#27.4 Speycation

Out of Speyside and back:


TL;DR: Sunday was a busy day: we started off with a trip to Huntly, to check out Glendronach distillery. After the tour and a very nice (but stingy) tasting, we jumped on the bus again to go to Strathisla, a beautiful distillery where we tried some cask strength Chivas Regal. 

(missed Part 3/Part 2/Part 1?)

Sunday was a big day: not one, not two, but three distilleries! Not all of them were in Speyside though. Because of the planning issues we wrote about last week, we had to go outside, but just: Glendronach, in Huntly. This distillery is very popular although some of the recent choices they made, plus a price increase in the releases, are making them being less on geeks’ radars (at least the ones we follow). Nevertheless, their stuff can be really superb – for example, when we visited the distillery in 2021, we tried some great expressions. Similar to Glenallachie, at the time it wasn’t possible to do a tour of the production because of Covid, so the possibility to visit their production this time was definitely a bonus for us. 

The picturesque courtyard.

When we arrived, the weather was still very nice and sunny. They split us up in two groups, one starting off with the tasting, the other with the tour: we were in the latter. Our guide was Vicky, a very funny and knowledgeable lady who had also hosted the sherry masterclass tasting we did in August 2021. The tour started in front of a very old building in the corner on the right with respect to the road coming in. In our understanding, it is one of the first buildings on the site, with a very nice internal courtyard. There, we took a quick look at the milling room with its old malt mill. We moved to the rest of production, which is mostly located in the big windowed building right in front of the parking lot, characterised by a more modern (and not particularly nice) architecture, with the bonus that the stills can be seen from the outside. At the moment they have six stills, with the last four installed in the 60s. However, there are currently plans to have more to increase the production capacity. They have six warehouses on site – we visited one of the three dunnage, just next to the visitor centre.

The still room, from outside the room.

After the tour, the tasting was waiting for us: five drams, at Justine’s request without any of their regular core range (so NOT the 12, 15, 18 and 21). We started with the Portwood (46%) and the cask strength batch 10 (58.6%). Moving on, we tried one of the distillery bottlings (or fill your own) at the time: a vintage 2012, 10y, matured in an ex-oloroso puncheon (61%, £105). The fourth dram was a 1989 vintage (29y, bottled in 2019), from an ex-PX puncheon (49.9%), while the final was the second distillery bottling: a 1993 vintage (again 29y) from an ex-oloroso puncheon (54.9%, costing an eyewatering £550). The drams were all delicious, however while decanting an extra set that was poured by mistake (to gift the bus driver) we realised that they were only 10ml measures…a bit stingy for the £50 we had paid. At the bar, most of us took another dram: we got one finished in virgin oak (definitely one of the strangest drams we had) and a 12y (vintage 2007) matured in ex-PX cask which was delicious.

A special tasting!

Back on the bus, we only had time to grab a meal deal at a big Tesco on the way to our next destination, Strathisla! As we arrived, we remembered how beautiful it was, one of the prettiest distilleries in our opinion. This time we didn’t do a tour (which we had already done it in 2019, together with a blending experience), but a tasting of Chivas Regal, in the warehouse number 3.

Cute, sooo cute.

The guide gave us a brief introduction about the distillery and its role in being at the core of this very popular blended whisky. Chivas 12 is very popular indeed, in Italy is omnipresent at grannies/aunties houses, and it was during our trips back home that we realised that, compared to its peers (ie ”value blended whiskies”), it is actually not a bad offering. After the introduction, we moved to a caged part of the warehouse, where 5 casks were laid out. We knew these already: as part of our tour in 2019, we could choose two of them to try. These were cask strength expressions of the main Chivas Regal bottlings: the 12y, the Extra (13y), the 18y, the 25y, and the Ultis, which is a blended malt (so without a grain component). However, because of the pandemic, these casks lasted much longer, so we’ve been told by the guide that we needed to add 5 years to each of them…quite a great deal!

A wee treasure in the warehouse.

The drams were all very good, the 18y (actually a 23y) very chocolatey, reminding us how blended whisky can be great. Unfortunately, none of these were on sale…at the shop the offering was a bit pricey (as in most Pernod Ricard owned distilleries), and because we couldn’t try any, we just gave it a pass. We were surprised that some bottles of 12y single grain from Strathclyde we bought after our visit in 2019 were still there: a sign of how grain whisky is underrated sometimes.

You wouldn’t say we just had 5 cask-strength whiskies…

Back to the bus, we finally headed to the last working distillery visit of the holiday. More about this in our next post, just a tiny clue: the distillery is in Grantown on Spey. Until next week, slainte!

Glendronach Distillery*: https://www.glendronachdistillery.com/
Strathisla Distillery – Home of Chivas*: https://www.maltwhiskydistilleries.com/strathisla/

* No summaries because there experiences were bespoke

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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