When my girlfriend Dini and I arrived at Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, our experience started in quite an uncommon way, namely with a modeling session. As we were about to enter the visitor centre, photographer John Paul stopped us and asked if we would mind serving as extras in a special shot he had planned. That day, he was taking promo photos of a new bronze sculpture of William Grant and his wife and he said that it would be cool to have some actual visitors in the background. Of course, we were happy to help out. During the short activity, we not only made J.P.’s acquaintance as well as that of Glenfiddich’s General Manager – Visitor Centres Peter, but we also got to keep (and empty) the glasses of Glenfiddich 12yo that we held in the shot. Normally, a whisky tour ends with a dram of the respective production site’s signature expression. Ours started with one.
In the course of the 1.5-hour Explorers’ Tour that followed, we were then shown around by a nice lady called Nonie, who had a long history in the whisky business. As she told us, her father was Distillery Manager at Mortlach in the 60s and she has also been working in the industry for as long as she can remember. She joined Glenfiddich eleven years ago and worked at various other distilleries before.
Our 15-strong group included people from all parts of the globe. Germany, England, Denmark, France and the United States were but some of the countries mentioned when Nonie asked where everybody came from. Some of the attendees had already visited a fair share of distilleries before, while others had picked Glenfiddich as the first unit to see from up close. For me, this was the 7th or 8th tour so far, but it still offered a lot of new perspectives, insights and views.
What impressed me the most was the sheer size of the place. When we entered the production halls, we were greeted by 2 giant mashtuns, followed by 24 wooden washbacks spread across several rooms. In the still house, no less than 5 wash stills and 10 spirit stills produce more than 10 million litres of single malt Scotch whisky per year, which is laid to rest in no less than 47 on-site warehouses. As Glenfiddich does everything except for the malting themselves, they also got their own cooperage and bottling plant on the premises. While the former was introduced to us via a short video shown in Warehouse No.1, we got to enter the latter directly and see the machines at work. Upon the time of our visit, hundreds of bottles of Glenfiddich 18yo were being filled. When one of the attendees asked Nonie about the oldest cask currently sleeping in the distillery’s storage facilities, she told us that a few of the barrels in the storerooms have been lying there for 60 years and more. You can even try a dram from one of these casks at the distillery bar – it will, however, set you back a thousand pounds.
Our tour ended the same way as it began: With Glenfiddich’s light and fruity Speyside spirit shimmering in our glasses. This time, however, we were not poured one dram but three. Besides another sip of the classic 12 Years Old, we also got to try the Solera-produced 15 Years Old and the sophisticated 18 Years Old, which Nonie referred to as “the bigger brother of the 12yo” because it is of riper age and contains a higher percentage of sherry casks in the mix. With these delicious whiskies in our bellies and a lot of stunning impressions on our minds, we left the William Grant & Sons-owned Speyside giant happy, content and maybe also a wee bit tipsy. Slainte mhath.
Name: Glenfiddich Distillery
Type: Malt whisky distillery
Address: The Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown Banffshire, AB55 4DH, Scotland
Tours: Daily from 10am till 4pm
More info: https://www.glenfiddich.com/ (Website)