The Whisky Adventure Part I: Tonci’s tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland

Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.

After 36 or more hours of travel, including the world’s longest flight (Auckland to Doha) my companions and I arrived at the Glen House, our base camp for the Scotland section of our whirlwind whisky adventure.

The Glen House, build in 1771, and located on the ground of the GlenDronach would play host to 4 Kiwis and 9 Aussies for 3 nights as we visited the GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries. We were all guests of Brown-Forman who has purchased The BenRiach Distilling Company, which comprises the above distillery operations.

Our first full day was action packed, with two separate distillery tours split up by a pub lunch in Portsoy before a secret group activity and dinner in the town of Elgin.


The first stop on our tour was the Glenglassaugh Distillery, located some 200m from the waters of Sandend Bay, a short distance from the fishing town of Portsoy.

The original distillery was built in 1875, however multiple changes in ownership and the downturn of the whisky industry lead to a closure in 1907. Whilst the stills sat silently, the outbuildings at Glenglassaugh were put to a variety of uses including temporary accommodation for soldiers during WWII and the malting facilities being turned into a bakery.

Glenglassaugh - Glengarry Wines - Tonci

Reopened in 1960 by the Highland Distilleries Company, with an aim towards production of a light style Malt whisky with limited character suitable for use in blends. After several years of production, the spirit was found to be too rich and expressive for blending in volume and the distillery was again mothballed in 1986, for a further 22 years until its most recent revival began in 2008.

The malt at Glenglassaugh is milled using a famed Porteus Patent Malt Mill, a stunning piece of equipment which truly represents the saying “they don’t make ‘em like they used to”, with the producer going out of business in the 1970’s after a lack of repeat purchases, not from faults or issues but the distinct lack thereof.

The mashtun is a combination of cast iron with a copper domed top, which was almost stolen during an attempted daylight robbery by a team dressed as maintenance staff.

The fermentation at Glenglassaugh is unique within the whisky industry, taking place over an average of 80 hours and leads to the distinctly fruity notes that are found in Glenglassaugh malts.

Our tasting during our visit to the distillery included:

Glenglassaugh - Glengarry Wines - Tonci

The grey and snowy day made our short walk down to Sandend Bay with our dram of Glenglassaugh a special moment, along with the opportunity to hand pour my own bottle from the Manager’s Casks which during our visit was a bold 9 Year Old aged in a 1st fill Olorosso sherry cask.

Tonci Jakicevich

St Nesbit Vertical Tasting

On Tuesday night we were very privileged to host Dr Tony Molloy QC, and his son Sam for a spectacular vertical tasting of St Nesbit, one of New Zealand’s finest, and most interesting wines. The line-up spanned an impressive 11 vintages, from the inaugural 1984, through to the final 2011 vintage.

The vineyard was established in 1980 by Tony and his wife Petra, on 11 hectares of land on the Hingaia Peninsula. It lay in the shelter of the Drury Hills at Karaka about 30km south of Auckland City. Almost completed surrounded by an estuary of the Manukau Harbour and incredibly free draining, they originally found the site after a gilder pilot friend had said he couldn’t fly over due to the intense thermals.

The intention was to produce a Bordeaux style wine of a quality level well above anything seen in New Zealand at the time. Tony had no formal winemaking training, he was armed only with a 5000 page, multi volume winemaking guide in French, which he found in an old bookshop during a trip to Bordeaux.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Right from the beginning they employed techniques unknown in New Zealand. Wide and short open topped fermenters that were cooled by bore water. Fermentation was entirely through indigenous yeasts. A wooden lattice grid was designed to keep the cap totally submerged, meaning no need to plunge the skins and reduced oxidation. Therefore he used no sulphur at all during the process, to the great surprise of other winemakers. An unheard of 100% new French Oak was employed, and extended time in barrel of 2-3yrs.  At the time they were the largest importer of new barrels in the country, with around 80 a year. Montana was the second biggest, with two barrels! This was at a time where most wineries were still using barrels that were brought over from Europe 40yrs prior.

They only made one wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend which Tony named after his late Grandfather, NZ cricket Captain Nesbit Sneddon.  As Tony explained, “In the canon law of the Catholic Church three miracles are required of a prospective saint. We got things a little back-to-front, in that we canonised Nesbit and then waited for the miracles to turn up by way of confirmation. They duly did as our first three vintages produced two gold medals plus the trophy for the top high-priced red wine at the Royal Easter Show.” Only around 3000 bottles were produced of each vintage, so it has always been a rare treat to come across one of these wines.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

The iconic label, with its picture of the family home, had its layout and typeface shamelessly stolen from Bordeaux Chateau Pontet-Canet. The classic design has stood the test of time and changed little over the years, something other NZ wineries should take note of. They also kept them back, not releasing a vintage until they felt it was starting to drink well.

We were lucky enough this evening to taste many of the wines from the original vineyard. 1984, 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991. The 1984 and 1987 were both well past their peak but still enjoyable, and would be lovely with dinner if you like mature wines. 1989 had more fruit remaining, interestingly this vintage was Merlot dominant. The 1990 and 1991 were drinking very well. None of the older vintages fell over and were still looking very nice at the end of the night.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Unfortunately at this time leaf roll virus had spread across the vineyards, and they were forced to remove them entirely. Deciding that Cabernet Sauvignon was not the right variety for the site, they took the opportunity to replant with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. These were low vigour rootstock and planted in very high densities. St Nesbit was in fact the first to import Petit Verdot into New Zealand, an extremely frustrating and time consuming process dealing with government departments.

After a decade long hiatus, the first vintage from the new vines was the fabulous 2002. This was 60% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot and 15% Cabernet Franc. For me this wine is now drinking fantastically but will continue to hold. It shows all the elements that makes St Nesbit so special, Soft and elegant with warm savoury fruit, beautiful texture, lots of complexity, and even more character.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

We also tried the 2003 which was never released by the family, as they didn’t think the quality was high enough. Yet in one of the mysteries of wine, this came around in the bottle years later and is now looking very good.  The final vintages tasted were the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. All were looking excellent, 2011 still needs plenty of time before I’d approach this for drinking at home. There is very little of the 2011 in the market as the family kept around half the production for their own future enjoyment.

They did make a 2010, which Sam described as being the greatest harvest they had ever seen. Having tasted it earlier this week, the wine is magnificent. With over three years in new oak it reminds me of a great Gran Riserva Rioja. It’s still a bit closed and the oak needs more time to integrate, so it will not be released until 2020 when it should really be hitting its stride. A fitting end to the St Nesbit story.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Unfortunately urban sprawl had finally made its way to Karaka. For twenty five years the Molloy family were the third house from the motorway off ramp, now there are over 2000 in between. With neighbours who didn’t appreciate birdshot landing in their washing, and skyrocketing rates, it was unsustainable to continue. For those lucky enough to have vintages of St Nesbit in their cellars, these wines will thankfully continue to bring enjoyment for decades to come.

Marlborough Pinot Noir Safari 2018

The Marlborough Pinot Safari is a collaboration event by 10 wineries in Marlborough whose focus is Pinot Noir. These winemakers and wineries all have very similar ethos and winemaking practices, whilst producing an array of differing styles of Pinot Noir. Marlborough is so well known for the Sauvignon Blanc produced in the area, and while all these wineries produce Sauvignon Blanc, their primary focus and for lack of a better word, passion, is Pinot Noir. The wineries involved in this event were Auntsfield, Churton, Dog Point Vineyard, Fromm Winery, Greywacke, Terravin, Nautilus Estate, Seresin, Spy Valley and Villa Maria Wines. The aim of the game is to show a different side of Marlborough Pinot Noir and how the sub regions can produce such different wines stylistically. Glengarry Wines‘ Hannah Beaumont writes about her experience.

Glengarry Wines Marlborough Pinot Safari 4

The Safari

Our day started at 9am with a glass of Seresin Moana Zero Dosage Methode at the top of Calrossie Vineyard which houses the vines for Terravin Pinot Noir. From here we all piled into the convoy of 4 wheel drive utes, and started our off road journey. Travelling first towards the Awatere Valley, through the back of vineyards, travelling down to the Nautilus Awatere River vineyard. This was stop number two for a wine tasting:

  • Terravin Pinot Noir 2012
  • Terravin Pinot Noir 2015
  • Villa Maria Taylors Pass Pinot Noir 2015
  • Nautilus Awatere Pinot Noir 2015

Glengarry Wines Marlborough Pinot Safari


After this we headed down to the Awatere River to have a good look at the riverbank, this put a great image to the words the winemakers were saying when talking about the soil type in the Awatere, the layers of loess (silty sediment) and deep free draining gravel.

Glengarry Wines Marlborough Pinot Safari

After this pit stop it was onwards towards the Wairau Valley, via the windy roads of Taylors Pass (you would not want to come across a logging truck on this road!) travelling through Fairhall to Auntsfield. Here we stopped again, greeted by Sammy the vineyard dog, ready for another wine tasting. Set up in the Auntsfield barn we were here to try another 3 wines:

  • Auntsfield SV Southern Valleys Pinot Noir 2015
  • Auntsfield Hawk Hill Pinot Noir 2015
  • Villa Maria SV ‘The Attorney’ Pinot Noir

Glengarry Wines Marlborough Pinot Safari


Carrying on from here, we travelled through Brancott Valley, passing through the Greywacke vineyards, and a quick pit stop at Clayvin vineyard. Clayvin vineyard was Marlborough’s first significant hillside vineyard, organically run, clay soils and 24 year old vines produce fruit with high concentration, structure and tannin. Now owned by Giesen wines and used by Te Whare Ra and Fromm also. Pressing on, we then went back roads through vineyards and ended up at the Dog Point property. Beautifully laid out and abundant with fruit trees and exotic foliage, vineyards littered around the property and well spaced out, they are all about the look and feel of the property, they’re not trying to cram in as much as possible. Here we stopped in at the Bell Tower for another tasting and lunch (shout out to The Burleigh and your incredible pies!) Wines were:

  • Greywacke Pinot Noir 2015
  • Greywacke Pinot Noir 2012
  • Dog Point Pinot Noir 2015
  • Dog Point Pinot Noir 2012
  • Fromm Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard 2016

After leaving Dog Point we headed off in the direction of Spy Valley’s Outpost Vineyard. Making a quick stop at the famous Seresin vineyard site of Sun and Moon (I was massively fangirling by now) Rapou, Leah and Rachael, then on to Spy Valley to try some more wines:

What a treat.

Glengarry Wines Marlborough Pinot Safari

We rounded off the day by with the final leg of the journey, heading west, over the Omaka river and finishing off at Churton in the Waihopai Valley for our last tasting. Perched atop a slope overlooking a majority of the Churton vineyards (cleverly named after cuts of a cow), certified organic wines and biodynamically farmed.

Wines we tried here:

  • Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir 2012
  • Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir 2015
  • Churton Pinot Noir 2015
  • Churton Pinot Noir 2013

Glengarry Wines Marlborough Pinot Safari

The day was incredibly well thought out, educational and well integrated. It was like having a backstage pass to the Marlborough Pinot Noir scene. It was such an eye opener for me, and being someone who has always had a soft spot for Marlborough Pinot Noir, it was like a wine nerd’s dream day out. Go on, try some Marlborough Pinot!

Glengarry Wines Marlborough Pinot Safari