Just over an hour’s drive from Aberdeen in the heart of Speyside you find Dufftown, the Malt Whisky Capital of Scotland, here in Dufftown you find the world’s best-selling single-malt Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich is a Speyside single malt Scotch whisky owned and produced by William Grant & Sons. Glenfiddich means ‘Valley of the Deer’ in Scottish Gaelic, which explains the stag symbol on Glenfiddich bottles.
The Glenfiddich Distillery was founded in 1886 by William Grant, William set out to fulfil a lifelong ambition of having the ‘best dram in the valley’ and started building his own distillery with the help of his nine children and a single stone mason. He named it Glenfiddich, and after a year of hard labour the first drop of spirit fell from the copper stills on Christmas Day 1887.
In the 1950s, the Grant family built up a onsite infrastructure that included coppersmiths to keep up the copper stills, and a dedicated cooperage that is now one of the very few remaining in distilleries. In the 1960s and ’70s, the whisky business faced challenging times and many small, independent distillers were bought up or went out of business. In order to survive, W. Grant & Sons expanded their production and introduced advertising campaigns and a visitors’ centre. Whisky’s tourism industry started right here at Glenfiddich with the distillery opening its doors and its first visitor centre in 1969. Glenfiddich is one of the few single malt distilleries to stay entirely family owned and is now managed by the fifth generation of William Grant’s descendants.
The Glenfiddich Visitor Centre is a five-star Visit Scotland Visitor Attraction and it is certainly worthy of its five-star status. With a shop, restaurant and bar you could spend many hours here and miss everything else that is worth seeing in this beautiful part of the world.
New for 2015, Glenfiddich has developed a new tour programme and visitors are able to choose from a tailored range of three paid-for tours. The over-18s-only tours cater for all interests and budgets, from those looking for a unique behind the scenes distillery visit through to whisky enthusiasts seeking a fully immersive experience, and vary in duration from one and a half hours up to three and a half hours. We chose the Explorer Tour (£10): a fully guided tour of the distillery and warehouse including a tutored tasting of four award-winning drams.
Our visit began with a short film explaining the five generations of family ownership, we then toured the distillery itself where our guide explained all about the mashing and fermentation process.
Barley is ground into rough flour and mixed with heated spring water from the Robbie Dhu springs. The thick porridge like mixture known as ‘mash’ is then emptied into the mash tuns. Rotating knives lift the mash encouraging the fermentation.
After six hours a dark syrupy liquid called ‘wort’ is obtained. The wort is drained and cooled, the cooled wort is pumped into giant wooden fermentation vats called washbacks made from hand-built Douglas Fir.
On to distillation, following fermentation the rich brown wash runs into the wash stills where it is slowly heated almost to boiling point causing the alcohol to vaporise into the narrowing still neck.The distillery uses 28 distinctively shaped swan necked copper pot stills that are smaller than those now in use at most other distilleries. All are handmade and Glenfiddich employs a team of permanent craftsmen to maintain them.
After touring the distillery we then visited two of the warehouses where we had a look at the maturing casks. Glenfiddich is matured in oak casks such as rum casks from the Caribbean (in the case of 21 year old Gran Reserva), Bourbon whiskey barrels from America (Ancient Reserve), or sherry butts from Jerez in Spain.
Our last part of the tour and the fun part when you actually get to try the whisky is back in the tasting room for a tutored nosing and tasting of four world-renowned single malts.
A fabulous day out, I can highly recommend visiting this part of Scotland and with Glenfiddich being just one of the attractions on offer in whisky country, I will definitely be back soon to explore further.
Have any of you visited any distilleries? What is your favourite whisky?
As always I would love to hear your comments.