Whisky Advocate

Guest blog #5: Speyside Part 2 (Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Tullibardine)

April 2nd, 2010

Highlights on this trip are hard to narrow down, but there is no doubt that Glenfarclas and Glenfiddich/Balvenie are among our all-time favorites. Much of this has to do with George Grant and Ian Millar. Both are great ambassadors for their distilleries and the industry. Both have been to Omaha to do tastings even though we are a very small market in the grand scheme of things.  Previously George and Glenfarclas have hosted us for lunch; this time it was dinner in the industry’s most beautiful tasting room. This is a must-see, right off the visitor’s center shop and includes salvaged remnants from the ship The Empress of Australia, including beautiful wood paneling and restored chandeliers.  The entire Family Cask Series is on display, dating from 1952 to 1994, the lucky few can sample the casks and pick your favorite. It’s tough to find a more consistently tasty whisky of these rare vintages.

Touring Glenfiddich (left) with Ian Millar is unlike any other experience. His passion and knowledge about Glenfiddich, Balvenie, the industry as a whole are unparalleled.  We got to sample expressions in the works including “Project Indiana” and even a bit of the rare Kininvie single malt. As always, a tour of the warehouse with Ian is as close to nirvana as you can get.  You walk in and stare at the huge Solera vats holding thousands of liters of 15 YO Glenfiddich. Climb the ladder and pull out a sample to taste, an incredible experience.  That’s when the fun begins: cask hunting!  Glenfiddich casks, Balvenie casks everywhere from the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, well, you get the idea. This warehouse is like a cask museum, you’ll see more rare and experimental types and shapes of casks than anywhere. Tasting from them is just heavenly, if a bit chilly.   We also had the chance to purchase some of the last Port-aged Balvenie Rose. With only 426 bottles ever made available, it’s almost gone. With the close proximity of the distilleries here and the quality of the tour and shop, this is a must-see.

Finally, we could not finish our description of the distilleries we visited without mentioning Tullibardine.  This gem is actually located in a shopping center, at first glance you would think it would be a disappointment but initial impressions are deceiving.  Just like Highland Park, Aberlour and others, you can pick the type of tour you would like from basic to Tullibardine’s “connoisseur level.”  Our guide and leader Gavin Cuningham (see left) makes sure you have a wonderful time.  The shop is lovely and actually includes Starbuck’s coffee!!  The distillery was on a deathwatch for a number of years until a group of investors purchased the distillery in 2003 and began producing spirit again.  It’s a very traditional distillery with the mash tun, wash backs and stills all in close proximity to each other.  Great for explaining the process to a group, as you can literally do a 360 turn and see everything!   The shop itself has large numbers of Tullibardine vintages for sale that are very hard to get in the states.  Finishes in Sauternes, Rum, and Sherry were all available as well as vintages dating back to 1964.  The distillery also offers casks for sale. This is one we would absolutely recommend. – B. J. Reed

18 Responses to “Guest blog #5: Speyside Part 2 (Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Tullibardine)”

  1. two-bit cowboy says:

    B.J.,

    This has been a great week traveling through Scotland with you and the gang, but today’s was the best. Four of my favs. Thanks for the tour.

    • B.;J. Reed says:

      Thanks for joining us!!!

      • two-bit cowboy says:

        Did Ian give you any information on the new Glenfiddich 14 Rich Oak? Will we get it in the states?

        • B.;J. Reed says:

          We tasted it but I cannot remember what the plan is for the states – Monique will get on here and she might know better than I – I love how Ian plays around with finishes within a limited range and gets such good results.

  2. Mark says:

    B.J, good job. Thanks for the time and effort to put the posts together. I’m with two-bit in having enjoyed your trip summaries. It sparks memories of visits that still mean a great deal to me, as well as (we’ll say) a healthy envy for the special treatment and tastings you experienced. You’re part of a great group there at the Dell. I wish you all the best, and thanks again.

  3. John Hansell says:

    I agree with the rest of the gang here. The guest postings here by B.J. have brought back many fond memories of my visits to these distilleries. Scottish hospitality is always treasured!

    Many thanks to B.J. and the gang. And if you guys are good over Easter, we just might have a bonus post by B.J. and the gang: their visit to two grain distilleries! Stay tuned on Monday!

  4. B.;J. Reed says:

    Thanks Mark & John – I hope we have not been too “insider” in what has been posted but John’s charge was to give everyone a sense of what it is like to do a tour like this and that is what we have tried to do.

    Special thanks to Monique for helping draft the blog and for making such great comments and to the rest of the gang for adding their thoughts a comments.

    Most of all thanks to all of you posters for joining us for the ride.

  5. Justin says:

    I’ll echo what the others have said, it’s been great reading through these posts this week. I also heard some other stories last night from Monique, Chuck, and Corilee (Jura, Chuck and the Glenfarclas 105….). Come hell or high water, I’ll be with you guys in three years.

    Oh, and we missed you last night BJ. The Brora 30 was excellent (as always).

  6. Mahesh in Atlanta says:

    Tullibardine is a wonderful little distillery, right of the A9 south of Perth. I call it the ‘Rest stop’ distillery, not much to see on the outside, but has a great tour with a outstanding tasting including cask samples in the warehouse. Gavin is the man to take you around, real nice guy!
    BJ. Great job of blogging this week, you really captured our trip well. Looking forward to the Grain distillery blogg next week.

  7. Kelley says:

    Great job, BJ and Monique! I enjoyed reliving it through the posts.

  8. Mark says:

    B.J., Monique and/or any others on the trip, I have a question for you. It has to do with Aberlour as well as the Spey as it runs from there past the bridge at Craigellachie. When there during the same time of year three years ago, and during the early-to-late afternoon on a lovely clear day, both the small stream outside Aberlour Distillery and the Spey through that part of the valley, appeared a rich amber. I stood outside Aberlour, carefully looking at that stream from various angles., The amber appearance was constant. So, too, was the Spey, from Macallan, from the bridge and while walking by the river under the bridge. It looked for all the world to run with whisky rather than water.

    Do you recall a similar impression on any of your visits?

    • Red_Arremer says:

      How was the nose on that stream, Mark? ;)

      • Mark says:

        I went with the probabilities in order to avoid embarrassment, and so remained dry. I figured if the stream really ran with whisky, then Aberlour would, by hook or crook, be a “classic malt” and I wouldn’t be standing anywhere near that stream.

    • Ray says:

      Mark;

      As part of the Dell group, I stood on the bank of the stream at Abelour enjoying a dram of the 30 yr and also wondered about the hue of the water and the impact on the whiskey. We all witnessed how clear the spirit runs through the safe, but the minerals in that stream surely must have some influence. Scotland had more snow than typical this last winter so there was a lot of snow melting from the mountains and the stream and the Spey were running bank full and very fast. As our guide told us many times, the Spey is the fastest running river in Scotland. As we toured the some 27 distilleries the opinion as to which type of water, soft or hard, was better to produce great whiskey from depended on the type of water available to that distillery. Does it make a difference? Sounds like a great topic for discussion while enjoying a favorite dram. May make for an interesting tasting theme.

      • Mark says:

        Thanks for that response. Interesting question. I guess we know roughly how, for instance, Mr Tosh would respond. Thankfully, we’re unlikely ever to run out of tasting themes!

  9. Patrick says:

    B.J. Reed, which tour have you selected at Tullibardine?
    A few years back I went for the connoisseur’s tour with John Black and it was my best “regular” tour I ever experienced.

  10. Wow, what exceptional posts. I’ve just read the whole series and my appetite is whetted beyond belief for my own whisky travels beginning next week. I’ll just be doing the standard tours – all 49 of them on offer! – while cycling to each of the distilleries. Tullibardine is the second stop on the route.
    It was also fascinating to hear the experiences of other visitors – often with a number of tours of the same distilleries already under their belts! I loved hearing about the passion of others to step beyond the well-worn path round the washbacks, as well as what effect time of year and even time of day can have on a distillery visit. I’m 19 and have only visited 5 so far, but I’ve given myself plenty of time to one day enjoy the same level of experience BJ and co. have savoured on their latest pilgrimage. I’ll try and ape your engaging and sparing written style for my own blog, too!

  11. […] his trips to Jura and Orkney, Clynelish Glenmorangie and Dalmore, Tormore Glenlivet and Aberlour, Glenfarclas, Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Tullibardine, and Laphroaig and […]

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