Exploring Scotland’s historic whisky trail
The stills from Cardhu’s old distillery building were sold to William Grant, who started the Glenfiddich distillery in nearby Dufftown. With the help of only one stonemason, the Grant family built Glenfiddich in 18 months and opened its door on Christmas in 1887. Five generations later, the Grant family still runs Glenfiddich, and production methods for the single malt scotch have not changed either. Tours begin with a video about the distillery’s history, followed by a visit to one of the stone-walled traditional warehouses, the mash tun (where the whisky ingredients are stirred) and the giant washbacks, which are handmade from local Douglas fir. At the bottling hall, you will learn that the deer symbol on the bottles comes from the distillery’s name — Glenfiddich means “Valley of the deer” in Gaelic. Finally, sample a dram of the light, sweet whisky in the malt barn.
“There are no rules as to how you enjoy drinking your Scotch whisky,” said Colin Scott, Master Blender of the Chivas Regal and Royal Salute brands. He recommends adding a small amount of water to reduce the strength of the alcohol, as he does when assessing whiskies in the blending laboratory. “We believe that at this lower strength, the barrier of the peppery alcohol is removed and the complex aromas and flavours are more readily assessable to enjoy.”
At Benromach, also just outside of Forres, enjoy a tasting tutorial with a pour of the award-winning, richly-flavoured Benromach Single Malt in the old Drier House, now the Malt Whisky Centre. Founded in 1898, the distillery changed hands several times and was empty for many years until 1993, when malt whisky specialists Gordon and MacPhail restored it and the Prince of Wales officially reopened the distillery in its centenary year. Now the smallest working distillery in Speyside, visitors can see the traditional dunnage warehouse (where the whiskys are stored to mature), the mash tun, the burnished copper stills — and the cask signed by Prince Charles.
Curious to learn more about the casks that fill the whisky trail? Stop by the only working cooperage in the UK, Speyside Cooperage, to experience the ancient art. Since 1947, the cooperage in Craigellachie has employed traditional methods and tools for creating exceptional casks from American oak, many of which are sent around the world. Witness how a cask is made from start to finish, and if think you have got the hang of it, try it yourself by building a mini demonstration cask.
The Speyside countryside is almost enough to distract you from sampling the Scotch, but luckily, at Glen Grant, you can enjoy both. A tour of the grounds includes a guided walk through the distillery and warehouse, a film about Major James Grant, the vibrant character who founded the distillery in 1840, a sample of whisky in Major Grant's Study and a stroll through the Woodland garden. Near the barley-growing plains, sea and port of Garmouth, and with River Spey running through, all of the elements for making great whisky are here – which shows in the single malt’s pale golden hue and clean flavour. The idyllic beauty of the Malt Whisky Trail may be one of the most important ingredients to this world-renowned drink.