I’m pretty sure it’s the law that if you visit Scotland you have to go to at least one whisky distillery. So, to avoid being locked up abroad or a broad locked up in Scotland (:-)) a distillery visit was indeed on my itinerary for day four.
But whisky came early when my driver guide met me at my bagpipe session and essentially said: if you don’t jib jab too much after the lesson we can hit a distillery this afternoon on the way to Loch Lomond. (More on driver guide extraordinaire -John- in later posts but suffice it to say that working in a wee dram of whisky within minutes of meeting made a good first impression.)
We visit Glengoyne on day one and Glenmorangie and The Dalmore on day four.
Here’s what I learned about making whisky: (1) there are three ingredients - water, malt and yeast; (2) these ingredients are ground, mashed, fermented, distilled and aged in different types of casks from different origins; and (3) if (2) is done correctly, then, just like that you have a barrel of whisky (after 10 years)!
Despite the basic process being the same each distillery I visited had a distinct personality. Top things gleaned and my impressions about each:
Glengoyne (Valley of the Geese). As you walk up to Glengoyne and see the waterfall right in front you quickly know why it’s dubbed as Scotland’s most beautiful distillery. Glengoyne sits on the highland/lowland divide line so they make the whisky on one side of the road in the highlands and then it goes across the street and is aged in the lowlands. That is their badge of uniqueness.
Glengoyne is the only distillery of the three I toured that gave the wee dram tasting before the tour. And I liked that because while they were explaining the casking and what is done to get certain flavors in the whisky you have a reference point since you already had a taste. I also liked the way the darkening of color with aging process was displayed.
As a first time visitor to Scotland it was a delight to see Glengoyne because the property itself looks storybook. And this, I think, gives the distillery a romantic aura.
Glenmorangie. When you drive up to Glemorangie you see their signature rich mustard gold colored sign. The distillery is located right on the loch and the views are fantastic. The grounds look like a little village. Glemorangie’s uniqueness is in its’ stills. They are the highest in Scotland - as tall as a full grown giraffe (so, yes, they do sell stuffed giraffes in the gift shop).
Glemorangie does a very informative tour and I was quite impressed to learn that they receive and process 300 tons of malt a week! That’s a lot of malt! Also Glenmorangie distillery originally had sixteen men who took care of the distillation process. They were called the Sixteen Men of Tain. Today, despite a much higher production rate, the staff has only increased to twenty-three.
It was a treat to tour the grounds and taste the whisky at Glenmorangie. This distillery has a sophisticated look and feel. (It isn't surprising to learn that Glenmorangie is part of the Louis Vuitton brand. You really want to leave there with something in one of those gift bags!)
The Dalmore. The Dalmore is sitting right on the Cromarty Firth (sea). And it’s surroundings are gorgeous. The tour guide told us that a lot of times during the year seals sun on the rocks right outside their doors. What a treat that would be to see during the work day -eh? The Dalmore is unique because they have the oldest stills in Scotland - parts of one still are from 1874! Also, their stills are shaped a bit different with flat tops.
The Dalmore tour was great. Initially you learn the history behind the Royal Stag that is on every Dalmore bottle. The processes seemed less automated. We were able to see six huge vats (washers) with the malt and yeast at different stages of fermentation. Also, instead of just seeing the difference in coloring with age we were able to smell the different flavors that seeped from the casks to the whiskey at various stages through the process. And we got lucky and saw the ‘still man’ working his magic.
I’d say The Dalmore has a stately elegant atmosphere.
All in all each distillery was unique and provided a completely different experience - oh, and good whisky! The distillery tours were definitely worth the vacation time. If you’re visiting Scotland … gotta put a whisky tour on your ‘to do’ list.
Hmm. I only visited 3 of the 119 whisky distilleries here. Now I’m thinking a fun trip would be to do the Whiskey Trail in Kentucky followed by the Whisky Trail in Scotland and then do a comparison. Who wants to join me?
Happy & Safe Travels.
Come along with this southern girl on my fun travel adventures! I’m taking the tours; seeing the sites; trying out the hotels; dining at the restaurants; cruising on the cruise ships; and sharing the experiences on this blog. I hope you enjoy reading about my travel escapades and that they will be inspiring and helpful when planning your own fabulous adventures.