sweetness and a lingering grassiness…despite its “Richly Peated” boast, it doesn’t come close to overwhelming.  Coming closer is the flamethrower of a palate that takes no prisoners at 50% abv, even with added water, but behind the alcoholic rage lies more careful peat balance, the smokiness never bullying the other notes of apple crisp, sandpaper, tangerine, black pepper and fallen leaves.  But the telltale slithery griminess shows up on both the attack and the finish, bookending a fun and fascinating dram.  Here’s to a fourth and fifth and many more, Glenglassaugh.

Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 8

8 12 2015

Time for a twist to start Week 2 of whisky Advent.  I was recently asked if I did whisky reviews, responded something to the effect of “um, sort of” and was given a spirit aerator from Vinturi for use with this year’s calendar.  You may know the Vinturi from the wine side:  it’s that intricate hard plastic funnel that insta-aerates any liquid that passes through it and into your glass, a sort of hyper-decant to open up tight wines in seconds rather than hours.  It’s one of the few wine gadgets that I actually use semi-regularly, not for the special occasion good stuff (which I like to see unfurl gradually), but for weeknight bottles that seem closed off when I first crack them.  I get why it works for wine, a drink that is highly susceptible to, and highly influenced by, oxygen from the second it is first exposed to it, at first in a good way (some air time softens and opens wine and releases packed-in flavours) and then in a very not-good way (too much air flattens and oxidizes wine and ultimately ruins it).  But spirits?  Once something is distilled and cranked up to 50% alcohol like tonight’s scotch, wouldn’t oxygen exposure cease to matter to it?  Once its maturation is done and it is freed from barrel and bottled, isn’t its flavour development over?  You never protect your whisky bottles from oxygen once you open them, and they never seem change even after months or years in an unstoppered bottle, so I was unsure how the wine-based premise of the Vinturi would carry over.

The guinea pig whisky for this aeration experiment was the Glenglassaugh Evolution, a Highland Single Malt from a distillery that was shut down and mothballed in 1986, only to be surprisingly salvaged and re-opened in 2008.  For the second day in a row we have a repeat producer from last year’s calendar; Day 7 of 2014 featured the Glenglassaugh Revival, the first scotch released after the distillery’s (literal) renaissance.  Weirdly, the 2015 offering from yesterday’s first repeat calendar producer, GlenDronach (Day 7 of 2015!), was also called Revival.  I’m hoping that was intentional.  Tonight’s Glenglassaugh is the SECOND scotch released after the distillery re-opened its doors, called Evolution, which holds the distinction of being the first whisky I’ve tried that was matured in ex-Tennessee Whisky barrels.  Seeing “Tennessee” displayed on a bottle of scotch takes some getting used to.

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Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 7

7 12 2014

I’m not sure what’s more impressive, one straight week of blog posts or one straight week of whiskies.  More impressive than either might be the story behind tonight’s scotch, the Revival from Glenglassaugh distillery in the Scottish Highlands.  If you’ve never heard of that distillery (I hadn’t), don’t feel bad:  it was mothballed in 1986, much like my favourite distillery Port Ellen was in 1983.  However, unlike Port Ellen, Glenglassaugh wasn’t destroyed, but just sat unused…until 2008, when it amazingly reopened and started producing whisky again.  This bottle (whose name now takes on extra significance) was the first release of Glenglassaugh, version 2.0.

Revival - what's old is new again.

Revival – what’s old is new again.

This is the least expensive of the whiskies in the calendar to date, clocking in at $58 retail, and we’re back into the stratosphere on alcohol levels at 46%.  The Revival was legitimately weird on the nose, featuring an assertive layer of fermented, briny, barnacle-y, almost cheesy sherried notes on top of apple and citrus fruit — unsurprisingly, after aging first in old red wine and bourbon casks, it was finished in first-fill oloroso sherry butts.  Thankfully, the palate was both more generous and less funky than the nose, as maple and honey mingled with saltwater, hot coals and sweet soap, finishing in a potpourri-tinged flourish.  Not sure if it’s quite my whisky of choice, but I do love a good tale of redemption, and I wish more of the shuttered distilleries of the 1980s got the same chance at redemption.

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