I spent a couple of years working with luxury spirits in Dubai. So I have been lucky enough to try some stunning drams. However nothing beats the experience of visiting a distillery and meeting the people behind the glimmering liquid.
While I was in Glasgow recently I just had to visit a distillery or two. Cameron a whisky aficionado from the Ealain Gallery in Drymen was extremely helpful over twitter. He told me about 2 distilleries which are in easy reach of the city.
After investigating the public transport options I came to the conclusion that it would be both time consuming and incredibly difficult. The easiest way was to hire a car from Enterprise Rentals for a mere £25 for 24 hours. Luckily my gorgeous boyfriend stepped up to the plate to be the sober driver for the day so I could enjoy Scotland’s finest.
The closest distillery to Glasgow is the Auchentoshan distillery, which is about a 20-minute drive from the city center. We pulled into the warehouse-adorned property to be greeted by the super smiley security guard. ‘Welcome to sunny Auchentoshan’, he happily exclaimed. It was actually sunny at this point in time however 5 minutes later it was pelting down with hail.
After getting directions to the visitor’s car park we drove through the property sneaking glances through warehouse doors. We were brimming with anticipation. We walked into the visitor’s center and were immediately taken into the theatre room to watch a short clip on the distillery.
Our tour guide collected us from the theatre room to start the tour and it was only the 2 of us in the end, so we got to feel a bit like VIPs. We were taken into the mashing room where we were told about the 4 whisky production areas in Scotland as well as what goes into the liquor – water, yeast and malted barley. What was really interesting was that we could stick our heads into a lauter tun where the malted barley and pure water is mixed together at a temperature of around 63 degrees Celsius. The heat turns the starches into sugar, which is what is needed for fermentation.
After this process the mash is put into Oregon pine oak barrels with yeast and boiling water to ferment. Over a number of hours the liquid bakes and a Weiss beer liquid is made with an alcohol percentage of 8% abv. Our tour guide allowed us to look in all the casks as well as giving us a whiff of each so we could see how the liquid evolves over time.
Of course the alcohol percentage needs to be boosted to make whisky. So the liquid is then moved into the stillroom. 3 copper pot stills are found in this room. The point of difference between Auchentoshan and other distilleries is that they triple distill their whiskies instead of double distilling as other whisky producers do.
Auchentoshan is the only distillery in the whole of Scotland to triple distill every single drop of their production. The resulting distillate is the highest of any Scottish distillers at a mighty 81%. What this means for the whisky is that the final product is much smoother and delicate with an interestingly unique flavour profile. We were able to smell and see what the lethal 81% liquid is like. Anyone for some moonshine??
After awakening our senses with the murderous distillate we made our way to the barrel room. Unfortunately no photos are allowed to be taken so you’ll have to go check it out for yourselves. We were able to take a closer look at the barrels and find out what they are made of. Most the barrels are made from old bourbon or sherry casks. Sometimes wine casks are used too.
What really amazes me about products like whisky is the patience that goes into it. The very youngest dram Auchentoshan produces is a 6 year old. 6 years that liquid has to age in a barrel, now that’s patience. Once the liquid is in the bottle the making of the whisky finally comes to an end. Unlike wine, whisky doesn’t change in a bottle over time. When you buy a bottle it is bought to be consumed, not stored. Unless you are an avid collector like Claive Vidiz.
To end the tour we were taken back to the visitor’s center where they have a neat little bar upstairs. A day of whisky tasting sure does wear a girl out so on this particular trip I opted just to try the 12-year-old dram. It was splendid!! Being a Lowland whisky (the most approachable style of whisky for a newbie or someone who doesn’t drink it often) I found it extremely easy to drink yet full of enticing flavours such as cream brulee and key lime pie. Delish!
The standard distillery tour costs a mere £6 and even if whisky is not your signature drink I would definitely suggest stopping in. To be able to see the makings of the whisky is a special experience. Unlike wine which is made at certain times a year, whisky can be produced throughout the whole year so you are bound to be able to experience some part of the exciting process.