Sunday, October 30, 2016

#36 - Touring a Distillery

Glengoyne Distillery from the parking lot
Though I have visited several wineries (you can read about my first visit here), I've never gone to a distillery.    And, I only vaguely understood how spirits were made until I took my trip to Scotland; I now have a lot more knowledge about how whisky at least is made.

I'm sure that every distillery in Scotland has their own story.  I was told that Glengoyne calls itself the "prettiest" distillery in Scotland.  However, I found it more interesting that it is in two different whisky regions.  The actual distillery is located in the highlands district - this is where the spirit is actually made.  BUT, the storage facilities (where the aging takes place) are located across the road that marks the boundary between regions, so they are in the lowland region.  This is important more for labeling and marketing purposes (plus tariffs) than for any other reason.  In case you are wondering, the site of the production trumps other buildings, so they are a "highland" whisky producer.
The location was beautiful, a small waterfall is behind the buildings.

Since this tour was included in the daytrip that I took, we had a special small group tour through the facility that included "a wee dram" or two.  I opted for the one taste since I am such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol.  We started with the taste - which I found generous in size - of a 12 year old whisky.  This was accompanied by a short video explaining the history of this distillery.  Moving out to the back deck of the building, our guide explained how the waterfall used to be the source of water for production; however, it would not now give enough water to keep up with demand, so this water source is used as a cooling agent in the production and returned to the waterfall's pool now instead. 

We were not allowed to take photos within the production facility (due to fire risks).  We did get to see inside of each stage of the process and feel or taste if appropriate.  The tanks were huge - much larger than I expected.  At one stop, the guide suggested that we cup our hands to pull out some of the air over the product - smelling this air made it feel like there were bubbles inside of your nose.  The stills were running as we were there, so it was very hot inside.  It was cool to see through the box where the un-aged product was freely running out (a good sized stream) on its way to be put into barrels.

Looking in at two stills from outside the building
After we made it through the production stage, we crossed to an older building which had previously been used for malting (this is now done off-site).  In this area, the guide explained how the aging is affected by the type of barrel that the whisky is stored in.  There was a very interesting display that showed how the color (and amount) of whisky will change in the bottle over a 30 year time span depending on what wood the barrel was made from and what type of alcohol had previously been stored in it.  There was also a small number of casks stored in this area for display purposes (although they do contain whisky that is currently going through the aging process).  Some individuals had a second taste of whisky to end the tour to see the differences that aging brings to the final product.

This was a very interesting learning experience.  I don't generally drink hard alcohol straight, but I like to know what steps go into making a product.  Since this distillery does not use peat as part of their process, I would be interested to directly compare it to a peated product from the same region. I did buy some to bring back with me, so this may be an experiment that I try at a future date.
Each bottle is progressively one year older

Barrels of aging whisky waiting to be opened

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