Who has visited a distillery?
Probably a fair amount of the readers here can hold a hand up to that question, particularly now that whisky is such an expanding product. There are more distilleries popping up around the world… or perhaps you’ve been to visit one of the numerous craft gin producers?
Visitor centres are, relatively speaking in relation to how long distilling has been around, a new component in the producers’ public-facing strategy. The first centre to open in Scotland was at Glenfiddich in Speyside, opening its doors in the summer of 1969. Utilising an unused malt house on site, they took the opportunity to latch onto the newly evolving market in single malt whisky after they started to push globally on sales of a single malt in 1963. That centre, although now much more of a modern purpose-built operation, is still going strong; in 2019, it celebrated 50 years of service.
In 2018 the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) stated that more than 2 million people had visited a Scotch whisky distillery in that fiscal year. So, why do we visit them? I suppose for many it is a kind of fanaticism; we enjoy the whisky so much that we want to go to its home, to see where and how it was “born.” For some, it’s the history. Distilleries around the world are very regional; more than just the whisky, they reflect the tradition, location, and its people also. Some may come to learn; many sites offer more than just a shop and a walk around tour. They can be education centres and spirit experience locations; often, tastings take place. At some, qualifications can be gained. Almost certainly, one thing that people visit for is a wee dram. It’s not many that visit a distillery and leave without at least having one wee sip, perhaps the driver aside.
When you visit a distillery (and I have visited far too many, according to Amy) you probably want to remember the occasion, right? The best souvenir you can grab from that visit is a bottle of whisky. Often the visitor centre on site will be stocked up with the core range, and perhaps it will have some sort of “distillery only exclusive.” Some will even stock bottles from sister distilleries. For me, one of the most romantic ways to take home a bottle is to grab a hand filled bottle… as well as another branded Glencairn glass that will bring that glaring stare from Amy when I pull it from the bag.
The uninitiated may ask, “What is a hand fill?” It is simply a bottle of whisky that you, the visitor, have filled yourself. The system that the centre uses to allow you to fill the bottle can vary; some have sophisticated setups, while some are quite simple. Some have handwritten labels, others computer printed. Some distilleries may have just one whisky available, whilst others may have several.
I recently visited Glen Moray in Elgin. I’d been several times before, but Amy and I were shopping and fancied a coffee and a snack. Glen Moray has a decent wee cafe bar in the visitors’ centre, so we popped round. Perhaps I had an alternate motive other than coffee… who knows?
After coffee and cake, I went to pick up a bottle of the 10 year old Charred Oak. Whilst heading to the cash desk, my eye caught the hand fill section. I’ve often overlooked this service in other distilleries; I have perhaps viewed this as a tourist trap, and in many cases a little overpriced. But there it was: a Glen Moray Peated PX for £55.
So, yeah, it’s another review of Glen Moray from me. When I’d previously talked Glen Moray it was because it was decently priced and readily available. This dram is perhaps not in that same bracket; not everyone can pop along to a distillery at the drop of a hat and hand fill their own bottle. That doesn’t necessarily make it inaccessible, although the thrill of filling the bottle yourself is lost. The distillery are more than welcome, if you give them a call, to fill it for you and organise delivery. So, available? Yes. Decently priced? Yes. OK, perhaps I am still talking about the same attributes of Glen Moray.
I’m not going to rehash a history lesson on Glen Moray; I’ve spoken of them before, as have others. Safe to say, it’s a long standing Scotch whisky distillery in Speyside. So, what about the bottle?
Although the age is not stated in big bold numbers, it clearly has the year of distillation of 2010 on the label. It is bottled on the day you fill it; in my case that made the dram clock in at 11 years. So: an 11 year old single cask, non chilled, non colour-adjusted, and at a decent 55.9% ABV for £55! (yup, I said the price twice!)
Like so many Speyside whiskies, this expression spent its younger years in ex-bourbon casks before “moving house” to ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry butts.
Glen Moray Peated PX Distillery Edition (Cask #999/16) – Review
Colour: Brown gold.
On the nose: Having had many a bonfire on the beach of the Highland village I grew up in, I was immediately reminded of the ashes and embers smouldering on the damp pebbles and earth, with the coastal air drifting over. A whiff of pipe tobacco and old leather; I can almost envisage the old country gent sat in his oxblood red wingback chair, dressed in his tweeds, with the pipe smoke drifting as he reads through the old dusty book on fly fishing. This initially masks, but doesn’t hide, the sweet aroma of the sherry. Some burnt sugar topping on a crème brulée; there is also a good hit of dark fruits such as plums and dates, some spices, rather like a fruit cake.
In the mouth: My Initial impression was of a good old slap around the face with a lump of peat. The peat is prominent and is ashy; the sweetness of the fruit mentioned on the nose is there… not hidden, but all that fruit has been barbecued! Yes, definitely a nice hint of burnt fruit, and I think I’m getting toffee with overdone edges. Now, we must remember that this is a Speyside, and as you often find in Speyside drams there is a touch of lemony citrus… and all of these are propped up by the nicely presented 55.9 % ABV. Unlike the flavours, there is no burn from the ABV, but the finish does carry nice smoke.
A real scorcher of a dram in taste, presentation, and price. I’d like to say this will be a slow drinking enjoyable dram, but I can’t say that, because it is a really good dram and I know I will drink this too often and too fast. I can see myself rushing back to the distillery for another! Whilst not all hand fills at distilleries are cheap (and, admittedly, even Glen Moray has some that I have not picked up due to price), if you get the opportunity to grab this offering then I’d recommend it as a first pick
Lead image courtesy of Whiskybase.