I may as well begin my long series of reports on our recent trip to Scotland with a look at the first distillery we visited: Glen Grant. It had not originally been on my list of places to stop at in the Speyside—where we rented a house with friends for a weekend after our time in Edinburgh. But Florin recommended it as a distillery where there’d be a lot for non-whisky-crazed members of the party to do, and so we stopped in. Florin was right. Though I didn’t do it the way I think he’d meant I should: me touring the distillery while the others wandered the grounds. As on our last trip to Scotland, I didn’t want to spend most of my time inside distilleries, doing repetitive tours. Especially when a distillery like Glen Grant has something truly unusual outside it: expansive and very attractive grounds. And so I joined everybody else in the gardens, where the kids ran and played and had a grand old time for almost an hour. It was a very good whisky-free introduction to whisky country.
It’s an attractive distillery as a whole. It’s very well manicured and you can tell by looking at it that the owners, the Campari Group, mean it to be their public face in Scotland (I think this is the only distillery they own in Scotland). Unlike several other distilleries, Glen Grant doesn’t allow you to even get close to production buildings if you’re not on a tour (very different from the other, much smaller distillery we stopped at later in the day). Accordingly, I have here images of the grounds and the visitor centre and of some random distillery buildings; I have no glimpses of stills or casks in a warehouse.
The visitor centre is large, bright and attractive, with indoor and outdoor seating and tasting areas. As is the style these days, the shop sells as much paraphernalia—from shirts to bags—as it does whisky. I did not see a distillery exclusive on offer—but I also wasn’t looking very hard as my whisky purchase plans did not include Glen Grant; they did, however, have this year’s Spirit of Speyside festival bottling and we purchased a 200 ml bottle of that to drink during our stay (more on this soon). Separate from the visitor centre is an attractive cafe which carries a range of hot and cold beverages as well as pastries and so forth. A good place to start the day and it would also be a good distillery to visit in the late afternoon for this reason. And I suppose at lunch too, as they have soups available from 11.30 on.
The better reason, however, at any time of the day, is the grounds. Glen Grant does a regulation tour for £7.50 that ends with tasting of two whiskies in their gardens and they also do a tour for £5 which only involves the tasting in the gardens. But you are also free to wander the gardens on your own if you like (and they even have a picnic area); indeed, you can get to the gardens without even going to the visitor centre. Wandering the gardens on our own is what we did (well, the missus sat and enjoyed a coffee outside the cafe while the rest of us enjoyed the gardens). We were very lucky here in that we arrived right after they opened on a Saturday morning. We had the gardens to ourselves. As we were leaving the gardens, a large group was descending on it with a tour guide. And as we were leaving the distillery, an even larger coach party was entering.
Well, here are a lot of pictures of the gardens, the visitor centre and various distillery buildings.
Well, I did say it was going to be a lot of photographs—just imagine how much worse it would have been if I’d actually done the fucking tour (though I’m not sure if they allow photography).
By the way, while everybody at Glen Grant was friendly enough, the general atmosphere was on the formal side—I’m sure it’s different on a tour. If you’ve done the tour (or the tasting in the gardens) please write in below and let people who are looking for actually useful information know if it is in fact worth doing.
Next up on the distillery report front: Glen Moray, which is an altogether smaller operation with a very different feel. After Glen Moray I’ll have looks at Strathisla, Glenfiddich, Cragganmore, Aberlour (which I actually toured) and Glenfarclas, in that order. And then we’ll head to the highlands and Orkney.