There are 4 tours you take ranging from £12-£50. When my boyfriend and I visited we decided to go for the middle priced range tour at £25. It is still a hefty sum of money to be forking out for a 1.5hour tour however it had come highly recommended from our tour guide at the Glengoyne distillery. So we thought we would have a little splurge. We were in the last couple of weeks of our traveling adventures after all.
The ‘Platinum Tour’ as they call it runs only once a day at 5:45pm. After meeting the group in the lobby we then embarked on the tour. The tour starts with a barrel ride. You actually sit in a little cart shaped like a barrel, which then guides you along through the process of whisky making.
You can tell that they have tried to capture the audience by the use of different materials from big 2D bubbles on the wall for yeast to light up rings to simulate the inner workings of the Ipot stills. However I have to say when you compare this experience to the Heineken experience in Amsterdam or the Tiger Beer experience in Singapore, it really is pretty amateur and it didn’t hold my attention long.
After you get off the whisky-barrel ride we then met up with the rest of the group in a small room to learn about the coopering side of the business. This is basically seeing and understanding what types of oak barrels are used and how the different barrels affect the finished product. Apparently 60-70% of whisky’s’ flavour comes from the barrels – so it is a very important process.
We then made our way upstairs. Our group was about 10 people and even with such a small group it really was a pain in the neck fitting into these tiny rooms to hear our tour guide talk. During the next stage of talking about the products that go into whisky and the regions I actually nearly got taken out by an opening door as the group couldn’t really fit into the small dinky room. Plus wouldn’t it of made more sense to talk about the products before the coopering? Hmm.. oh well.
Now I promise I wont complain about the next bit. I’m not just saying that as it involved tasting, but it was rather innovative. We sat down to find 2 drams poured and a sitting on a twister like game board as well as a small circle grid like piece of cardboard. This piece of card as we soon found out was a scratch and sniff card. The 4 segments of the circle represented the 4 main whisky regions; Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside and Islay. Each segment after scratching it would smell like one distinct flavour of the whisky from that area. Lowland = lemon, Highland = vanilla, Speyside = banana (however it is suppose to imply tropical fruits) and Islay was smoke of course.
It was an interesting way to introduce people to tasting whisky. The two whiskies we tried were the Highland Aberlour 10-year-old and the Islay Caol Ila 12 year-old. Not bad drams actually and having had a bottle of Lagavulin over the Christmas period I must say I enjoyed the Caol Ila Islay malt a lot more, this one wasn’t so intent on putting hairs on my chest.
I have to put a mention in for our tour guide at this point as well. He seemed a bit ‘impersonal’ at the start of the tour. You know, just giving us the standard talk. However at the tasting he talked a bit about himself, good whisky travel destinations and best of all he emphasized the point that you should drink what you like and how you like. If you want coke with your single malt then do it because the most important thing is making your taste buds happy.
So next up was the bit I was waiting for – the viewing of ‘The Diageo Claive Vidiz’ collection. This collection is the largest private and most unique in the world. Hailing from Brazil, Claive, an elite whisky enthusiast collected 3,400 bottles over a span of 35 years. In began the collection in the 1970’s in an aim to collect whiskies of varying type, cost and rarity. It truly is a collection that will blow your mind.
I really loved how the collection was displayed as well. Floor to ceiling whisky bottles in glass cabinets. It was stunning and I could have stayed in there for hours. It was here we had our last dram as well – a 21-year-old blended scotch made by the Scotch Whisky Experience themselves. With only 498 bottles in circulation it was a rather rare treat. Perfectly suited to our surroundings in amongst Claive’s collection.
The dram itself was a stunner. I think this is one of the tastiest whisky’s I have ever had a chance to nose. It was warming an inviting and likewise slid down the throat with ease. I could see myself with a glass of this by an open fire in the middle of winter. Heaven.
The tour ends out in the bar area where you can take in the collection of rare bottles from chess set pieces that can be filled with whisky to books and all sorts. We were also at this point given goodie bags. Inside was a whisky magazine, miniature of The Scotch Whisky Experience’s Royal Mile dram and a whisky glass. No £25 tour is complete without a certificate as well. A.k.a your hard earned receipt.
All up it was an experience. I can’t say I learnt anything new having days before visited Glengoyne and Auchentoshan distilleries however it was interesting to see a new perspective. Also the chance to see Claive’s collection was great and the scratch and sniff tasting cards were definitely a quirk.
If you have a spare £25’s I would definitely do it. If that’s too steep, and in my personal opinion a greater experience, I would rather make a day trip out to the closest distillery and pay a mere £5-10 for a tour.
For further information on The Scotch Whisky Experience, please click here.