gavin smith

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Whisky News, June 2015

by Gavin D Smith

Visitors on the up

According to recently-published Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) survey, Scotland's distilleries are attracting more visitors than ever before. Last year saw more than 1.5 million people passing through the doors of distillery visitor centres - including the recently opened Kingsbarns in Fife - an increase of six per cent over 2013 and 12 per cent up on the 2010 figure. The largest proportion of visitors came from Scotland and other parts of the UK, along with Germany, the USA and France. Between then they spent almost £50 million - an average per head spend of £32.50. Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association deputy chief executive, says that "During Scotland's Year of Food and Drink, and particularly during the Whisky Month of May, our survey shows just how many people want to visit distilleries to see how Scotch Whisky is made, try a dram and buy a bottle to take home to family and friends. Every year, distilleries are attracting more visitors from the UK and all parts of the globe. "Scotch whisky producers are investing in their centres and shops to give visitors the best possible experience. As well as providing another source of income for producers, the increasing number of visitors is good for the wider Scottish economy. Visitors are spending more at distilleries and are likely to being doing the same with other businesses, including hotels and restaurants. It also helps put Scotland on the map."

Visitors flow into Scapa

Meanwhile, in the Orkney Isles, Scapa distillery has joined the ranks of distilleries open to the public for the first time, giving whisky aficionados a second Orcadian distillery to explore alongside the legendary Highland Park. Scapa has a 130-year history, and according to a Chivas Brothers' spokesperson, "Visits to Scapa include a tour of the traditional, manually-operated production methods, including the only whisky Lomond still in Scotland, and a walk along the front of the distillery to see Scapa Flow, the natural harbour separating each of the Orkney Islands. Visitors also have the opportunity to explore a traditional Orcadian warehouse as well as to taste the revered Scapa 16 Year Old expression, which is available to purchase in the visitor centre gift shop." Brian MacAulay, Distilling Manager at Scapa, adds that "It is a great honour to be able to open the doors to the history and craft production processes here at Scapa distillery, which have been the secret of precious few artisans over the last hundred years. I have personally taken pleasure in removing our 'No Visitors' sign and I know I speak on behalf of the team here in saying that we can't wait to see Scapa Distillery form an interesting, educative and welcoming part of the Orkney community." Scapa visitor centre will be open to adults seven days per week until Friday 28th September 2015, and then five days per week until Friday 13th November 2015, from 9:30am until 5pm.

Grouse on tour

Back down in Perthshire, one distillery that is certainly not a virgin when it comes to public access is Glenturret, home to The Famous Grouse Experience, and regularly host to more than 80,00 visitors per year. The distillery has launched a new line-up of tours, ranging from the one-hour Distillery Experience Tour, through Tasting Experience and Warehouse Experience tours to the Blending Experience. As the Famous Grouse folk put it, "Enjoy an in-depth distillery tour followed by a guided nosing and tasting session in our specially-built sample room within the warehouses. Your knowledgeable host will then test your sensory skills with our Malt Challenge and guide you in the art of blending your very own whisky. Included is a tasting of four exceptional premium Glenturret single malts and the opportunity to sample a range of whiskies whilst creating your own blend. Finally, receive a 100ml unique blend and certificate." For the truly dedicated, and costing £250 per person, there is also the full-day Stillman Experience. Here, the participants receive "Unrivalled access to the unique world of whisky production. Spend the morning with Glenturret's head stillman, witnessing all aspects of the production process. Then join our expert drammolier to learn the art of blending including the creation of your very own blend to take home." More information is available at

Glenturret steps forward

While it is home to The Famous Grouse Experience, Glenturret distillery itself and the single malt it produces often seem to be overlooked, but owners The Edrington Group are in the process of altering all that. Glenturret is the only distillery in Scotland where hand-mashing occurs in the open mashtun, and still cut points are made at the behest of the eyes of experienced operators. Using the slogan By Hand and By Heart' to emphasise the craft element of Glenturret, versions of three single malt expressions which were previously exclusive to The Whisky Shop chain have been tweaked, increased in strength to 46%abv and repackaged and offered for general release. The trio are The Glenturret Peated Edition, The Glenturret Sherry Edition and The Glenturret Triple Wood, matured in a combination of first-fill Spanish oak sherry butts, refill American oak hogsheads and first-fill former Bourbon barrels. Additionally, Glenturret has released a 28-year-old single cask bottling named the Brock Malloy Edition. Just 240 bottles are available, exclusively online, at a cost of £200 per bottle. According to Neil Cameron, Distillery Manager at Glenturret, "In 1986, Chic Brock and Hugh Malloy were the two stillmen here, lovingly crafting a Highland single malt in Perthshire, the same traditional way their relatives had 100 years before. You can taste the passion and the fine workmanship in the liquid. This has to be one of the best Glenturret malts I have ever tried."

And finally…

Ireland's distillery-building boom continues apace, with the latest news being that US distiller Brown-Forman - owner of Jack Daniels - has acquired the Slane Castle Irish whiskey brand and plans to spend $50 million developing a distillery on the Slane Castle estate in County Meath. This follows the official opening of the Teeling Distillery in Dublin last month - the first new distillery in the Irish capital for 125 years.

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