SPEYSIDE COOPERAGE, DALMUNACH & GLEN GRANT DISTILLERIES
Today we went to one of the must-see locations when visiting the Speyside region of Scotland (especially for whisky fans), the Speyside Cooperage. A cooper is a craftsman who has trained for a minimum of four years to learn the art of building, maintaining and repairing oak barrels. Coopers are essential to the whisky industry and the Speyside Cooperage produces upwards of 100,000 casks per year!
The tour takes you into the cooperage but restricts you to a raised mezzanine walkway behind glass that shields it form most of the workshop noise. From here you get a great view of the cooperage floor and your guide talks you through what is going on. It is amazing just how quickly the coopers can turn out a cask and it’s mesmerising to watch them work. Following the guided part of the tour, you can stay on the observation floor for as long as you want. They even have some mini-cask staves and hoops if you want to try and put a cask together yourself.
Outside the cooperage are pyramid shaped stacks of empty casks called Stows, that can contain more than 11,000 casks each. The Cooperage has room to store over 200,000 casks and you would be hard pressed to see more casks in the one place anywhere else in the world.
After the cooperage, we went for a drive to see the new Chivas Brothers owned Dalmunach distillery, not yet open to the public, but impressive to look at from the outside nevertheless.
Glen Grant is probably best known in Australia for being one of the cheapest age statement single malt scotch whisky on the market. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad, but it is a relatively light whisky compared to many others. The main reason for our visit, wasn’t to tour the distillery, but rather to visit the gardens.
Major James Grant inherited the Glen Grant distillery from his uncle in 1872 and commissioned the Victorian gardens to celebrate the beauty of the surrounding area and as the legend goes, provide a few hidey holes for his own personal whisky stash – he was a colourful character. Recently restored, the gardens are a lovely place to visit and walk through which is exactly what we did for £5 each, which include two drams of Glen Grant whisky. Dad shared some stories from his childhood as we strolled through the Major’s gardens but there were more wooden animals that real ones.
We sampled the NAS Major’s Reserve and Glen Grant 10 year old. I preferred the Major’s Reserve which responded surprisingly well to a few drops of water. The 10 year old on the other hand, was all bananas for me and not much more and it had the opposite reaction to water being added. The Major’s Reserve retails for less than A$50 back home, so it’s a great low-cost introduction to Scotch whisky that is both easy to drink and easy on the back pocket.
The Glen Grant gardens were a great way to close out the day. Tomorrow for something completely different, we’re going to visit a Fairy village!