#5.2 Run through the stills

Race day and Glen Garioch

(Day 2 & 3)


After weeks of training, the race is finally here! And after the run, a well-deserved trip to Glen Garioch distillery. 

(missed Day 1?)

The day of the Dramathon is here, finally! We woke up very rested after a dram-less night. Off to a quick breakfast (toasts and jam for Gianluigi, a huuuuge porridge bowl for Teresa), then we drove to Dufftown to the race meeting point, the Glenfiddich distillery parking lot. Because of Decathlon gear colour choices and a lack of attention, Gianluigi looked like a smurf…at least he matched Cliff!

The RunnerSmurf.

At this point our destinies separated, Gianlugi took the “half-dram” (i.e. half marathon) coaches to get to the start at the Tamdhu station, while a bit later Teresa got to the “wee dram” (i.e. 10k) start in Aberlour.

G.: As usual, I was a bit nervous before the race started. The day was ideal to run: not-too-cold and sunny-ish. The first part of the trail, along the former Speyside train line, was mostly downhill, therefore I could keep a nice and steady pace. A few kms in, I could admire the newly built Dalmunach distillery, on the site of the now demolished Imperial: a truly beautiful building, which I hope to visit someday. The middle of the course is in the Aberlour village, and from this point it’s almost all (very mildly) uphill. My GPS was a bit wrong about both the total ascent (180m on paper vs. 80m on my device) and the distance (900m short)…when I saw the Balvenie distillery I realised that I was about to finish, so I sprinted towards the end line, finishing in about 1 hour and 25 minutes. It was a very nice experience, and I loved the course, probably one of the best I ran so far (not that they are many…). The prize was quite fitting for the event: a wooden medal from a dismissed cask and four 50ml miniatures: Balvenie 12, Glenfiddich 12, Monkey Shoulder and Glenfarclas 12 (unfortunately, no Tamdhu, which I’d have loved!).

The prize: Speyside drams and the original “medal”.

T.: I strongly disagree with Gianluigi’s “not too cold”. After waiting 2 hours for the bus (with just a wee stop at the Dufftown whisky shop to nose around) and then at least half an hour for the race to start, I can safely say that it was freezing! Not too bad, as I normally perform (well, survive) better when it’s cold. I don’t have much to add on the course itself (the 10k course was the same as the second part of the half marathon), except that it was very enjoyable. The view of the huge warehouses as I was approaching Dufftown was stunning. Same prize at the end except for the Glenfarclas (fair enough, it was still the wee dram), and I was soooo happy for making it under the hour!

Hooray? Hooray!

After Teresa finished, we grabbed a warm soup and tea while waiting for the award ceremony and went back to the hotel in Rothes. A bit of relax sipping from the hardly earned miniatures, a shower, and for dinner we had a special plan: we had booked a table at the Station Hotel. This hotel/bar/restaurant is owned by the Forsyth company, and according to some is the place where the really important whisky meetings happen. We treated outselves with adult-cow meat and a delicious dessert. Then, a few drams at the bar (worth of mention, the now dismissed Arran 14y) before going back to the hotel for a well-deserved sleep.

We woke up quite early, and after breakfast Cliff drove us in a very foggy Speyside (the fog won’t leave us until we got in Fife, making Gianluigi homesick of Northern Italy). The first stop of the day was the Macallan distillery. Neither of us is particularly fond of this brand (it’s the only distillery not offering tours and tastings, rather “experiences”…) but we were curious to see the building. So, despite all available “experiences” were sold out for the day, we went in aiming for a coffee and the peek. We have to say, the building is quite spectacular, it felt like being in a modern art museum lobby…or in an airport.

The Macallan stills – hopefully one day we’ll get closer!

The courtesy of the receptionist, which welcomed us very warmly and explained where things were, was counterbalanced by the rudeness of the waitress who served us. After the quick coffee we could walk inside to admire the unique circular disposition of the stills. On the way out we also saw the old distillery building, and wondered if one of their “experiences” included that as well.

Back on the road, our next stop was a completely different one: Glen Garioch, in Oldmeldrum (Aberdeenshire), one of the oldest in Scotland. A few months back, in an interview on Mark Gillespie’s WhiskyCast, we learned that the distillery is undergoing many renovation works, including moving back to directly fired stills and the restoration of the old malting floors, which would be used to produce a peated malt, in contrast with what is produced today. Beam Suntory, the owner of this and a few other distilleries, is also pursuing a peatland restoration plan, since peat use has a fair impact on carbon emission.

Look what’s at the end of Distillery Road…a distillery!

The malting floors and the wee bothy.

As we checked in, our guide Rob walked us in a very nice bothy on the side of the malting floors, which used to be the excise man office. We sat on a very comfortable sofa with four drams in front of us, while Rob told us the story of the distillery and maaany details about the production (thanks for the patience answering all our questions!). We were very curious, since Glen Garioch is not one of the most common single malts for us – we had a bottle of their non-age statement core range expression (the Founder’s Reserve, 50%abv) early on but none since. The first dram was suspiciously transparent…In fact, it was the newmake! We moved on to the second (Gianluigi only sniffing), the Renaissance Chapter III (17y/o, 50.8%), a few years old series that marked a new phase in the distillery history. This was followed by a great dram: a 19y red-wine cask matured (48%). Finally, a very surprising dram: 2012 vintage cask strength, matured in a virgin American oak barrel from Missouri (single cask, 61.6%). This is part of a series as well, with the two others being matured in barrels made from Minnesota and Kentucky wood. The malt was really different, with very prominent bourbon notes (and colour), but still definitely a scotch single malt! Unfortunately, the price was a bit too steep, but definitely one to try!

The tasting.

Thanks to the lovely staff, at the shop we also tried the Renaissance Chapter II (16y/o, 51.4%), which we bought, and the Virgin oak (this time a vat of different barrels from North America, 2013 vintage bottled at 48%).

Back in the fog, destination Leith, happy for the Dramathon (yes, we’ll do it again) and another great whisky trip. Stay tuned and Slàinte!

Glen Garioch Masterclass

Price: £30.00 pp (October 2021)

Tasting: the newmake spirit and three drams: GG Renaissance Chapter III (17y, 50.8%, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry), GG red wine cask maturation (19y, 48%), and GG 2012 vintage Missouri virgin oak cask (61.6%)

Target: whisky amateurs and enthusiasts

Value for money: ok

Highlights: the tasting bothy and the kind shop manager

Things we did not like: we couldn’t take the newmake with us

Link: https://www.glengarioch.com/

Author: Dramming Around

A pretend-to-be-young Italian couple on a quest to discover whisk(e)y distilleries and their golden nectar

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