For our weekend in Elgin we were staying in a yurt – a fancy tent with some wooden walls – as we had decided to try our hands at ‘glamping’ whatever the heck that is. It was actually very nice and if you are planning on going away for a weekend I would definitely recommend trying to find some to stay in, it’s a lovely experience – preferable a yurt near some distilleries of course. The only downside to the yurt was that it was absolutely freezing first thing in the morning. So being the manly man I am I got up early and light a fire and reviewed the plans for the day ahead. I was excited about the second day of the trip as this was the day we were visiting Benromach and Glen Moray, two excellent distilleries.
Once we were ready and the fire had died out we hopped in the car, now stinking of wood smoke, and went the short drive to Forres, only about 10 miles or so, to the Benromach distillery. This distillery has an interesting and at times sad past but now is doing well under the ownership of Gordon and MacPhail. The white washed exterior and the red brick chimney make for a very pretty distillery, and the visitor centre is very nice too, well worth the visit if you are in the area. With the exception of Aberlour this was probably the distillery I was most looking forward to.
Our tour guide for our visit was Annabelle; she had only been at the distillery for around 5 months but clearly had a passion for whisky as it came across in her tour. We were told that Benromach used to malt on site but in order to up their output this is now done elsewhere, as is the case with most. After the malt intake and the mill we were shown upstairs to see the rest of the production, which was all literally in one room. It is a very small but well-designed space, full of gleaming new equipment and old recycled parts from other distilleries. In the filling store they have a small black board where the check off the amounts of casks that they fill. In 2015 the distillery filled 1,528 casks, up until my visit they had already filled 1,135 this year so they are aiming to fill between 1,600 and 1,700 this year. They currently are producing in the region of 200,000lpa, and are working on an expansion and employing an extra stillman – bringing production staff to just 4 – they will be looking to be producing around 400,000lpa within the next few years.
It had been a fair while since I had tried Benromach and the tasting with the tour didn’t disappoint. We tried the Benromach 10yo and their organic as well, which is their unpeated version made solely from organic crops and matured in virgin oak casks for around 5/6 years, and it is really very nice! I was very tempted to treat myself to a bottle of the Benromach 35yo but in the end I decided to stick with the 10 and the organic. After our great stop at Benromach we hit the road again to Glen Moray.
We reached Glen Moray just after a tour had went out, we weren’t to bothered though as we were pretty starving so we had a very nice wee lunch in the café while we waited for the tour. Our tour guide was Olivia and she informed us that we could take pictures inside of the production, fantastic! The tour started under the immense malt bins, 18 of then holding over 1,000 tonnes between them! Most of the tour featured the old production equipment. Having just undergone a huge expansion, almost doubling their capacity, the production was now in a separate part of the distillery, though they hope to use the old areas again in the near future to again increase production to around 9,000,000lpa. The warehousing at Glen Moray was one of the best experiences I have had in a distillery. They have a range of different cask types maturing which you are able to nose yourself, ranging from the classic bourbon and sherry to cognac and wine casks. A personal favourite for me was a gorgeous Burgundy Barrique, filled in 2007 – wouldn’t mind a bottle of that!
After the tour and tasting we also got to try their current self-fill, it was a thistly-cross cider cask finished Glen Moray, which was an 8yo if I remember correctly. It was alright; I had seen this on twitter a few weeks previous and was intrigued as to see what effect, if any, a cider finish would have. I don’t feel it really made much difference in the end; I feel that cider isn’t dominant enough of a drink to alter the cask to affect the whisky, it was certainly drinkable though.
We finished our scheduled plans for the day a bit earlier than we were expecting so we decided to do a bit of local sight-seeing. We went to see Duffus castle, an old ruin built on a man-made mound of earth which collapsed due to subsidence. It’s a really interesting sight; I would definitely recommend a visit and a wander around the old castle if you are in the area. After this we headed back to our yurt, another day very well spent.
The road trip continues in Part 4.