Whisky Advocate

Guest blog #4: Speyside Part 1 (Tormore, Glenlivet, and Aberlour)

April 1st, 2010

We had several great days in Speyside which everyone knows is the heart of whisky country.  One day focused primarily on Chivas distilleries – Tormore, Glenlivet and Aberlour.  Again our ambassador extraordinaire Ian provided on-site guidance.  Tormore, like Scapa is not open to the public so it was a privilege to get to see it in person.  (Gang on left.) If you’ve been through Speyside, you’ll remember it as the distillery with the still-shaped topiaries out front. This whisky is hard to find since almost 100 percent goes to blends. The pot stills have purifiers and much has remained unchanged since it was built in 1958. Still, in can produce over 3 million liters when in full production.  Ian took us on a walk up to the water source, The Achwochkie Burn, where he generously warmed us with some cask-strength drams. Even if you don’t get to experience a tour of Tormore, the burn is a place you must stop, although it’s a bit of a jaunt behind the distillery.

Everyone knows The Glenlivet whisky. The visitor’s center is gorgeous too with a signature floor to ceiling swirling DNA double-helix style cascade of whisky bottles! (See left.) The center has expanded substantially in the past couple of years to include a wonderful self-guided tour of the history of what is arguably the first legal distillery in Scotland.  The stillroom is unique with huge still with beautiful swan like lyne arms. Definitely worth the visit to where the most popular single malt in the US is lovingly made.

After a lovely lunch at the Mash Tun, we toured Aberlour, among the most beautiful distilleries in Scotland.  Our guide on the tour was Dennis, who, we all realized, is a repressed comedian.  He knows Aberlour inside and out, and without a doubt provided the most entertaining tour of the trip. Getting to the tasting room was the highlight, here Dennis regaled us with jokes while sampling of several Aberlour expressions. The tasting room is unique in that you basically taste in a sealed part of the bonded warehouse! Dennis noted the 18 YO to him was almost orgasmic!  You can bottle your own cask strength whisky (either sherry or bourbon oak) for 60 pounds!  Many of us chose the bourbon since finding a bourbon cask strength Aberlour is nearly impossible. This would be a wonderful first tour for someone who had not been to Scotland before, gorgeous setting, unique whiskies to try and great guides along the way! (Gang on left.)  — B. J. Reed

15 Responses to “Guest blog #4: Speyside Part 1 (Tormore, Glenlivet, and Aberlour)”

  1. Red_Arremer says:

    Bourbon Casked Aberlour can be really nice. I tasted a 17 yo Blackadder 46% a few months ago and it was beautiful. How old was the bourbon casked whisky they were offering?

    • B.;J. Reed says:

      Red, I don’t have my notes but I think it was 13 or 14 YO – Monique will know. It was very good as was the Sherry. The fun part of this one was that it was like a production line – First you fill the bottle, then cork it – seal wrapper go over and write the details on the label, paste the label and the duty sticker on and they also had a very nice box and wrapping paper to put it in – Classy. Pultney had a beautiful canvas bag to put their bottles in – A lot of fun and good stuff!

      • John Hansell says:

        When Amy and I were there a few years back, we each got a bottle (one sherry, one bourbon). After bringing them home, I actually had fun blending the two together in various percentages.

    • Monique at the Dell says:

      Red, I second BJ here, both excellent whiskies, it’s nice to see some older vintages at cask strength, I bought a couple of the bourbons because they were so unique, the sherry was great too, much like the Abunadh’ but with a more well-rounded palate and longer finish.
      The Bourbon was a 14 yo, first fill 63.3%, the Sherry was a 15yo, first fill 56.2%. Note the crazy difference in abv’s here, where were those casks ageing.
      We also shared a Friday 5:00 PM dram with the whole staff and Ian there, the 30 cask strength, absolute stunner!

  2. John Hansell says:

    BJ, I LOVE the Mash Tun. I spent a month there one afternoon with George Grant of Glenfarclas. Lovely cask ales on the hand pump.

    • B.;J. Reed says:

      It was great – Ian hosted lunch there for all of us and when we walked in we saw all these Glenfarclas family casks in a display case by the bar – So, I am walking over there to take a look and who is at the end of the bar? George Grant! – It was so funny because he was hosting us for dinner at Glenfarclas that night and here we are with our host from Chivas buying us lunch! – It was great fun and it is a great pub – Had a carrot and orange soup that sounds funky but was excellent!

    • Monique at the Dell says:

      Love that! George was just sitting under the Family Cask collection, s$#%t-eatin’ grin on his face, waiting for one of us to notice him…

      • Red_Arremer says:

        George is such great guy. Inspiring in a good odd kind of way. He served as Glenfarclas ambassador at a tasting I attended– needless to say he was many times more layed back than your average guy presenting scotch. I asked him if he was the master distiller at Glenfarclas and he replied “Master distiller? We don’t have one– honestly, I think that’s just a title people use to make things sound important.”

        • B.;J. Reed says:

          Another quick story – I tended to get wound up (could have been the scotch I was tasting) and I asked this long involved question about tension between the marketing side of the business and the production side of the business and after about a five minute meandering question George just looked at me and said, “B.J., we are a dictatorship” – I really laughed hard at that one.

  3. Ian Logan says:

    B.J.,

    I’m delighted to hear that everyone enjoyed themselves so much during their time with us. I’ll also pass on this link to Dennis also, being so shy and retiring I’m sure he will appreciate it.
    It’s always fun to share time with people as passionate as we are about whisky and I look forward to seeing where we visit next time. On behalf of all my colleagues thank you for spending time with us.
    See you at The Dell, its my round.

    Ian

    • B.;J. Reed says:

      Thanks Ian and thanks to everyone at Chivas (including Dennis) for treating us so well.

    • MrTH says:

      I know from experience that you could not have had a better host at Chivas distilleries. (I still owe you two pints, Ian.)

      I also commend you for getting the bourbon-cask Aberlour–when you look at the book, the number of people buying sherry outnumbers those buying bourbon by a very large amount. They are all missing a great thing. I’ve had four of these, and they’ve all been stunners (and the latter two I’ve had at 63+%–I’m guessing they were filling at 68% for a while there). Oh hell, I’ll have one now.

  4. Bill in Omaha says:

    As John said, walking into the Mash Tun that afternoon and seeing George at the bar, Ian welcoming us, and the rest of the locals participating created such a warm and inviting atmophere I can understand how John spent a “month there one afternoon”!

  5. Mahesh In Atlanta says:

    Well I was one of the fortunate ones to be with the Dell group on this trip. I have driven past Tomore so many times and not been able to get in, but thanks to Monique’s organization and Ian Logan’s hospitality we got a fanastic tour of the distillery. Tomore is one of the most beautiful distilleries architectually speaking nestled in the Scottish Highlands. Even if you can not go in, try to tour it from the outside and visit the Achwochkie Burn as BJ suggests, its wonderful. Now the experience is all that much better if you can enjoy a dram or two at the same time. BJ! excellent picture of the spiral Glenlivet bottle display.
    What can I say about Dennis at Aberlour, other than it was the most funniest 2 1/2 hours of my entire trip. Not only is the man is a wealth of knoweldge about the industry, but a natural commedian. Excellent tour. Monique and BJ! what about the look on Dennis’s face when he had that 5.00pm dram of the 30yr. This was the icing on the cake.

    Thank you very much Ian, for a wonderful tour of all the distilleries including ‘Scapa’.

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