Glenfiddich is one of the biggest Scottish distilleries and it deserves the merit of having been the first one that actively marketed single malt whisky on a global basis. I had not booked a festival event there, but as I had a little time between two events in Dufftown I decided it would be foolish not to pop in and have a look around.
Conveniently located at the road leading into Dufftown from Craigellachie, Glenfiddich cannot be missed. Because of its global reputation a lot of effort has gone into making the distillery look as pretty as possible to visitors. If whisky novices or ordinary tourists decide to visit only a single distillery, chances are that it will be Glenfiddich. To be honest, I had expected a car park of a medium sized amusement park with half a dozen coaches waiting for the tourits to return from their tours. But luckily it turned out far less drastic, and actually there were surprisingly few people around on the afteroon I chose for my visit.
I have to point out the fact that the regular visitor tour at Glenfiddich is free. Yes, you read right: Zero point zilch Pounds Sterling. This is pretty amazing as some other popular distilleries charge quite some prices for their tours.
A very professional (well, what do you expect…) and actually quite captivating video started the tour focussing on the vision William Grant had of his distillery that he founded in 1886 after having learned the art of whisky making at nearby Mortlach distillery.
A few things regarding the tour are worth pointing out. After mashing the wort does not seem to be cooled in a heat exchanger like in most other distilleries but in special “Hot Liquor” tanks. And we actually got to see the yeast tanks which is rather unusual for a distillery tour. Because Glenfiddich is such a big distillery (roughly 10 million litres of alcohol per year), the liquid “cream yeast” has to be delivered in big tankers.
And because of the high output, of course everything is bigger and more plentiful at Glenfiddich. Two very big mash tuns, 24 traditional wooden washbacks and then the stills. I counted 5 wash stills and 9 spirit stills in two different shapes. Well, actually the spirit stills are not very big. And because they are smaller, obviously more of them are needed.
Unfortuately we couldn’t get a glimpse into Warehouse No. 1 as supposedly some other work was going on in there at the time of the visit. So we were treated to our three (!) drams a little earlier. The 12 yo, the 15 yo Solera Reserve and the 18 yo were appropriataly served in Glencairn glasses (! again). So in summary I was very happy with the quality of the tour, especially when you keep in mind that it is free.
As can be expected, there is also a rather big distillery shop that offers the complete range of available Glenfiddich bottlings as well as Grant’s blends and single malts of neighbouring Balvenie distillery.
I must not forget to mention the spacious Café that is also serving lunch. It is quite a nice place to have a bite or a coffee and/or a dram. As lunchtime food of decent quality is far too hard to find in Dufftown, the Glenfiddich café is a very good alternative.
Of course the entire site is set up to cater for a large number of visitors. But you still don’t get the “Malt Disney” feeling that I somehow feared to encounter at Glenfiddich. Despite all the cute flower beds and the exceptional tidiness of the premises it is always obviuos that it is a working distillery.