Planet of the Grapes is a boutique wine shop located in New Oxford Street in central London. While they specialise in bringing small independent wine producers and vineyards products to a wider audience, they also do the same with selected spirits. At a recent wine tasting at the shop, an opportunity arose to try their single cask bottling of Glenglassaugh. The distillery is located on the edge of the Speyside region, close to the small town of Portsoy, approximately 50 miles to the northwest of Aberdeen. Glenglassaugh was originally opened in 1875 and had a reasonably turbulent history littered with closures and re-openings until its stills fell silent for the final time in 1986. Even during production periods, it was difficult to find any bottlings from the distillery as its primary function was to produce whisky to go into famous blended whiskies like the Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark. However, following over 20 years of mothballing (the procedure where a distillery remains intact and ready to go again, but not producing), Glenglassaugh was taken off the hands of the Edrington Group by a Dutch company called Scaent. They have completely refurbished the site and production restarted in November 2008. The distillery was re-opened by the MP Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland.
Planet of the Grapes have purchased just a single cask of this rare whisky and only have a few bottles left. It has been matured in an Armagnac cask, which is one of the more unusual casks for maturing whisky. The colour is a dark chocolate brown, indicating a lot of influence from the wood. The nose is rich and fruity with lots of dried fruit (think of raisins, sultanas and candied peel). On the palate, the whisky is very smooth, feeling creamy and extremely rich. That dried fruit is everywhere, especially orange candied peel and this is joined by some honey, a distinct nuttiness (walnuts, i think) and some spicy ginger. As this is bottled at cask strength (52.4% abv), i added a splash of water and this exaggerated the dried fruitiness especially. The finish was warming and long but maybe a bit bitter for my taste. It was interesting to try this but while it was a good experiment, my personal feeling was that the strength of flavour from the wood was too much and masked the whisky character. It was overpowered by the armagnac characteristics and the length of time in that cask made the finish very woody and bitter. The result is that it feels like you are drinking a stronger than usual Armagnac. If you would like a bottle, then you need to hurry down to Planet of the Grapes. A bottle will cost you £60.