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More than just distillery tours

By Paul Breen

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NO visit to Speyside would be complete without a tour round a distillery – and these will be on offer in abundance over the festival long weekend.

Two of the few that remain open over the winter months are Glen Grant at Rothes and Glenfiddich at Dufftown – and both offer different types of experiences.

Each year around 10,000 visitors take a trip round Glen Grant Distillery – from connoisseurs to whisky rookies and they can choose from a range of activities from guided tours and private tastings of a wide and extensive range of whiskies.

Now part of the Campari drinks company, the visitor areas have been given a makeover with a bright reception area and new cafe.

But Glen Grant is not just a distillery, it boasts a delightful garden and woodland walk by the burn and picnic area making it day out for all the family.

When James Grant founded his distillery in Speyside, he built an elegant Victorian garden and walk which has recently been restored to their full original glory. A small path winds its way up the garden passing flowerbeds and lawns, criss-crossing the stream and leading to a little cave where Major Grant kept his own private Glen Grant barrel.

I had the pleasure of sampling a 25-year-old dram there accompanied by a drop of water straightfrom the burn – a superb drink in stunning surroundings.

Meanwhile, the experience is decidedly whisky orientated at Glenfiddich Distilley, home to the world’s best selling single malt and still one of the few remaining independent distillers in family ownership.

Little has changed at many areas of the Glenfiddich complex since 1886, when William Grant and his nine children build the distillery with their bare hands, but a swish visitor centre and hospitality areas and kitchens cater for the large numbers of visitors, guests and private hires.

Basic tours are free but a more instense two-and-half hour connoisseur tour is also avalable culminating in a tutored nosing and tasting session of a selection of Glenfiddich’s finest whiskies.

Our intensive tour was given by senior guide Bert Macor, a Dutchman whose knowledge and enthusiasm for whisky was as intense as some of the flavours produced in the Glenfiddich range and whose love of the product led him to relocate to Speyside a number of years ago.

He even managed to convert my wife Anne, not a whisky drinker, to the delights of Glenfiddich’s superb 18-year-old single malt – no mean feat, but not so good for my drinks cabinet.

Each visit starts with a film about the history of the distillery, and then a guided look at the very heart of the operation where the heat can be felt rising from the mash tun and a close-up of the giant washbacks, hand-made from Douglas fir and five metres high. There’s also a look at one of the traditional warehouses, whose earthen floors and stone walls nurture the famous whisky.

As at Glen Grant, the basic tour finishes with the opportunity to nose and taste this world famous Speyside single malt

• For more details on Glen Grant, contact 01340 832 118 or visit www.glengrant.com

• Contact 1340 820 373 or visit www.glenfiddich.co.uk for more details on Glenfiddich.

Tasty treats go down well

FANCY a homemade dark chocolate raspberry truffle with your 15-year-old Linkwood single malt?

No? Does it seem like a disgusting mix and waste of two tasty treats?

Well I can assure you that, much to my surprise, they both completely complement each other and slip down a treat.

Food is becoming as important an ingredient as whisky in the Spirit of Speyside Festival – and leading the way is Elgin-based malt whisky specialist Gordon and MacPhail.

This year company is running a series of whisky and food pairing events during the festival, the most curious one being single malts and chocolate, while others will involve cheeses and meats.

Marc Angus put us through a test tasting for the big events at its large shop in Elgin which holds huge range of whiskies (a number rare and exclusive), bottles ales and fine foods.

And the Linkwood mix wasn’t a one-off hit, a 10-year-old Benromach single malt was a fine accompaniement for a plain dark chocolate truffle – or was it the other way round.

The Benromach malt is part of a range from the distillery near Forres which is now part of family owned and managed Gordon and MacPhail which also has a large wholesale and bottling arm in Elgin.

Over the course of the festival the company will be hosting a series of whisky tasting events from its extensive range.

• For more details, contact 01343 545111 or visit www.gordonandmacphail.com

The woodland walk at Glen Grant, Rothes.
The woodland walk at Glen Grant, Rothes.

The woodland walk at Glen Grant, Rothes.

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