Glenfiddich’s iconic triangular shaped bottle was designed in 1961 by influential 20th century designer Hans Schleger. Why triangular? Well, water, air and malted barley are a trinity expertly crafted together to make Glenfiddich.
In 2011, Glenfiddich sold the Janet Sheed Roberts limited edition (55yo) which was then the most expensive single malt sold at auction. Janet was at that time 110, and Scotland’s oldest woman as well as the last surviving grandchild of William Grant.
Although the cask yielded 15 bottles, only 11 bottles were released worldwide. The remainder 4 were kept by the family. Each of the 11 are auctioned for charity. Bottle no. 7 is still up for sale at Edinburgh and the money from that will go to a charity for making school and home for physically challenged children in Ramnagar, India. The last bottle was sold for around INR 57 lacs.
The snow from the Conval Hills melt into the Robbie Dhu, which is the water source of Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich is one of the only Single Malts which uses the same source of water throughout the production process.
David Stewart, only the 5th ever Malt Master for Glenfiddich used the Solera process, traditionally used to make Sherry, to create the Glenfiddich 15 yo. The giant Solera vats are kept half full from every batch for consistency.
[highlight]Distilling this legendary distillery experience[/highlight]
Before you clap your hand and squeal with joy over any Indian connection, I’d like to pause and say no. This is no desi ‘nagar’. Scotland’s famous Royal Lochnagar, whose ch is a kh (that’s right, from the epiglottis), and nagar is a jet-lagged nagaar, is a quaint distillery in the highland region of Scotland.
But for me, the long drive from Speyside to the Highlands was for 3 selfish reasons – to experience the Royal Games – Breamar Royal Highland Gathering, and if lucky enough, catch a royal glimpse of Her Majesty The Queen, a patron of the games. Finally, the most important – a visit to the Royal Lochnagar distillery.
Braemar a small village in highlands known for its sporting event, Breamar Royal Highland Gathering. Athletes, musicians, dancers from across the world compete with one another at this annual event that puts Aberdeenshire’s only highland village on the world stage, this year following close on heels to the commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
My euphoria of reaching the gathering was a bit short-lived, for between the pipes, fanfare, marches and games, was a spell of rain, rendering it quite a slushy fare. Beef hotdogs, fresh cream and strawberry and rain soaked boots is a memory I will cherish forever. And the fact that I did manage to spot Her Majesty’s car. I am sure she saw me waving madly at her! Bucket List, box number two – check.
From sports to spirits, the distillery, outlined by a dense green forest, is a short drive from Braemar and has been set by the Balmoral estate, one of the private residences of the British Royal family. The prime location is its vantage point, one that bagged it the Royal Warrant in 1848 when John Begg, its founder, invited Prince Albert to visit the distillery. The following day, the distillery played a happy host to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children.
If you ever venture from Speyside, one cannot spot signature pagoda atop the distilleries there. Instead a long stone walled building, housed within manicured green surroundings is a captivating sight. However that’s not where the romance lies, it’s in the small production quantity where the magic is. One almost forgets that this tiny unit is a part of a gigantic group called Diageo. Much of its whisky is released as a single malt, although it is also a key component of high-end blended whiskies, such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
The visit also revealed intriguing chapters from its history – the first Lochnagar distillery was burnt down under suspicious circumstances in 1824, by illicit distillers and a replacement again burnt down in 1841. In 1845 John Begg built the “new” Lochnagar. They also claim, “if Glenfiddich has the largest production in Scotland, then we produce annually as much as they produce in two weeks.” Wow – if craft distilling has ever been equated to scale, this sure would have qualified.
Light, sweet and delicate is the hallmark of all Royal Lochnagar whiskies. With maturation in Spanish sherry casks, the affair gets a lot more regal, especially with the expression – Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve. The filling up of the cask happens 100% at the distillery, a rare practice that highlights the level of craft here. The infant spirit un-matured out of the distillery when tasted, almost tastes like the Walker short bread, since it is a bit malty in addition to being sweet and elegant.
We tasted 2 variants, Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old and Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve.
I found the 12 Year Old refreshing, fruity, a spicy malt, sweet on the palate, reminding me of apples, bananas, malty and dry at spaces. Overall, elegant and delicate enough to give whisky newbies a go or for those moments when you need a refreshing and clean drink.
The Select Reserve, on the contrary, has a big sherry influence. An un-aged variant, this malt is dark, with an exceptional fruitcake-like influence on the palate, the rum and raisin lending the effect of a Christmas pudding. It’s such a bold contrast to the earlier expression that it almost wipes the distillery character off one’s head.
I’d make this an after dinner or a dessert malt, and if paired smartly to scoop the flavor out, could accompany the main course like a mutton shank or Tenderloin of Beef. Though my most divine pairing with a malt, such as this, is dark chocolate with a big swig of the Selected Reserve.
Bring on the Christmas cheer, intense, dry, vintage and regal!
45 years ago when the Beatles broke out, Paul McCartney and his wife Linda left for Scotland to rejuvenate and relive the next phase of their lives. The little town of Campbeltown allowed them to flirt with mother nature, set about writing some of the best post-Beatles songs and live an almost reclusive lifestyle. Some of the people even called them the worst dressed people in the town ! However, when Linda died of cancer, there was a memorial set up, for the love, charity and kindness she shared with the locals. It was the simplicity of the people and the place that left a mark !
Today you ask anyone at Campbeltown along the harbour, which are the places to see,
“weel naethin’ much….Linda in the garden (her memorial !), “few auld fellows like me at th’ harboor” & Springbank distillery.
A region that could once swagger under the prolific comfort of 34 working distilleries was reduced to two, owing to the economic depression across the Atlantic, supplemented by prohibition era and also some distilleries spoiling the region’s reputation by relaxing their quality standards. In the last decade, owners of Springbank restored and reopened Glengyle Distillery, raising the count to three.
There is a reason why the Scotch Whisky Association reinstated Campbeltown as a separate whisky region. Scotch whiskies from this region have a peculiar style, you could picture a hybridised version of Highland and Lowland style Scotch whiskies, a dry pungent smoke with the briny maritime burst. These scotches are individuals in their own right, however some of them have acquired more of a temperament and disposition thanks to the spirit of innovative production lent by the respective distilleries.
So what is it that made brands like Longrow Red 11 Year old, a delight at the latest World Whisky Awards and a winner in its own category or Springbank 19 Year Old (Master of Malt series), which got the Liquid Gold Award 2014 by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]
100% On Site production
A visit to Springbank distillery makes you realise that it’s perhaps the only unit in Scotland with a production process 100% on site. So in this quaint town of Campbeltown, the distillery happens to be quite busy, with a human touch at each stage. Absolute floor malting, on site bottling plant and even a whisky school. The most fabulous aspect of this distillery is its flirtatious nature with these processes to yield not one but a triplet of single malts, all with a fanfare of distinctive characteristics. So whisky lovers can expect a mix of varied tastes, finishes and body.
There is a lot to choose from, a two and a half times distilled, medium peated, Springbank Scotch Whisky, Double distilled, generously peated Longrow, triple distilled and non-peated Hazelburn. You can now put at rest the popular belief and myth that only Irish whiskies are triple distilled, Hazelburn is one of the few peculiarities to the rule.
While the malt from Glengyle distillery, Kilkerran is rather new in its release, most of them even being termed as WIP Sherry or WIP Bourbon, the other two in the region, Glenscotia and Springbank distillery releases can be described as complete antitheses to one another. Springbank, with its marked smoke, brawny character in contrast to Glenscotia’s archetype light and grassy nature. Given these differences you cannot negate the aura of the proximity to the sea and hence its wee bit of similarities that come along.
Aside of the whiskies, Campbeltown makes you feel like a lonely traveller at times. The flybe flight I took from Glasgow to Campbeltown had 3 of us in it, giving us the feeling of a private little jet of ours. The landing was smooth except that I realised there is nothing like cabs there !
You maybe a lonely traveller, however, the town makes you feel rather special. One of the fellow travellers was gracious enough to drop me to my destination. He and his wife kept cracking jokes on the way, most of which they seemed to be enjoying amongst themselves, I’ve always wondered, how do people of Campbeltown laugh so much, is it the air, life or something else their smokin’ up.
Life after whisky! I bet a lot of you reading this must be thinking I’m drunk coz’ I have the words jumbled up, but wait and read on!
This is about my favorite topic within Whisky, the Barrel! The barrel as you know is a little laboratory because hundreds of small chemical experiments are happening in there thus making our whisky what it is!
So what happens to the barrel after its used? I know most of you here know that Bourbon barrels head across the Atlantic to help mature Scotch, but what else? What’s the after life of a barrel?
Surprisingly, scotch isn’t the only thing we consume fondly that finds its character via whisky barrels! Really! You’ll be surprised! A lot of beer is finished in whisky barrels! Yes! Ask the guys at Brooklyn Breweries the next time when you’re in the Big Apple! Vinegar too, some of which we find at upmarket stores in your city look out for the label Sherry Vinegar! Maple syrup, apple cider and a lot of wines go to the Whisky Barrel finishing school’ to polish their ends’ if I may say as do specialized table salts, soya sauce or soy’ and spices.
Barrels as I said earlier are truly laboratories and the aged wood, with millions of little pores or holes lets the air in through the rafters, oxidizing and cross pollinating the ingredients inside to turn them mature and a little woody!
And that’s not the end of the list , look keenly when the missus is at the grocers and you’ll find a lot more of the stuff on the shelves, coming off a whisky barrel!
And just before we go, just to let you know, Tabasco Sauce from Avery Island is finished in bourbon barrels! But beware, the next time you run out of your favorite tipple, don’t try sip a few drops of the sauce straight up! Nah, that will be lock stock and definitely 1 smoking barrel!