And so we reach the pinnacle of the Glengoyne core range. Well, close enough in any case – my budget doesn’t extend to the 25 year-old unfortunately, but this 21 year-old remains just about affordable. Like its older sibling, it’s matured exclusively in sherry casks, predominantly first-fill European oak. For what it’s worth, I would love to see an old bourbon-matured Glengoyne, but that’s a conversation for another time.
Nose: This is autumnal sherry, full of red fruit, leaves on a forest bed and a very discreet (and not at all sulphury) mushroom note. The ‘traditional’ sherry notes are all there, so you can expect Christmas cake, dark chocolate, stewed fruit and cinnamon, but this isn’t exclusively sweet – it’s balanced by those earthy and savoury notes. Quite some honey too.
Palate: Sweet and sour – this is more tannic than the nose suggests, with some assertive bitter oak spices complemented by dark chocolate and berries. Caramel and fudge also make an appearance, and the cinnamon is more prominent than on the nose. What I like about this is that it doesn’t have a generic heavily sherried signature – the casks haven’t overwhelmed the spirit and the Glengoyne character is clearly identifiable. The texture is quite light – this is no Glenfarclas or Glendronach.
Finish: Medium. Sweet to begin with, but drying quite quickly, ending on a bitter wood note.
Comments: When other sherried whiskies are all about bold, in-your-face flavours, the 21 year-old Glengoyne is the epitome of elegance. However, It’s difficult to find the right balance of water to add – it brings out a more youthful side which is always welcome in my book, but also makes the finish a tad too bitter. It’s a great whisky to get to know, with many layers, but I have to be in the mood for it. Sometimes I rate it in the high-80s, others at around 84-85, so let’s split the difference.
Score: 86/100 (It’s maybe a bit harsh to give it the same score as the 12 and the 18 year-olds – at its best, the 21 is my favourite, but the scores also reflect how all-around approachable and consistent the other two are compared to the more mercurial 21.)