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Friday, August 24, 2018

Pre-Birthday Whisky: Glenugie 31 year old 1977 Signatory, cask 7

A Glenugie! My only Glenugie. What is a Glenugie?

Glenugie was a distillery on the east coast of the Highlands that permanently shuttered one year short of its 150th birthday in 1983. The facility was closed at least five times during that period and once had a brewery tacked on. The distillery had one whole pair of stills and was once owned by Whitbread & Co. (aka Long John Distillers) who also owned Ben Nevis and Laphroaig at the time.

Glenugie single malt is scarce. Like really scarce. I don't think there's been a release in six years, which makes one wonder if there's any more Ugie left to Glen. Is it endangered or extinct? Either way, I am going to drink this one from Signatory. It had a secondary maturation of seven years in a sherry butt after spending its first 24 years in (2?) hogsheads.

Distillery: Glenugie
Region: Eastern Highlands
Independent Bottler: Signatory Vintage
Age: 31 years (December 20, 1977 - September 14, 2009)
Maturation: 24 years in hogsheads + 7 years in a sherry butt
Cask #: 7
Outturn: 577
Alcohol by Volume: 58.1%
(Sample from a paid event, years ago)

Its color is a rich reddish brown. An active sherry cask? The nose begins with a riot of exotic fruit, like mango and papaya and things I don't know the name of. That's followed by sea brine, hot fudge, purple Mr. Sketch scented marker and in-season dark red cherries. With 30+ minutes in the glass, the whisky picks up coffee ice cream and prune notes, then focuses on chocolate-covered cherries and the sea. The palate goes in a different direction. A filthy sherry cask direction. Sooty and grungy and metallic. But it's also loaded with sweet oranges and blackberries. Hard ginger candy. A little bit of heat. Simple overall, but big. The long, warm finish is mostly metal, soil and tobacco with a hint of pears.

That was a lot of words. How about a little bit of water?

DILUTED TO 50%abv, or 1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
This shifts the nose into classic sherry cask territory. Dried stone fruits and dried berries, with some oak spice and tobacco. Then halvah, pencil graphite and a hint of vanilla. The palate gets oakier, bitterer and drying. It feels as if the water closed it up. It's salty and tangy. Limes and a little bit of that pencil graphite. It finishes sweeter and tarter than the palate. Still some wood bitterness in there, along with metallic moments.

The good news first. This was a hell of thing when neat. It has one of the best sniffers I've sniffed this year. The palate's dual dimensions are both pretty darn solid. The finish has a great length to it, but not much else, which is curious considering the age, strength and mix of oaks.

Adding water sunk it, though, unveiling both generic sherry notes and aggressive oak. A bummer. And the less I say about it the better.

At full power it delivers a full experience, and never reads as hot as one would think with its big ABV. The contrast between the nose and mouth works as a strength, I only wish there was more to the finish. It's a fine whisky, though. I wish Glenugie wasn't limited to the Serges, Sukhinders and White Fedoras of the world, but that's where we are and there's no going back now.

Availability - Secondary market in Europe
Pricing - probably north of $500
Rating - 89 (neat only!)

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