Working in the whisky industry I have toured many of the distilleries in Scotland, I have even been lucky enough to poke around a few distilleries closed to the public.
When not working, I will often use my personal time to visit as many distilleries as possible. Over the last 2 days I have been on a tour of both Glen Garioch and Benromach. They are both whiskies that I am personally very fond of, and distilleries that I have never been round.
This beautiful, ancient distillery, sits right in the heart of the village of Old Meldrum. It is intertwined with the community, and is a lovely sight to see passing through the village.
Upon heading into the visitor centre I was greeted by 2 cheery members of staff: Fiona and Pom, it would be Pom that would host the tour. Both were very friendly and we had a good chat before the tour started. The tour was the “Wee tasting tour” which I would recommend to anyone wanting to learn a decent amount about the distillery and enjoy some fantastic drams.
We had a brief introduction just outside in the sun, covering the usual: health and safety, where everyone was from etc.… it was a medium sized group mostly made up of locals and two Germans. Pom was very clear and kept the group entertained. She informed us that Glen Garioch is a mixture of Gaelic and Doric – A local dialect, which is almost a language in itself – We had good fun going over some Doric phrases for the members of the group that did not understand. We then proceeded to the tour of the distillery.
The tour was great, and incredibly informative. Discussing not just the distillation process but covering all aspects, even that Glen Garioch was once more famous for their tomatoes than the whisky! They used to divert excess heat from the production process to heat greenhouses on site and manufacture tomatoes.
Of course every good tour ends with a tasting, after all wandering round production really works up a thirst. Unfortunately I was driving and unable to participate in the tasting. However, Pom very kindly provided little bottles with the whiskies that we would be trying so that I could enjoy them at home.
All in all it was a fantastic tour, I would highly recommend that anyone in the area takes the time to swing by this distillery. Enjoy a tour a dram and good company.
I was also lucky enough to head to Benromach distillery in Forres. This is a stunning white distillery with a tall red chimney is easily spotted from road and rail. A short walk from the station you find yourself smelling the distillery before you can see it, passing warehouses and production to get to the visitor centre.
I got a place on the Classic tour which starts off with a short video, then we were lead through the distillery by Greame. A man who has been working in a number of different distilleries and has a wealth of knowledge. You learn that the distillery was designed by the infamous Charles Doig, who designed Benromach and Dallas Dhu distilleries as mirror images. The distillery was closed and cannibalised in the 1980’s and then purchased by Gordon & MacPhail in 1993, they spent several years rebuilding production inside the shell of the old distillery, even though they have changed a lot to the shapes and sizes of equipment the spirit is surprisingly close to that of the old Benromach distillery.
They make everting in a very traditional manner, using wooden receivers, washbacks and even the vat to hold the spirit in the filling store.
All the spirit is filled into first fill casks, which compliments the weight of the whisky. These casks will remain in the dunnage warehouses at the distillery for the duration of the maturation.
Again the tour ends with a tasting of the standard Benromach 10 Year Old, which is an incredibly complex dram, which sets the bar high for standard releases.
Both of these distilleries are fantastic palaces to visit by yourself, or as part of a group – just make sure that you are not driving – I doubt that it will be too long before I return.