Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Distillery Visit: Glenkinchie

I'm probably the wrong person to report on a visit to Glenkinchie. I'm no fan of the whisky, and I don't much care for Diageo either. These caveats aside, there were aspects of the visit that I enjoyed.

(I should say, by the way, that I completely failed to get any good pictures. Diageo, of course, have a blanket ban on photography in production areas or warehousing, but that aside, I failed. I took the distillery bus from Edinburgh, which gives you very little time to wander about. And Glenkinchie is tucked into a wee valley which doesn't offer many telephoto opportunities.)

The first pleasant surprise of the tour was meeting the guide, an ex-colleague from Oddbins days. She knew of old my penchant for pedantry in the nth degree, and was very tolerant of my questions. And, as is nearly always the case with Diageo, the tour script was factually accurate, concise, and very clear. It was great to see the huge wash still (30,963 litres—biggest in Scotland), which hinted at the historical role of Lowland distilleries as volume producers of low quality spirit.

I also enjoyed the tasting at the end of the tour. The bar at Glenkinchie has a very good selection of Distillers Editions and Flora & Fauna bottlings, which isn't always the case. After trying the Glenkinchie 12 (workmanlike) and Glenkinchie Distillers Edition (decent sherry casks, no spirit character) I had a Benrinnes 15 (always a pleasure, at least until 2020 or thereabouts, when the last of the spirit produced by partial triple distillation is finished) and a Lagavulin Distillers Edition.

I always think of Lagavulin as the malt whisky equivalent of Guinness in a crap pub, so to extend the metaphor, Lagavulin Distillers Edition is like going into a pub and finding unpasteurised Guinness, or Guinness Foreign Extra, on tap. In other words, a surprise and a delight.

On the down side, the warehouse we were shown seemed awfully Potemkin village. There was a remarkable absence of dust, dirt, or Baudoinia compniacensis. And when I looked up I could see plenty of daylight through the gaps between the floorboards, which rather implies that the upper warehouse floors are empty.

I also happened across a couple of interesting snippets. The first of these was a Heath Robinson print, about an imagined redesign of the Johnny Walker bottle.

I'm a huge fan of Heath Robinson, so this made me grin. (can you see me grinning in the reflected image?)

The second was this manufacturer's plate on a filter (for worts, I suppose).

Royal Letters Patent
Filtre Rapide
22-23 Great Tower Street London
Manufactured Aboad

I don't know why, but to me words like these from the past have a very strong appeal.

In summary, this is a great tour for visitors to Scotland. You can be picked up from Edinburgh and be back in the city centre in an afternoon, having enjoyed an imformative trip at a pretty distillery, plus a few acceptable-to-decent drams. For the seasoned malt drinker (as for me), Glenkinchie's main appeal is to add a stamp to your Classic Malts passport.

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