I don’t want to upset my friends who live there (sorry Graeme and Frannie) but Rothes is not the most quant or prettiest town in Moray. In fact it looks rather drab and ugly to be honest as you drive down the hill from Elgin, staring straight into the waste processing plant and the fabrication sheds. Yet when you come into Glen Grant Distillery you find a tranquil spot of real beauty that would surprise you if you didn’t know it was there.
They not only have lovely distillery buildings but the beautiful gardens are a delight, especially the walk up the gorge past the Major’s cave (I won’t give too much away, you have to go and have a look for yourself). The garden is a haven for wildlife and we were fortunate enough to spot buzzards, dippers and grey wagtails among other species on our day there.
You may also be fortunate and spot the dsitillery manager Dennis Malcolm. I’ve known Dennis for a good few years now, having sold malted barley to him in a previous role. He was always the “nice guy” in our malt supply review meetings and is indeed one of the real nice guys of the Scotch whisky industry.
I’ve been through Glen Grant a number of times in the recent past, and this was the first time I’d seen it in production. The other visits were great though as I got to look inside the stills and the purifiers (a rather unique feature of Glen Grant). It’s also good to go when they are not in production as you may be fortunate enough to see the bottling hall running; the site bottles all their product as well as producing spirit but they only do one operation at a time.
When you visit you will notice the purifiers on all the stills, but you will also see that the stills are really quite tall. This results in much more reflux during the distillation process and helps to deliver a new make spirit that is light and fruity, fresh and clean. The majority of this spirit is matured in ex-bourbon American oak, enhancing the delicate flavours to produce a rather light, sweet and fruity malt whisky.
The two main products (and the two you will taste if you visit and go on a tour) are the Major’s Reserve and the 10 year old. Both are wonderfully light examples of bourbon cask whisky and are very easy to drink. They are really pale in colour, but don’t let that put you off; remember it is not always the darker the better. They are sweet and fruity on the nose, with vanilla prevalent in the Major’s Reserve, but more toffee, menthol and apple freshness in the 10 year old. They are both lovely on the palate, creamy and buttery to taste, and also minty fudge in evidence. The 10 year old was fuller and had a better finish than the Major’s Reserve, but that’s to be expected.
We were very fortunate on our visit and get a wee sip of the Five Decades, a whisky developed to celebrate the five decades that Dennis has been involved with Glen Grant (he started there in 1961, yes 1961!). You could detect the sherry casks and aged whisky in this expression, with a woody and earthy nose coming through with the toffee and sweetness; and the finish was very long and satisfying.
Recommendation of the Month
The Glen Grant 10 year old is a whisky for both “experts” and “novices”. If you are new to whisky it is light and delicate, but it also has many flavours and aromas for all whisky lovers to enjoy. At £27 from the distillery this is my recommendation for the month (and I also recommend that you go for a visit).