Sunday, January 27, 2013

Glengoyne, The Teapot Dram

stats: single malt scotch, Highlands, 58.8%, £60 ($96)

I have to admit that I love a whisk(e)y with a good story. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m a sucker for one with a great story. However, I do have a fairly sensitive BS detector, and if the marketing wizards put out something that smells fishy or comes across as being disingenuous, I’ll be turned off pretty quickly.

But what I have before me is a bottle with a wonderful story, one that harkens back to what many would consider the golden age of Scottish malt whisky distilleries, at least from the workers’ perspective. The Glengoyne Teapot Dram brings us back to a period of time in distilling history that is rapidly fading from memory, and carries with it an endearing sense of nostalgia.

You may recall that this is a distillery-only bottling that I regrettably passed up only hours after arriving in Scotland. Over nearly two weeks, that regret turned into determination as I convinced myself that I had time for a 30 minute detour on the long drive from Campbeltown to the airport in Glasgow. With a successful mission, I had redeemed myself, and I was still on time for my flight home.

The Teapot Dram is a limited release of just 3105 bottles, at cask strength, comprised of a vatting of 5 first-fill sherry butts (three at 9 years in American oak, one at 13 years in American oak, and one at 14 years in European oak). This bottling was created to pay tribute to a lost tradition, I’ll defer to the official distillery account:

Up until the early 1980s Glengoyne’s men were given three large drams of cask strength Glengoyne a day - breakfast, lunch and afternoon break.

Once a week the Brewer, Ron Low, and the excise men would select the best first fill sherry cask they could find to become that week’s dram. However, if the younger men didn’t want one of their drams they would pour it into the old copper teapot that sat in the break room.

The more “seasoned” drinkers would then help themselves to additional drams from the teapot throughout the day – everyone was happy.

These days everyone concerns themselves with health insurance, paid vacation days and retirement plans. Three generous drinks a day, drawn straight from the cask – now that’s my idea of a solid benefits package.

In the bottle it appears quite dark, in the glass, more golden brown.
The nose is full, but not hot or over the top, with malt, dried fruit, and sugary baked goods coming through.
It is medium to full bodied, and actually seems restrained at first on the palate, with just a few pin pricks to the tongue foreshadowing what is about to come. Then, upon swallowing, it just explodes. Big and intense, it’s definitely fiery but with plenty of flavor (actually, just enough to keep the heat from pulling it out of balance). Molasses, apples baked in cinnamon and brown sugar, candied figs, and subtle oaky/nutty flavors all come together with amazing density.
These flavors continue to play tug-of-war with the almost numbing heat through the lengthy finish, as they meld into warming spice notes.
It comes across as being youthful and exuberant, but with depth and character.

This whisky gives a sense of time and place; I can imagine that a dram like this is just what would have been needed to satisfy the palate and warm the soul before heading off to shovel a few tons of barley.

I held back a bit of the miniature of 21 yr Glengoyne that I had, to use for the sake of comparison (at 43% and also matured exclusively in sherry casks). The flavor profile is similar, but with a much more delicate and refined manner; perhaps it would be a better choice for the more genteel drinker.


steven munro said...

Tasted and bought a bottle of the second edition of this today. Absolutely one of the best whiskeys I have tasted.

VT Mike said...

Nice, I hadn't heard that they were putting out a second edition. The bottle that I have was great right off the bat, but after it was opened and partially consumed for about 6 months the heat eased back and the whisky really came into its own. I'd definitely recommend not drinking it too quickly after opening and seeing how it evolves.