As this week’s review is the 68th since I started this blog, I have decided to put forth a 40 years old bottling from 1968. What’s more, it’s from a closed Highland distillery that will never be reopened and has therefore been consigned into the pages of distillery history.
But before we dive into the review, let’s first delve into the history of this interesting distillery which was once located in the Western Highland town of Fort William and was once one of three distilleries in the area.
Glenlochy distillery was founded in 1898 by David MacAndie of the Glenlochy-Fort William Distillery Co. and came onstream in 1901. The distillery was named after the nearby Lochy river which flowed through the town of Fort William, which was located at the foot of the tallest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis.
The town of Fort William was once the site of three distilleries: Ben Nevis, Glenlochy and Nevis. Ben Nevis and Nevis merged under the former’s name in 1907 and Glenlochy operated intermittently during the early years, having been mothballed between 1919-1924 and 1926-1937 by the owners.
The distillery was purchased by Train & MacIntyre Ltd. in 1937 and remained under its care until 1953, when the mighty Distillers Company Limited (DCL) purchased Train & MacIntyre Ltd. from parent company, National Distillers Products Corporation of North America. Apart from Glenlochy, the deal also included distilleries such as Glenesk, Benromach and Glenury Royal.
Interesting fact: One of the shareholders of Train & MacIntyre Ltd. was an eccentric Canadian gentleman by the name of Joseph Hobbs, who purchased the Ben Nevis distillery in 1955 and followed that up with Lochside distillery the year after. He installed Coffey stills at both distilleries and began producing both malt and grain whiskies, which were then blended in the warehouses and left to mature before sold as unusual single blends.
Under DCL’s ownership, Glenlochy was mothballed once again in 1968 along with Oban and Glen Garioch distilleries and was sadly closed for good in 1983 during the height of the “whisky loch” crisis which decimated the industry.
Interesting fact: Along with Glenlochy, DCL closed Glenesk, Glen Albyn, Glen Mhor, Knockdhu, Banff, Brora, North Port, St Magdalene and Dallas Dhu distilleries in 1983 and apart from Knockdhu, none of these were ever reopened. Only Dallas Dhu and Brora distilleries still stand to this day and the rest have either been partly or completely demolished, with Glenlochy and St Magdalene having been converted into flats.
The buildings belonging to the distillery were sold to West Coast Inns (and now by Lochaber Housing Association) in 1992 and they proceeded to demolish everything apart from the maltings and kilns with the pagoda roof. These buildings were converted into flats for sale and rent and still stand to this day as a reminder of Fort William’s distilling past.
When operational, the distillery sported a mash tun (size unknown), 4 wooden washbacks (29000 litres each), 1 wash still (14580 litres) and 1 spirit still (14380 litres) and was capable of producing up to 12000 litres of spirit on a weekly basis. If taken at full production and a 38 week production cycle, this would have given the distillery a production capacity of approximately 456,000 litres of pure alcohol on an annual basis.
The whiskies produced at Glenlochy were all used in various blends, including White Horse, Dewars, Johnnie Walker, Haig’s and Queen Anne.
In recent years, bottlings of Glenlochy have made it to the market, including a 26 Years Old expression which was distilled in 1969 and bottled in 1995 under the Rare Malts range. These days, expressions of Glenlochy are rather difficult to come by and it is considered to be one of the rarest single malts out there (although not as rare as Ben Wyvis or Kinclaith).
This week’s review focuses on the Glenlochy 1968 40 Years Old expression, which has been bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for their “Rare Old” range at a standard abv of 43%.
Glenlochy 1968 40 Years Old (Gordon & MacPhail “Rare Old”, 43% abv)
Colour: Deep gold
Nose: Initial entry presents a pronounced grassy note coupled with hints of parma ham, stone fruits such as apricots and peach as well as a certain soapiness which one would associate with rather expensive French soaps.
With time, floral notes emerge which are reminiscent of roses and violets and are followed by rose syrup and and earl grey tea. Even though the alcohol strength is at 43% abv, there is a slight hint of alcohol burn on the nose, which is rather interesting. (19/25)
Palate: Initial entry presents an interesting grassy and meaty note with a slight sweetness. The meatiness would definitely fall into the parma ham category and there is a fair bit of black pepper on the tip of the tongue.
The palate becomes increasingly savoury and spicy as the black pepper becomes more pronounced and the alcohol notes are rather understated when compared to the nose, preferring to linger in the background. Some of the soapiness from the nose also emerges later on and the floral elements emerge with just a bit of lightly sweetened earl grey tea. (21/25)
Finish: Medium to long on the finish, with the parma ham, grass and black pepper notes intemingling well while the floral notes recede into the background. There is a slight maritime quality which is reminiscent of good quality sea salt and this might have something to do with the distillery’s proximity to the coast (and is also something that you’d find in expressions from Ben Nevis). (20/25)
Balance: Not very sweet and rather delicate with a slight meaty edge. A fairly well-balanced and venerable old Highlander which showcases a multitude of interesting elements. Feels rather underpowered at 43% abv though and would definitely have benefitted if it was bottled at cask strength. (19/25)
This expression of Glenlochy was a rather interesting specimen and provided a good insight into the house style of a long-dead Western Highlands distillery. While it did have its complexities, I felt that the low alcohol strength held it back in some ways from fulfilling its full potential. A good dram, yes, but not a great one.
This particular expression of Glenlochy is available for purchase by the glass at The Auld Alliance whisky bar in Singapore and a half dram retails for about $28++, which is a bloody good price for a whisky as old as this.
If you are looking to experience a piece of history, then this expression of Glenlochy would be a fairly good place to start.
Until the next review, have a great week.
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