Thursday, 27th April
After a good night’s sleep in the beautiful Station Hotel in Rothes , it was finally time for our first event at the Spirit of Speyside festival 2017. Although the Macallan Distillery would be our first event, we decided to go for a walk to Glen Grant. Across the street from the hotel and just enough time for a tour, we were on our way.
The Glen Grant Distillery was founded in 1840, by brothers John and James Grant. Both men were former illegal distillers and smugglers, but this time they decided to start a legal distillery. So they have joined forces and they built an enormous distillery, for that time. Today, Glen Grant has become one of the world’s best selling whiskies.
Distillery tour at Glen Grant
We were a little too early for the tour, which was not bad at all, as the distillery is surrounded by the most beautiful gardens. James Grant had built these gardens, as he wanted to celebrate the natural beauty of the area. That plan was certainly succesful, these gardens are stunning!
The tour was quite basic and lasted about 45 minutes, but it showed all the elements you want to see on a tour. After visiting one of the warehouses, the tour ends with a tasting of two of their expressions.
Not a bad way to start the day, there are worse things in life. 😉
Next stop: The Macallan Distillery! A great opportunity to see the old distillery for the last time (or at least for me), as they are building a new distillery and visitor’s centre which is scheduled to open in spring 2018.
The Six Pillars at The Macallan
Despite the heavy construction work, it is clear to see how beautiful the Macallan estate really is. The estate covers 390 acres (158 hectares), of which 90 acres is used to grow their own barley. The rest of the land is used for other purposes such as cattle, woodland and grassland. The new distillery is also located here, just on the other side of the Easter Elchies house. With its grass roof it seems to blend into the surroundings very well and I’m curious how it looks when all the construction work is done.
We started with a tour in the distillery. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures but the tour was quite informative and a good experience as well. Nice too see all aspects of distilling whisky, their odd small stills (the smallest ones on Speyside), and to visit one of the warehouses.
After the tour is done, we were treated to a whisky tasting, which included four whiskies and their ‘new make’. The Select Oak and the 18 year old Fine Oak were the favourites in our group.
Leaving The Macallan estate behind, we had a quick lunch (a lovely picnic actually) at the Craigellachie Bridge. Lucky for us the sun was just shining, as it was quite cloudy weather that day. Then it was onwards to Elgin for a cask strength tasting at Gordon MacPhail.
Known for their nice and very big range of independent bottlings and owner of Benromach, they also have a retail shop in Elgin and this is were the tasting was held. The shop was openend in 1895 and it is still in the same building as where they started. Besides whisky (even more than 1.000!) they also sell cheese, hand finished chocolate, high quality groceries and wine. Absolutely worth a visit!
A Cask Strength Selection at Gordon and MacPhail
The tasting itself is held in the tasting room above the shop, where we were treated to a flight of five whiskies, all bottled without the addition of water. I love the raw character of cask strength whiskies and the beauty of these whiskies is that you can delute it yourself and every drop of water changes the palate.
Neil Urquhart led us with lots of humor and interesting facts about Gordon & MacPhail through the tasting. There was a lot of diversity in this tasting, including Speyside whiskies to Islay whiskies. And that was exactly what made this tasting so interesting. The humor of Neil and his interaction with the people at the tasting worked well.
These were the whiskies:
- Speyburn 2006/2016, 59,2% ABV.
- Glentauchers 1998 / 2016, 56,8% ABV.
- Ardmore 2002 / 2016, 57,5% ABV.
- Bruichladdich 1994 / 2016, 56,2% ABV.
- Caol Ila 2005 / 2016, 57,3% ABV.
The most interesting to me were the Glentauchers (quite an underrated distillery, if you ask me) and surprisingly the Bruichladdich. The last one, was quite different of what I am used to from Bruichladdich. A nice one.
This tasting was all about exploring and I absolutely enjoyed it!
After a good start of the Spirit of Speyside Festival 2017, we ended the day at the Opening Ceilidh at the Glen Moray Distillery. And after a good dinner and some nice drams, what would you do then? Exactly you do some exercises, and than in the form of a Ceilidh. I can say that this is really top sport and James Campbell has definitely a lot more energy than I have, but it was good fun!
It was a beautiful end to a long day full of amazing events. Tired and satisfied.