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