News from the North-West of Scotland (draft version, Photographies to come)

Between the 20th to the 28th of May I travelled in the North-West of Scotland and visited several distilleries; Auchentoshan, Tullibardine, Edradour, Glengoyne, Glen Scotia, Springbank, Glengyle and I was on Islay for 3 days to assist to the beginning of the Feis Ile and the world's first tasting of the Lagavulin 30 YO, OB.

So, what is now going on in Scotland?

Tullibardine is adjacent to a completely new retail park and spirit production resumed in 2004 after a 10-year long silence. I took part of the Connoisseur tour (£10)  which was guided by the Distillery Manager, John Black. After having spent more than an hour visiting the distillery itself, we spent almost 1hr in the warehouse where we sampled some 1993 Tullibardine 1st fill bourbon, 1986 refill Sherry, 1975 refill bourbon hogshead and a first fill sherry from 1966. I particularly enjoyed the 1966 and 1975 sample and was impressed by the quality of the Tullibardine whiskies. The last 30 min were spent in the superb tasting room of the distillery/visitor centre where several Tullibardine whiskies (1993, 1993 different wood finishes and 1988) were sampled again. From all the samples that were tasted, I have fond memories of the 1966 and 1988 samples. Hope to post the tasting notes within a few weeks, as well as the distillery profile. Was a great and enjoyable visit. Thank you John!

Auchentoshan distillery is the closest distillery from Glasgow Airport and although I have seen much nicer and more romantic surroundings, the distillery is very neat and to the same standards as the other Morrison Bowmore Distilleries: a reference! The tour is quite didactic for beginner. Although the capacity of the distillery is around 1’300’00 LPA, the output is around 800’000, with water being the most limiting factor. The tour ended with a tasting of the Auchentoshan 3 woods and I had the pleasure to try the 12YO for the Taiwan market. Very smooth, round and quite bold, you do not have the impression of tasting a triple-distilled whisky. Tasting notes to come.

Edradour was a rather rapid tour and in 30min, it was over. Do not expect lengthy explanations, but the tour is free and worth a visit. The number of visitors visiting the distillery is impressive.

Before moving to Campbeltown, I stopped at Aberfeldy distillery, the Dewar experience. Most of the distillery displays are oriented towards the Dewar Blend and I have to admit that the visitor centre is quite impressive. Glenturret is another distillery close by and after walking 2 min around the distillery all my wishes to visit the distillery vanished. The distillery looks more like a fair ground than a distillery. A nice good-looking restaurant is located at the top of one of the buildings and you have to look for the Glenturret single malt, which is hidden in one corner. Everything is orientated toward their blend, the Famous Grouse. Also, a big metallic famous grouse sculpture stands at the entrance! The Famous Grouse experience is more a multimedia experience to promote the Famouse Grouse.

On the 23rd of May, I visited the Springbank distillery. The production was stopped during that particular week, since the staff was operating the sister distillery of Glengyle. Visiting Springbank is like travelling back in time and reflects how distilleries were operated a century ago. It is very interesting and the distillery is so different from the distilleries (re-)built during the 1970s. Springbank is probably the last distillery to operate a riveted wash still. Small batches of local barley were used last September and a new batch will be used again this September. Springbank, like Macallan, are still using some golden promise for their whiskies. In the warehouse are actually stored 11’600 casks, including 2000 privately owned casks.

I then went on to visit Glengyle. Glengyle was officially opened on the 25th March 2004 and the stills used were the former Ben Wyvis distillery, although some alterations have been done. I was fortunate enough to see Glengyle in operation, since the distillery operated only about 1 week per year! During the first days of the week, they ran some triple distillation and the day of my visit, double distillation with heavily peated barley was being performed. I just had a few drops of the new make and it was really impressive: extremely fruity and sweet and terribly smoky at the same time. Normally, heavily peated new make spirit is rather rough and dry.

I visited Glen Scotia the day after. Glen Scotia is another example of an old fashioned distillery. Everything seems old, but is working nicely. Although the distillery has no visitor centre, Hector and his staff will be pleased to show you the distillery. The staff is really nice and friendly and I would recommend you to visit Glen Scotia if you plan to go to Campbeltown.The production is currently in the 100’000 LPA range and a new Glen Scotia 12 YO has been launched this year by Loch Lomond Distillery Co. Glen Scotia is a very pleasant, but rather unknown single malt. A peated spirit (15 ppm) has been distilled since 2002-3. Most of the production goes for blend, probably for the Loch Lomond blends as well as for the Whyte and Makay blends. The oldest casks stored at Glen Scotia are from 1989.

In Islay, a wind of change has blown over the island. Donald Renwick, the distillery manager of Lagavulin retired at the beginning this year and was replaced by Ian McArthur. Since last year, all but 2 employees retired or left Lagavulin. John Campbell has been recently appointed distillery manager at Laphroaig.

Just before leaving Islay and returning to work, I participated to the Lagavulin Feis Ile tasting (£10), which included the Lagavulin 30 YO, OB, 55.3%. This Lagavulin will be for sale in a few months. The tasting notes can be seen in my tasting notes section. It is surprisingly fresh and pungent for a 30YO, and not as complex and round as one would expect.

A new strain of barley is currently being tested in one distillery in Islay (for confidentiality reason, the distillery name will not be communicated) called Toon. The first experimental tests of Toon mixed with Optic barley were showing yields of 430+ LPA per tonne of barley (optic yield is around 410-420 LPA/tonne).

Feis Ile 2006 special bottling:

For the Feis Ile, the following bottles were produced:

Ardbeg Cask 477, D: Dec 1975 B: 3 May 2006, 46.3%, Fino, 165 bottles £299

Bowmore 6 YO, D: 3rd May 1999, 57.4%, fresh  bourbon, 600 bottles £59.99

Bruichladdich: 3 valinches will be available for the 125th anniversary of the distillery. Details not kown.

Bunnahabhain 14 YO, Pedro Ximenez Finish, £75

Isle of Jura, 4 bottles!, 2 bottles will be soled during the Jura Open Day and the 2 others will be given during that day. Special bottles created by Richard Paterson.

Laphroaig: 1994, B: 2006, 56%, bourbon £50

To conclude this report, the stay ended up at the Glengoyne distillery, which is considered as the most beautiful distillery of Scotland.  The distillery is really nice and was completely repainted beginning of this year. The still house is superb, light and shinning. Every single copper pipe was shining like in a palace. I was charged £22.50 for the master blender tour. For that, you have a dram of Glengoyne 10 YO and some 8YO McLeod single malts at 40% which you could mix to create your 10 cl blend. By comparison to the Isle of Jura Competition (£15) or to the Tullibarine Connoisseur tour (£10), the price is not justified. Fortunately, it is the closest distillery to Glasgow. Glengoyle will start selling casks at the beginning of 2007.




The two new Hazelburns 8 YO released last week (May 20, 2006). The Springbank Society Member bottling (sherry refill, 59.9%) and the Cadenhead 1st fill sherry (58.4%, 266 bottles). All the Cadenheads bottles were sold in less than 24h!
The Ardbeg Fino 1975 , distilled for the Feis Ile 2006, 46.3%, 165 bottles The first special bottling of Bowmore for the Feis Ile, a Bomwore Cask Strength 6YO, from 3 first fill bourbon casks, 57.4%, 600 bottles. The Laphroaig 1994, 56%, Cask filled by John Campbell in 1994 and bottled in 2006 by John Campbell, Distillery Manager for the Feis Ile 2006.


P.Brossard ©May. 2006/Final Version 11June06