The 2023 Relaunch of Glenglassaugh Distillery – Sandend, Portsoy and the 12 year old

PR invite // All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own. 

Glenglassaugh Distillery is located on the east coast of Scotland, about 1.5h north of Aberdeen. The distillery originally opened in 1875 but had to close down in 1907 for 53 years. It has reopened and closed a couple of times but was purchased in 2006 before it reopened in 2008 under management by Stuart Nickerson. Brown Forman – the current owners who also own Benriach och Glendronach – took over in 2016. Because of its history Glenglassaugh Distillery has a variety of stock – from some really old casks to a newer batch of whiskies. As the distilleries newer stock slowly becomes older and older, the previous range of non age statement whiskies has been considered slightly dated and perhaps not the most exciting. But now the distillery is ready for a fresh relaunch of the brand with a new range of compelling core release whiskies.

We were welcomed to the lovely Moray coast where the distillery is located and enjoyed a lovely welcome dinner at The Seafield Arms, where we were also staying. The food was really lovely – in particular the venison carpaccio which I would highly recommend – and we were even treated to quite the welcome dram: a Glenglassaugh whisky distilled on the 1st November in 1965 and bottled in 2016. The whisky was from a refill sherry hogshead and had a lovely aged character of treacle, older wood, spicy tannins, grassy cinnamon and some layers of tropical fruit. I’m really glad we started with a toast and introduction to the dram, before the food, as it really gave us a chance to properly taste and enjoy this archive treasure of a whisky.

Throughout the following day we were introduced to the three new Glenglassaugh whiskies that were just about to be released, so let me tell you more about each one.

The Glenglassaugh Sandend

The theme for the relaunch is “Awakening Your Senses” so to start the day we walked down to the beach at Sandend just beneath the distillery. Here, we go the opportunity to lay down on a yoga mat for a guided meditation and sound bath underneath the cover of our gorgeous Glenglassaugh blankets. The blankets were very warming and the design was inspired by the colours around Sandend Beach. I was thrilled we each got one to take one, as I think it will be used a lot this winter… I had never before done a sound bath, but it was very relaxing, especially against a backdrop of waves rolling in over the sand right next to us.

Once we all started coming back to life and waking up from our relaxation, we got our first look at the new bottle design and the first release that we would try of the day: the Glenglassaugh Sandend.

The whisky has a lovely tropical spirit underneath the cask character which brings a saline touch. Master Blender Rachel Barrie led us through a tasting, standing barefoot on the sand of Sandend where she spent a lot of time as a child and had some lovely stories to share. The new bottle design looks lovely and intriguing with clean text and influences of coastal aquamarine and textured glass that reminds me of rocks shaped softly by the ocean.

Following the tasting we also got to try a Gorse Highball with a gorse syrup made by Global Brand Ambassador Stuart Buchanan. The gorse brings a lovely coconut character to the refreshing cocktail which goes brilliantly with the tropical notes in the spirit. And as if that wasn’t it we also enjoyed some gorgeous canapés by Sarah Rankin, one of the finalists in Masterchef 2022. She made a fish and mango mix which reminded me of a marine tartare which was delicious and had a lovely balance of tropical and salty. We also enjoyed some lovely caramelised onion tart bites.

Glenglassaugh Sandend is bottled at 50.5% and matured in bourbon, sherry and manzanilla casks.

It has a lovely sweet and tropical character with pineapple and toffee as well as a saltiness like a saline coastal breeze from the manzanilla.

The Glenglassaugh Portsoy

The tide started to rise and chased us away from our previous spot on the beach, so we took a short car ride to Portsoy where a boar waited to take us out on the waves for the location of our next tasting. We went out past Sandend and saw the distillery from a whole new angle and continued all the way to Bow Fiddle Rock, which I had the pleasure of seeing from the complete opposite side on my summer trip to Cullen – which you can read more about here. Onboard the boat we tried the Glenglassaugh Portsoy which in comparison to the previous Glenglassaugh Sandend was peated, rather than unpeated. Glenglassaugh Distillery is planning to continue to peat spirit a couple of weeks a year and the spirit has a highland peat style of smoke with bonfire and wood tones.

After our boat trip we returned to the harbour where an outdoors lunch was set up by Ed from Right to Roam. He had put together some absolutely lovely food like fluffy focaccia (the best I’ve tried in a long time), a crab mix, fried fish and fresh greens from a woman with a garden in Aberlour. The food was served alongside a Portsoy Bloody Mary which was, if you don’t mind me saying, bloody tasty! We felt really spoiled and also got to try a Portsoy Ice cream made with Glenglassaugh whisky. It was so good!

Glenglassaugh Portsoy is bottled at 49.1% and matured in bourbon, sherry and port casks.

This whisky is peated and has a rich character of a mix with tropical fruit, soy sauce, smoky liquorice, dark chocolate, treacle and sea salt. I think this would be a lovely whisky alongside asian cuisine like sushi.

The Glenglassaugh 12 Year Old

After the first two whiskies we headed back for some downtime at the hotel before it was time for the dinner, and of course, the reveal of the Glenglassaugh 12 Year Old.

After a wee stroll through one of the warehouses with Stuart, where we got to have a little look at the variety of casks in there and take it the lovely scent of a dunnage warehouse, we entered the still room. It was decorated with local flowers and greenery and in the middle of the pair of stills sat a bottle of the new age statement. Rachel led us through a tasting of this gorgeous whisky, which probably was my favourite out of the trio, and also showed us how one of the walls in the still house can be opened up to display a lovely view toward the ocean. It’s not many distilleries on the mainland that are located this closely to the water and makes perfect sense for Glenglassaugh to embrace their coastal influence.

Glenglassaugh 12 Year Old is bottled at 45% and matured in bourbon, sherry and red wine casks.

This was my favourite, closely followed by the Sandend, because of its more rounded and further intense character with tropical fruits and toffee sweetness sounded by a soft whirlwind of saline, fruity and spicy tones.

The dinner was put together by Sarah Rankin who had provided the canapés earlier. This time we were treated to some pre-dinner tattie scones with miso aioli and caviar, arbroath smoke croquettes and Strathdon blue cheese dates with honey and thyme. I would’ve happily ate canapés all evening, but Sarah had also put together a three course menu for the evening with hake, warm tartare sauce and chive oil to start, tender beef cheek, molasses, potato pave and spring greens for mains and figs, Crabbies ginger wine, white chocolate and walnuts with the Glenglassaugh ice cream. I don’t even think I need to write that I was so happy and full after this day.

To finish a lovely visit to the distillery, a few brave souls in the group – including myself of course – headed for a morning swim in Cullen the following day before breakfast. Nothing like a cold and refreshing dip in the sea to awaken your senses and round off a memorable trip.

Thank you Glenglassaugh for having me for your relaunch!

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Check out my Instagram @swedishwhiskygirl or @scandinavianabroad to see even more photos and follow along on future adventures.

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