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Glenugie - a hidden gem among the lost distilleries

By Ruben Luyten

Glenugie - a hidden gem among the lost distilleries

Contributing for the first in a series of articles on the lost distilleries, Ruben Luyten - who runs the excellent www.whiskynotes.be - shares his thoughts on Glenugie Distillery.

Interview with the author

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The distillery

Glenugie, the easternmost distillery in Scotland, was founded in the early 1830s near Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. Production started in 1837 but its history was rather problematic. It was taken over a couple of times and in the late 19th Century it was even converted into a beer brewery. Around 1890 it started to become very successful as a whisky distillery again, but two World Wars countered its success – it was silent most of the time between 1914 and 1945. In the 1970s it really started to go downhill.

The closure

Like many other distilleries (certainly in the Eastern Highlands), Glenugie was closed during the industry crisis of 1982/1983. Both stills were dismantled and the unusual cast iron framed building was sold for purposes other than distilling. Nowadays it’s the headquarter of the Score Group (producing valves and industrial turbines). A few original warehouses remain, as well as a distiller’s house, but it’s not worth visiting for malt lovers.

Collect or drink?

No official single malt bottlings were ever released, so we have to rely on independent bottlers to give us an opportunity to taste it.

Contrary to some other closed distilleries, Glenugie bottlings are truly rare. No official single malt bottlings were ever released, so we have to rely on independent bottlers to give us an opportunity to taste it. The first known single malt bottlings were distilled in 1959 and bottled by Cadenhead in 1977/1978, worth a lot of money now. Glenugie certainly has collecting potential, but this is a malt you should have tasted as well!

House style

Michael Jackson describes Glenugie as a floral, resinous malt, sometimes medicinal. He also said “Glenugie had plenty of character, but the elements are not well combined or balanced”. In my opinion, Glenugie mixes some Speyside elements (citrus fruits, strawberries, apples, sometimes more tropical fruits) with Highlands elements (oily notes, wax, herbs).

Buyers guide

The most famous (and supposedly best) bottlings are the Sestante bird labels and the old Cadenheads, but they’re almost impossible to find. Recent offerings are relatively affordable considering their age and availability, and they are rarely disappointing.

Signatory Vintage

Signatory Vintage

Lately most releases are marketed by Signatory Vintage - a series of 1977 bourbon casks with an extra finish in oloroso casks.

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Douglas Laing

Douglas Laing

Also available are Douglas Laing's 1982 productions in the Old Malt Cask range. Cask #5040 by Douglas Laing made me realize how interesting this distillery is.

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Glenugie produced a few extraordinary gems but more importantly, the average quality seems to be very high. Personally I think it’s one of the hidden gems among the closed distilleries.